As part of our commitment to supporting individuals to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share their secrets to success.
This week we spoke with Laura Haynes, currently Interim HR Director at WeWork. We asked Laura some questions about her career in HR to offer some insight into the sector. Laura’s career spans a breadth of industries and sectors. A journey from a degree in Psychology to building a portfolio career as an Interim HR Director.
Laura’s initial career goal was to become a Clinical Psychologist but the more she learned about this path through studying Psychology at university, the more she felt this wasn’t for her. She instead focused her attention on Occupational Psychology, combining interests in business in a passion for people. After her degree, Laura went on to take her first step into the HR arena as a Graduate Recruiter with Tesco. From Tesco, Laura worked for investment banks including Citi and RBS in the Early Careers space before joining BT as Head of Talent Programmes. From BT and after working for a long list of large corporates, Laura started developing relationships with startups for a complete change of scene and started working with several.
Most recently, working through her own HR consultancy (freshr.info), Laura has now supported a variety of innovative start-up and fast growing businesses as an HR Director or Head of HR. We wanted to get Laura’s take on HR Leadership and the secrets to success.
What do you think is the key to being successful in an HR Leadership role?
“Something HR leaders have to wrestle with is constantly striving to get the balance between fair and consistent policies and treating people like Human beings. The strength of an HR Leader is in having real meaningful conversations and not losing sight of the need to work around unique individuals”.
The way we work is changing and Laura believes that as a leader you have to prepare and support the changes, while also maintaining the right level of employee experience”.
Do you feel that the HR skill set is transferable?
Laura made it her mission to develop a portfolio career and avoided working in a silo. As a result, she’s been able to transition from Retail to Investment Banking to Tech to FinTech and Beauty before most recently moving into Real Estate. Laura shared, “if you start out by working across a variety of sectors and people can see how well you’ve made the transition each time you work – you can give more confidence in your adaptability and ability to work with ambiguity.”
What are the common themes and or challenges you are facing currently?
“Some of the changes we’re seeing in how people work such as contracting and remote working are leading to interesting conversations. On the face of it, it’s not difficult to set people to work in these new ways – for example using some of the great virtual meeting applications for remote workers. When you scratch the surface though, managers have concerns and worries when it comes to how you set expectations, track progress and ensure there is high trust in the relationships you have – without which your partnership can’t succeed. We end up going back to basics and looking at familiar topics like goal setting, reviewing performance, but through a new lens”.
What advice would you give HR professionals either just getting started in their career or looking for their next step on the career ladder?
“Starting in a big organisation is a good place to start. A lot of people want to begin their career in startups I know it’s fashionable now, and I can see why. But, if you’re not working in a community of peers and experts, it’s hard to evaluate the strength of your work in the same way and it could be more tempting to deliver “good enough for stakeholders”. You can get some great training and complete rotations in different disciplines too. I’d suggest learning yourself as early as you can and talking to a range of organisations with different cultures. The people you’re around are crucial too, as is the way HR is perceived in an organisation – there’s a big difference in places where stakeholders will work with you as opposed to against you or “around” HR. It’s so important to be happy at work and enjoy it”.
Laura is currently supporting WeWork as an Interim HR Director.
If you are interested in learning more about a career in HR or would like to speak with us about supporting the growth of your HR team, please get in touch today.