“You need to embrace the whole business, not just HR”. Kate Douglas, HR Director talks to us about her career in HR.

As part of our commitment to supporting candidates in developing fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.

This week, we had a great conversation with Kate Douglas, who until recently was the HR Director at Clear Channel UK, before which she held senior business partnering roles with a number of organisations such as Vodafone, Heathrow, BskyB, Capital Radio, as well as being the HR Manager at Panasonic’s European HQ.

How did you get into HR?

‘I didn’t get straight into HR. I started work as a graduate management trainee for a logistics company and intended to work in Operations. Early on, I had an opportunity to take up an HR role and I thought I’d give it a go for a year or so, but once I started in HR, I loved it and that was it!.’

‘My career to date has been primarily in generalist roles. Many of my roles have also had significant transformational elements to them, for example at Capital Radio where there were a lot of organisational changes at the time, as well as transforming the HR team to a full business partnering function. It was very empowering and satisfying in terms of seeing the value HR can add.’

What would you say were the three core skills that are important for HR Leaders in 2019?

‘I think being an HR director in a SME requires a balance of two elements. There’s leading the HR function,  being a team manager and representing the people agenda, but also being also part of the wider leadership team.’

“There’s a balance to strike in terms of being a member of that team leading the overall business as well as coaching, supporting, and advising them as leaders. The ability to manage those sensitivities can be critical to success”.

“Flexibility, resilience and emotional intelligence are key skills necessary to be able to understand the what, the how, and the why of a business and its people.’

What key themes or challenges are you seeing the sector face?

“One of the important initiatives that I was recently working on was on Diversity and Inclusion. It’s not necessarily a new subject but the current climate has created a certain amount of momentum  – think of the ‘#me too’ campaign and the gender pay gap reporting requirements.”.

“We were doing a lot of work on diversity with respect to attracting different demographics into the media industry, working with other media businesses to say, “How can we attract more diversity into the whole industry, rather than just as individual companies?” We were also talking a lot about diversity of thought, – having different perspectives and opinions and enabling the different demographics from across the business to feel comfortable to contribute more.’

What career advice would give to someone is at the start of their HR career or looking for a step up?

“I think at the start of their career, it’s important to be willing to muck in and get stuck into the basics, to get a breadth of knowledge. There’s been a trend where people go straight into business partnering, whereas I think getting that broad generalist background is really valuable. Knowing basic employee relations, dealing with disciplinary and grievance helps shape your future thinking on motivation and engagement. To be a strong HR leader, it’s really useful to have understanding of the whole HR life cycle”.

“For a business partner stepping up, maturity of approach is always a key element. You want to make sure that you understand the business parameters and the business drivers. You need to embrace the whole business, not just HR”.

 If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.

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“You need to embrace the whole business, not just HR”. Kate Douglas, HR Director talks to us about her career in HR.