As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Jonathan Tinning, Head of HR at Freemans Grattan Holdings. Jonathan also previously worked in HR consulting prior to joining Freemans and was Head of People at JD Williams where he worked for 14 years.
Has HR always been your focus? Has is it always been what you wanted to do?
“I actually started life as an electrician. I was an apprentice electrician and finished at the top of my class, I became a maintenance electrician in a large engineering firm. I was going to go back and do my degree in designing electrical installations, when the Personnel Manager grabbed me and said, “I need somebody to train electricians. I’ll make you a deal. Don’t do your degree for a year and go and train electricians. If you like it, you can go down that route, if you don’t, you can go back to do your degree.”
“So, I got into training electricians. The next change came when the organisation was starting to have a core workforce and flexible workforce. The Personnel Manager said, “Well, you’ve been an electrician, so you can recruit electricians.” That then developed to, “You did a bit of welding. So can you recruit a welder? Can you recruit fitters?” I ended up with 150 temps and was responsible for recruitment, employee relations, and training”. During this time, I did the CTD and then I did four years of IPD
“I then moved into Wall coverings manufacturing, looking after sites in the UK and a short spell in Canada all this was great experience. Then I moved into retail at JD Williams in 2001. So, it was a different way of getting into HR”.
What do you think are the key skills needed in becoming a successful HR leader in 2019?
“You’ve got to be adaptable as the pace of change is increasing significantly. Working in a regulated environment, compliance brings different challenges. We have the FCA, HMRC and the GDPR, it’s understanding all the compliance and the impact on people going forward.
It’s important to take a flexible approach, to protect the culture to keep the people engaged in the organisation. One of the things I’ve seen is that people can lose sight of the culture. HR can also have a huge impact on damaging that culture. So that’s one of the key things when I sit down with the CEO and say, “Right, when we do things, we really need to think about the culture of the organisation because we don’t want to damage that because it’s very difficult to get it back.
Commercial acumen is key, especially in retail at the moment, it’s going through a perfect storm there is an enormous amount of pressure on all angles of retail at present. It’s having that business acumen to say, “Okay, we’ve got to think about this from multiple angles. So, you’re wearing many hats, not just the HR hat”.
How do you disseminate the culture across such a disparate skill set?
“The culture starts with our CEO John and his approach. We always look to him to see how he does things, to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the staff. And when we make changes, we explain why we’re doing that to the individuals as well, honesty is the key.
Then it filters into the Board, and how they behave, interact, and how people see those people work together. I’ve seen that previously where I’ve had Boards that didn’t work together and the whole organisation feels the negative impact”.
What are the key themes and challenges that you’re facing at the moment?
“I want to say Brexit more than anybody. We ship product in from Germany. So, we need to understand the impact of Brexit on the movement of goods.
We’ve also got around 70 people who are European nationals who work for us, so we’ve got issues with that as well and were working hard to support them settling in the UK and taking away any anxiety they may have.
We have launched a solid interlinked performance management process and as part of that we are developing our managers which is a key issue to ensure we have the right skills for the future.
Digital talent is another area where we are building our capability even further and we’re working hard on our employment brand to attract talent.”
Jonathan has been Head of HR at Freemans Grattan Holdings for the past two years. He also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Tony Rampton Trust, which provides funding for charity projects and additional employee benefits for both current and former employees of FGH.
If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.