HR future leader of the month: Liz Laughton

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the function about what they think will shape it

What are your main concerns in HR today?

We need to be mindful of the changing nature of work, and the pressure that puts on people. As employers, we need to see how we can help people balance their work and personal lives. For me, that’s about understanding who our people are, and trying to provide the best possible environment for them for work in.

If you aren’t providing great conditions for people then they won’t be able to give their best; they will already be struggling to balance whatever they have on at home with work.

What will become more important for HR over the next five years?

HR needs to be able to demonstrate what its real value is. As a profession, it has already changed how it is perceived hugely, and we need to continue that.

Also, we need to start understanding the importance of analytics. Some organisations are doing incredibly well already in this field, and I see this as a trend that will continue. We need to be able to understand who are the people who work for us and the best way to engage with them. You can collect so much data, but it’s about how you use that data and turn it into the insight you need.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

There will still be a lot of the same issues. How HR is done is going to be completely different, but it will still be all about understanding the business and the people you need to make that business successful. How to reach those people, how to make the organisation attractive so that they want to join in the first place, how you keep hold of them, how you develop them, all of these topics will still be important. However, the methods will be different. For example, our learning and development used to be mainly face-to-face, but we’re moving much more towards online learning now.

What do you plan to do to change HR for the better?

Our role is to help managers understand their people and to design better work. That involves looking at the jobs people do, the conditions they work in, the way they are being asked to work, the reward they get for doing that work, and understanding the connections between these. The consequences of doing this are in the interests of the business. It is going to raise productivity, raise engagement, retain people, and it will help reduce absences; all the key indicators that a business looks for will be achieved. If anybody ever challenges the relevance of HR it’s not a difficult argument for us to win.

Liz Laughton is head of HR and OD at the Royal College of Nursing

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