HR future leader of the month: Ralph Coulson

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the industry to discover what makes them tick

I started my career with a placement year running the HR function in a central London hotel. It gave me a real taste of being a generalist early on. It prepared me for a career in HR when I stepped into a shared services role when I left university.

The profession needs to be more data driven. When I’m trying to support my teams and clients I will never go in without the facts and figures – and, more importantly, the story behind those to back up what I’m saying.

Keeping me busy at the moment is driving our diversity and inclusion agenda across the business, educating myself as well as our people.

I’ve stayed in HR because I see the impact of what I do every day. We have to be role models in the business, and while this is usually associated with enforcing policies, I believe it’s more than that.

It’s about creating an engaged team, thinking of a new way to deliver training, how to have an impactful conversation, and how we reward our people in the most meaningful way.

The most rewarding bit of my job is seeing people develop and grow in their careers. I take pride in seeing my teams taking that next step, and we’re proud to support that. In our business, because of the varied nature of the work and the wider turnover in the industry, roles can come up quickly. So it’s crucial that we have a pipeline ready to help our people step up.

I wish I’d known that being present isn’t always necessary. Early on in my career I pushed myself and would go into the office because I wanted to maintain a perfect 100% attendance record.

But now I’ve realised working flexibly makes me more productive. Also, time spent on self-care is crucial in our profession. We focus on others, but we also need to take the time to remember to focus on ourselves.

My advice to others just starting out would be keep with it. We can make a real difference in people’s lives. It’s a cliché but we do spend so much of our lives at work, and we’re the teams that get to make that a better place – through coaching, mentoring, supporting, revolutionising systems, and being there to listen but to also influence.

I’m currently reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. We can be eager to please, and sometimes take on too much. But this book helps you focus on the essential part of your role that will deliver the most impact. Think about impact versus complexity with what you’re working on. It’s a great tool to focus on where your time should be spent.

Ralph Coulson is people operations business partner at Restaurant Associates

This piece appears in the January 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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