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Cutting the red tape, keeping HR simple

What is the CEO or chairmans view of HR? To help answer that critical question we have interviewed two business chiefs Simon Burke, chairman of Hamleys and Nicholas Coleridge, managing director of Cond Nast UKs magazine division. Both are extremely good at what they do. Both have a clear and even simplistic approach to HR. They both want HR to support and help shape the right corporate culture and to maintain a grown-up relationship with employees.

Cond Nasts magazines such as Tatler, Vogue and GQ depend on highly talented stars. Coleridge knows instinctively that he must avoid an admin-heavy, red-tape environment. With only 550 people, his company is neither too big nor too small and the magazine brands attract the best people. Nonetheless, he is in many ways his own HR director. Through his enthusiasm, charm and genuine regard for his staff, he helps to retain the companys talent. Burke wants HR to help Hamleys manage its people fairly, efficiently and humanely. Both Coleridge and Burke provide a salutary lesson for HR: keep it simple.

HR in the Metropolitan Police Service is rather different. This is our second fly on the wall account of a day in the life of an HR director. Again, as with our experience of shadowing an NHS director, there are back-to-back meetings. And again, Martin Tiplady at the Met has to juggle the mundane with some of the hottest and most critical issues facing his organisation.

The outsourcing debate continues apace. HR needs to find a way to unload its admin burden, while making sure that the service provided remains 100% satisfactory. Then, as all HR people know by now, they can upgrade the HR function to be more strategic. The Human Resources magazine/Hewitt Bacon & Woodrow survey (reported in our May issue) showed that many HR departments are still cautious about outsourcing. To some extent people are watching the first movers to see where things are going.

The BP/Exult outsourcing deal, signed only two years ago, remains one of the biggest such deals. While we cannot know the full story behind BPs current policy towards outsourcing, there are signs that they are continuing with the project. One senior director inside the company told me that it would take time to realise the full goals but that the benefits were already clear to them. In this issue, the architect of that deal, Nick Starritt, now an independent HR consultant, provides his guide to HR outsourcing.

Finally, if you did not get a chance to go to the HR Forum on the Oriana this year, or you want a reminder of what happened there, read Larissa Bannisters diary.

Morice Mendoza