Home Office chief people officer: HR must hold businesses to account

HR has a duty to make their voices heard on poor corporate behaviour, the Home Office's chief people officer said

Speaking at Perkbox’s event on HR’s role in leadership, chief people officer for the Home Office Paula Leach said that now is the time for HR to make the case for putting people at the forefront of their organisations.

“The responsibility of CEOs has shifted. It’s as much about ethics as it is making a profit. There’s an increased need for transparency; with stakeholders and lots of others from the outside looking into the behaviour of an organisation- not just at the outcomes,” Leach said.

“The problems we’ve been facing over the past year, such as the gender pay gap and sexual misconduct, won’t just go away on their own," she continued.

"You can’t work downstream; if you really want to change things you need to get to the core of the problem. At the moment people are high on the agenda, and if we don’t step up and show how we can help organisations – and we know we can help – then shame on us. If we don’t take our place at the table someone else will."

Leach went on to explain how HR professionals can use their experiences to steer businesses through dilemmas, and emphasised that they should demonstrate their worth here.

“We need to talk the language of the business, which is about data and analytics, and start thinking about how we can use the idea of responsibility in leadership to tell the story within a business,” she said.

“We hold such an important role in holding people to account. When something goes wrong in an organisation it’s our job to say 'what are we going to do about it? What about the people?’ We can be the critical friend and have the conversations that no-one else will have. We can show businesses how to get from A to B during these dilemmas.”

HR having a seat on the board sends a strong message about what an organisation values, Leach said.

“I know that we’re good at keeping things going in the background, but I want more for us than that," she said. "I want us to be right at the forefront of the business. When you have someone in HR at the table, it sends a message that businesses can learn from their people, and that people are still the most important part of an organisation.”