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HR Future Leaders Forum discusses boardroom influence and workplace politics

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HR thought leaders including Neil Morrison and Helen Pitcher shared their views with the HR talent of the future

HR magazine hosted its first HR Future Leaders Forum on 10 February, featuring insight from top HR thinkers and practitioners.

One of the main themes of the event was the importance of HR to the boardroom. Neil Morrison, group HR director for Penguin Random House, revealed that retaining millennials is keeping CEOs awake at night. “You rarely hear them saying ‘I’m really concerned about my balance sheet',” he said. “There’s a real opportunity for us to be driving that agenda and being more trusted.”

Helen Pitcher, CEO of Advanced Boardroom Excellence, agreed that many of the issues facing the C-suite are people-related. “HR should take a central position and have influence over their board,” she said. “You need to be alert to the politics game in your organisation without necessarily playing it. However, if it is becoming unbearable you have to question why you’d stay.”

Morrison also commented on the danger of HR getting too involved in workplace politics. “I think you can’t afford to be political as an HRD,” he said. “You need to be able to handle yourself and rise above it. In terms of long-term respect that’s absolutely critical, because if someone thinks you’re playing games they’re not going to trust you with a major decision.”

Valerie Hughes D'Aeth, HR director at the BBC, shared her top tips for those looking to make a difference in the profession. "I would encourage anybody today to get international experience," she said. "It’s great to do it early on, as the world is no longer just the UK. You'll need a global perspective on everything.

"Always be curious and thinking about better ways of doing things. Opportunities will come your way if you keep questioning and challenging."

The day included interactive panel sessions with speakers including Jeremy Campbell, chief people officer for Ceridian UK, Siobhan Sheridan, director of HR at the NSPCC, and Tim Jones, group head of HR at the London Stock Exchange. Workshops were hosted by professor of organisational psychology Rob Briner, Colm Coffey, UK people director for KPMG, and former CHRO for Tullow Oil Gordon Headley, among others.

HR magazine will be reporting further on the event, and sharing some of our speakers' top career tips in the March print edition.