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Hugh Mitchell: HR must engage with “society at large”

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HR professionals should look beyond employees and “engage much more with what is happening outside in society at large”, Shell chief HR and corporate officer Hugh Mitchell has said.

Mitchell, who is ranked fifth in HR magazine’s HR Most Influential Practitioners list, was giving the closing keynote at the HR Director's Business Summit in Birmingham.

He said: “We [HR] have to get more connected with young people so we can create responses in organisations that are relevant to what people are looking for in the future.”

Mitchell added that employers often forget that their employees are representatives of the society in which their businesses operate. He advised organisations to equip their staff to act as company ambassadors.

“How you are perceived externally massively influences how effective you can be as an organisation, and also how your own people think about you,” he said. “If they are not fully engaged and affiliated to you then it will impact the overall outcomes.”

He urged HR directors to consider the place their organisation has within society and think about the long-term sustainability of the business.

He said: “You have to ask yourself: 'Are we still propelling, proposing and advocating a value set, a set of behaviours, a set of norms, and a leadership ethos that is routed in the past 100 years, rather than being relevant for the next 100 years?'”

Employers must get to the “heart and soul” of their companies, he added. “We have to be the custodian about thinking about people and society as it affects our business,” he concluded.

Read HR magazine's exclusive interview with Hugh Mitchell.