Nucleus Financial chief people officer: HR needs to be human

Instead of talking about organisations being a great place to work, HR needs to make it a reality

It’s time for HR to be human and not policy-centred, according to Kirsty Lynagh, chief people officer at Nucleus Financial.

Speaking at the inaugural Talent Gathering Scotland conference, Lynagh called on the HR and L&D delegates present to join her “revolution” to “behave”, not just “intend”, their way to better culture.

“I understand organisations need to make tough calls, but it’s the time to be human and not policy-centred and that is why I am standing here in front of you today,” she said, adding that her personal experiences of HR not living up to its promises drive her to “make work better for all”.

Lynagh acknowledged the function had made “good progress” but said there was much more work to be done because today “who cares wins”. She knocked the tendency for organisations to talk about what a great place they are to work at, rather than actually putting in the effort to ensure they “live up to the aspiration” by creating systems, delivering consistently, and being prepared to have “radically candid performance conversations”.

While HR has invested much time and energy in cultivating employer brand, it is much “less inclined” to take action to “close the gap between perception and reality”, she said.

“Very few organisations are thinking hard enough about how to deliver an aligned and connected people experience that delivers value to your people. And there’s an irony in this because one of the great things that technology has brought is transparency,” she said.

“So if you’re not delivering on your employer brand you’re going to get found out. You get the culture you deserve.”

Lynagh encouraged HR to relinquish its “controlling” corporate protector mindset and move to an “adult to adult” model. She also urged delegates to treat employees as individuals rather than a homogenous group, to be more open-minded about flexible working, to focus on what’s important to employees inside and outside of work, and to ditch policies that convey a lack of trust, such as probation periods.

“It’s ironic because people coming into HR are in the job because they love people and they genuinely want to help people, but somehow they end up being the henchmen and -women for bad leaders and terrible policies, and they don’t have the right mindset,” she said. “They forget we are humans and not resources.”