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Richard Branson at HR Tech


Richard Branson closed the first night of the HR Tech World Congress in Paris with a speech about the power of creativity in business

"Many businesses insist you wear a suit and tie to work," Branson said. "A businessman should be seen as being creative. An entrepreneur is someone who creates wonderful things that make peoples lives better. But it's hard to be creative if we all look the same. Most people disagree with me there!

"We had a 'corporate day' once where we made everyone wear a suit and tie," he added. "They came in at nine and left at five. They couldn't use mobile phones for personal reasons, and they couldn't use their social media. At the end of the day I think they realised they are working for quite a nice company!"

Branson also touched on the responsibilities of HR. "You spend most of your life working so it should be enjoyable," he said. "If a company says they are like a family, normally they are lying. But we should aspire to make people look forward to Monday mornings. They should look forward to meeting their work friends and being inspired.

"When we started Virgin Airways we had one plane. All of our 18 competitors went bankrupt. Why? When people flew with Virgin they smiled. Our people did a good job, and we gave them the tools to do the job well. What was different was the people. We look for employees who aren't stuffy, who could laugh and joke, and really care."

Branson also discussed his own entrepreneurial spirit. "I watched the moon landing on a black and white telly, totally captivated, and thought 'one day I'll go to space'. Having waited a long time I registered the name [Virgin Galactic] and started looking for a genius engineer who could build rockets. I hope one day lots of people will be able to afford to go into space."