Five Minutes With...Natalie Nicholson, executive director, HR, at ING DIRECT

by Human Capital12 Jun 2014
How would you sum up HR professionals in two words?
The first word that springs to mind is kaleidoscope – because I feel it represents a skill all HR professionals need, and that’s the ability to look at business challenges with multiple facets and perspectives, filter the noise, work out where the synergies lie to find the magic and deciding where the focus should be.
The second word I would choose is forward-thinking. I believe great HR professionals always have an eye around the corner to see what’s ahead.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t be afraid of failure, the only regret you’ll have is not having a go.
What are some of the biggest challenges that HR deals with?
HR is often challenged by focus. You could take HR in varying directions so it’s important to quickly identify where you can drive the most meaningful outcomes. As a profession, we need to avoid getting caught up in the process and focus on how we can have the best impact to ensure the business achieves its strategy.
How do you see the role of HR changing in the future?
I think one of the things we’ll see more of is HR applying techniques used by our colleagues in other parts of the business. For example, we can learn from marketing to gain deeper insight into our own ‘customers’, our employees. Marketing helps our business understand our customers’ preferences and use this understanding to tailor products and services. Yet in HR we often still make assumptions about understanding employees’ preferences based on traditional demographics like age, ethnicity, gender, etc.  We can also learn from our colleagues in IT about how to simplify and streamline processes to make what we do more efficient. And we definitely need to be more insight driven in the future, understanding the trends and stories in the data from our employees and our organisation and being able to simplify these in a way that we can act on them for the benefit of our people and the organisation’s performance.
Ultimately, I think our challenge is to help each one of our people find meaningful work, and as such a deep connection to what we’re trying to do that they come to work passionate and excited for our customers.
What’s your favoured style of coffee?

Long black.
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would that be and why?
1. Mohammad Yunus – I saw him speak one/two years ago and was awed by his achievements – he takes a real human issue and finds unique and beneficial solutions, he was utterly inspiring.
2.  George Clooney – he’s both hot and smart!
3.  Sheryl Sandberg – because I think we should all trust ourselves and lean in some more
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in HR, I’d be….
Aside from travelling the world!
If I wasn’t in HR I’d likely be seeking a bold new challenge in a completely different role. I love a challenge and I have held roles outside of HR in the past so who knows where I could be in 5-10 years.


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