HC: What drew you to an HR role initially?
IP: I always wanted to become a HR practitioner because it offers the opportunity to get involved and influence business outcomes across many areas.
HC: What is your current role and how did it come about?
IP: I recently joined Bayer as head of HR for ANZ. I was approached by a leading search firm and am excited to partner Joerg Ellmanns (Chairman & MD) and the management team at Bayer, which has exiting growth plans for the ANZ region.
HC: What do you consider to be your biggest career achievement to date? IP: I’m very fortunate to have worked in different industries and across various cultures and geographies in my career to date. Leading change and managing conflict during the transition since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 in South Africa is certainly a highlight in my career. I was also part of management teams on more than one occasion, tasked with the turnaround of the enterprise, rebuilding the culture and improving engagement across different regions.
HC: What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?
IP: HR leaders need to have a clear understanding of the business, its challenges and opportunities. They need to be able to formulate appropriate ‘people’ strategies and demonstrate the ability to partner and implement operationally. They also need to be outstanding leaders themselves.
HC: What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?
IP: Do not specialise in the beginning of your career and build capability across all HR disciplines preferably across more than one industry.
HC: Describe yourself in a few key words?
IP: I like a challenge and to be involved in building successful teams and organisations. I’m an optimist and believe the ‘glass should always be half full’. I hold Christian values that guide my decision making and leadership orientation.
HC: Do you have any role models professionally or personally?
IP: I worked with a number of very talented CEO’S/MD’s and learned a lot from them. There are also many inspirational role models in everyday life – ordinary people making a difference in their societies, assisting less fortunate people or caring for the environment or other just causes.
HC: What would be your number one tip for other HR professionals undertaking significant change management projects? IP: We’re all familiar with the key steps in change management. The real challenge is to ensure you are able to capture the ‘hearts and minds’ of all stakeholders. The fact that you show a compelling case for change and follow a well-planned process does not mean you have gained ‘real support’ for the required change. The key lies in seeking different ways to engage stakeholders – the old Town Hall meeting and numerous slides explaining the logic and process is simply not good enough.
HC: What makes a company an employer of choice? IP: There are many engagement models/frameworks providing guidance on the journey to become an employer of choice. Most have merit but all goes back to the basic elements namely clear purpose and direction, alignment, performance management, inspiring climate, effective teams, leadership and development.
Many companies are trying to be ‘all things to all markets’. It is simply not possible and choices need to be made between operational excellence, innovation and customer centricity. If you want to be a low cost airline then your focus will be on operational excellence and customers will understand and support your low cost offering whilst maintaining good levels of customer service. The culture and employee value proposition need to be aligned to the overall strategy.
HC: Where do you see the future of HR as a profession heading? IP: I am very excited about the future for HR as a profession. More and more companies are realising that creating a great strategy is only the beginning. Having the right talent and culture to enable the execution of the strategy is the real challenge. The ‘People Strategy’ has become integral part of many organisation strategies and leaders are being made responsible to develop organization capability and to demonstrate inspirational leadership.
There is a lot more ‘pull’ from the business and less need for HR to try and justify the ‘People Agenda’.
I think it’s time to move on from the ‘HR Value Add’ debate and to participate in mainstream business as a true strategic business partner.