After more than 300 years in business, a few years ago, the global insurer Lloyd’s of London finally set out to establish its first true HR strategy, starting with the hiring of HR Director Suzy Black. “I was brought in to trans-form the HR function from one modeled on an old-style personnel office to a function that is more cutting edge, business focused, and value adding,” says Black. Black’s first order of business was to evaluate the
current state of affairs, particularly how the corpora-tion’s senior managers perceived the HR role. With this information in hand, Black and her team began to develop an overarching strategic agenda as well as specific tactics, addressing everything from recruit-ment to performance management to basic policies to rewards and compensation. Changing longtime employees’ perception of HR
took a bit of convincing, but employees quickly began to recognize the value of Black’s actions. Gradually, they could see how the HR strategies were effectively creating conditions in which they could develop in their careers, be successful, and find meaning and value in their work. Today, Lloyd’s employees list the company’s challeng-ing work environment, healthy incentive programs, and meaningful community outreach programs among the key reasons they enjoy working for the insurance giant. Black’s efforts also enhanced Lloyd’s position as a
desirable place to work. The average tenure of employ-ees at the company is, incredibly, 21 years. The insurer has been named one of the “Top 100 Best Companies to Work For” (in the United Kingdom) by the Sunday Times and hailed as one of the United Kingdom’s Top 40 Business Brands by an independent researcher. Each year, new graduates scramble to get hired by
Lloyd’s. These new hires rotate through three to four different assignments within Lloyd’s so they get a per-spective of the company and the insurance market as well as a better idea of the departments in which they would like to ultimately work. Lloyd’s also offers a
graduate program in insurance, apprenticeships, and internships. Work-life balance at the company is good. Although
sometimes extra hours have to be worked, that’s not the norm. Working mothers can choose to work part or full time. In addition, the company offers employees time to do charity and nonwork-related activities to further their personal growth, says Black. “Employees are very sophisticated people, and they have more drivers than just wanting to earn money,” she notes. Ironically, Black’s position was the first HR posi-tion she had ever held, having risen through the ranks in other arenas in business. But her experience has given her a clear definition of the ideal characteris-tics of the HR professionals. “They must understand change and transformation, excel at operations, and balance tactical and strategic thinking and acting,” she says. “They will have to be able to manage and navigate organizational complexity and ambiguities and not be afraid to say no occasionally in order to establish appropriate boundaries with the business.”
1. What skills does Black think employees need, to work successfully in the area of HR?
2. What are some of the outcomes of the company’s new HR strategy?
3. What do you think might be some of the challenges of establishing HR policies for a global company?
4. What types of situations do you think might require an HR manager to say “no”?