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Blog : Global HR - is the UK competing?


Global HR - is the UK competing?

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Emily Moore, People director at Purple Cubed asks fellow HR professional Eugenio Pirri, VP People and Organisational Development, Dorchester Collection for his thoughts on how UK HR strategy compares globally


Do you think that strategic HR in the UK is lagging behind other countries?

Business experts used to say that the UK was five or 10 years behind the US when it came to HR strategy. This isn’t the case anymore. I attended the HR Excellence Awards in London a few weeks ago and some of the initiatives, innovations and strategies coming out of UK organisations – both in the public and private sector – are truly world class. For example when it comes to employee engagement and productivity, the UK is, like-for-like, in a better position than in the US.

However it’s fair to say that there are things that we as UK HR leaders could do better; we could get a better grip on talent strategy across the board for example. Emerging markets like China and India are seeing millions of talented young people coming out of universities immensely qualified and passionate about succeeding in their careers. This puts pressure on employers in the UK, to make sure we’re recruiting the right people into the right roles, and then keep constantly developing them to thrive and succeed.  


What lessons could UK HR directors learn from their global counterparts?

Growing, thriving economies must have people strategy in place. It’s fair to say, that in global leadership studies, the things keeping CEOs awake at night are the same across all borders – talent, growth, competition and disruption.

These issues can all be addressed by innovative people strategy and, as confidence around growth in global markets increases, HR directors in the UK could take a few more risks.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation, finds that the UK is lagging behind Canada, Australia, the US, Italy and Germany, when it comes to attracting innovative workers. If we’re unable to galvanise an innovative workforce, then the UK will lag behind the rest of the world. Instead of trying to attract innovation into an organisation, HR could focus on developing a culture of innovation from within. This way it doesn’t have to be managed by ‘directors of innovation’ or the board, because the company takes care of this through its employees. The game-changing innovations of Silicon Valley don’t have to be limited to the tech sector; empower your employees to think ‘outside the box’ and the possibilities are limitless.


Do you think that more strategic people initiatives among UK employers could boost our economy on the global stage?

Often in the UK, people believe that good engagement scores in an annual survey are the achievement of an end goal, when a far more forward thinking, strategic approach is required. We need to use focused employee engagement to develop better team working, collaboration, innovation, empowerment and customer service.

In the hospitality sector, we have to demonstrate excellent customer service to delight customers and keep them coming back. Bringing more customers into UK hotels not only bolsters tourism but encourages business trips, networking and conferencing. I believe for our economy to continue to compete on a world stage, it all goes back to motivated, talented and engaged employees. And this hinges on great HR.


And what lessons could the rest of the world learn from the UK when it comes to people strategy?

In the UK culture and values is something we do well, making HR a much more holistic part of our businesses. Rather than focusing very heavily on generation gaps (between X, Y and Z), we work harder to engage employees with a company culture and look beyond putting people into lots of little boxes, into one larger connected whole. I know so many organisations where culture is not just written in the employee hand book but lived by employees. In recent years in the UK this is something more and more HR directors and CEOs have worked hard to nurture within their businesses – and it pays dividends.


What lessons could global business learn from the hospitality industry?

It’s got to be customer service! The hospitality sector has customer service that is felt, as well as just seen, by its guests. If corporates all around the world, regardless of sector, were able to put themselves in the place of their clients, predict their needs and delight them, which would be a phenomenal step forward.


You run people strategy across borders, do you have to do things differently in each country in which you operate?

This goes back to culture. We work hard at Dorchester Collection to make sure all of our people understand our values, mission and culture and that they are engaged with them. This is the backbone of our organisation and is at the heart of everything we do. In saying that, each region we are in and each hotel we operate is different, so we empower our teams across the world to do things that fit with the style of their hotel, provided our values are upheld. For example at our Plaza Athénée hotel in Paris, employees focus on attention to detail through their theme ‘fashion’. They designed in-room slippers with red soles, similar to the Christian Louboutin and appointed a ‘lady in red couture’ to greet guests – celebrating their heritage and giving guests a bit of a ‘wow’ factor. We wouldn’t do this in Los Angeles, but it worked really well in Paris.


Now that the global economy is far more interconnected, do you think there needs to be much more global collaboration on issues such as engagement or talent? 

It’s really important that UK businesses collaborate in a global environment, as well as competing. Partnerships and sharing ideas with other organisations, Universities, training centres and even schools are the key to nurturing and developing the global workforce of the future. This is something I feel incredibly positive about.

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