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Blog : People Directors - the new ‘internal’ entrepreneurs?


People Directors - the new ‘internal’ entrepreneurs?

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Purple Cubed’s Sarah O’Connell is inspired by the business centric People Director and looks at HR becoming a ‘business within a business’

At Purple Cubed, we have long been advocates of the idea that HR can, and should, be a true driver of commercial business change. The transformation of the people function in business we have witnessed in recent years has seen a new People Director emerge - one who is bold, creative and strategic. (See here for an example.)

Now a sub-trend to this has appeared – with industry leaders not only committed to organisational transformation and bottom-line growth – but themselves becoming founders of businesses ‘within a business’, paving the way for a further sea-change in the perception of HR from ‘cost centre’ to profit generator.

The recent HR Excellence nominees for HRD of the Year have shone a light on this topic.

Look at River Island’s Karen Beaven, who has spearheaded the River Island Style Studio – a personal styling service which has quickly excelled initial sales targets and has strong future growth plans. Beaven personally developed the idea for the venture, which she now leads, and encourages other HRDs not to ‘exclude themselves from innovation’.

She’s not alone. Andy Dodman, HRD of The University of Sheffield (voted no 1 in the UK for Best Student Experience by THE Survey 2014) has created a venture – Juice Ltd – to commercialise the wellbeing offer of the University. The start-up is chaired and directed by Andy.

And no-one can argue with adding £3m to EBITDA, the result of Mike Williams’ creative approach to people strategy at De Vere Village Urban Resorts and Hotels as a way of developing competitive advantage in preparation for sale.

There are many ways you can be an entrepreneur – and people functions, with a ‘bird’s eye’ view of their business, are perfectly placed to spot, develop and lead opportunities for commercial growth. 

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