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Blog : Enterprising HR


Enterprising HR

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As the economy continues to improve and UK business dares to hope once more for growth and prosperity, Jon Reed, operations director at Purple Cubed, asks Janene Pretorius, training and HR director at Italian restaurant chain Prezzo, how people directors can build an enterprise within their organisation; driving profit, innovation and growth.

Every so often a new trend in HR comes along that looks set to shake up the sector. We’ve been through the journey from personnel to ‘human resources’, the spread of HR business partnering and onto the rise of strategic HR. However, the term ‘enterprising HR’ has now entered the conversation – whereby HR teams think about their part of the business as a profit centre, rather than a service centre; focusing on growth and innovations to benefit the customer as well as the employee.

It’s only a matter of time before academic text books ‘tell us’ what enterprising HR means and how we can implement in our businesses. We’re all about being practical and action-centred however we thought you would like a view from the front line.

Janene Pretorius has been training and HR director at Prezzo since April 2012, having cut her teeth at Gaucho Restaurants, where she was for almost a decade.

Dismissing complex theory, Janene takes a very straight-forward view of enterprising HR.

“It’s about moving away from the traditional interpretation of ‘HR’ that translates into little more than employment law compliance,” she says. “While this is important, adopting an enterprising HR strategy means the focus is on a number of areas including organisational development, internal communications, employee engagement and reward and recognition.”  

In the service sector, every business hinges on excellent customer service and creating competitive advantage through its people. Thus growth comes from an increase in footfall which is dependent on customers walking away happy (and then coming back again...).

Pretorius knows her enterprising HR strategy has to enable this to happen.

“I strongly believe that the success of our business depends on the success of our employees, and so focusing on our people and supporting them to become strong leaders will help build our business and drive the growth.

“For this to happen though, HR must achieve buy-in from other departments by closely working with them. What I have found useful is ensuring that everyone within my department comes from an operational background meaning they really understand all sides of our business. Our fellow departments and those on the floor value this knowledge; enabling stronger relationships and for HR to be completely aligned with the goals and challenges faced by those in other departments.”

According to Pretorius, the only way HR can be enterprising and innovative in the long term, is to ensure the day-to-day HR operations are very robust and firmly in place, and then grow from there. She explains: “If the basics are right, you can focus on the bigger things.

“We all have to deliver the day-to-day HR operations and compliance issues; but instead of getting bogged down with this, we don’t make it our main focus. We all have a clear role to play and so taking this approach means we are able to deal with this side of HR quickly and then focus on driving our people strategy forward.

“It’s about having a team which really understands the day-to-day operation; a passionate team that truly believes in what we’re trying to achieve; a team where it’s not just a job but they really love what they do. This in itself makes the workload lighter.”

Practicing what she preaches, over the past three years, Pretorius and her team have focused on learning and development; nurturing an already strong culture of growing leaders from within the business. As a result, they have put in place clear career road maps for its people, offering a strong development programme alongside.

They’ve also reviewed their recruitment process in an effort to better engage with recruits early on and now use a video platform for screening instead of relying on traditional questions.

She adds: “Technology is making a significant impact on HR and we need to take advantage of what it offers. The video platform was just one step towards digitalising our HR department; we’ve also launched Talent Toolbox™ to help us drive our employee engagement and internal communication.”

It’s clear that Pretorius and her team have embraced and embedded the spirit of enterprise within their strategy. Though is it possible for other parts of the business – such as finance or marketing – to learn to be more enterprising from their HR colleagues?

Pretorius smiles “It’s not entirely enterprising, but I could certainly offer some uncommon, common-sense. That is, truly understanding the value of the people within the business and the important role they play in driving the business forward.

“If every department viewed employees as individuals and not ‘human resources’ then we’d be able to collectively improve our performance, productivity and the engagement of our people.”

Pretorius has hit the nail on the head. Enterprising HR is about knowing business goals, getting the HR basics right and then focusing on enabling and generating growth through engaged and talented employees in the right positions. This comes from a strategy based on customer feedback, from making things simple…and good old fashioned common sense.

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