In this exclusive interview, his first in the new role, Jeremy Hinds talks to Purple Cubed's Marketing Director, Emily Perry, about his first 100 days, the secret to Pret a Manger's success and his take on socialising HR.
- In your words, can you give us a brief introduction to Carphone Warehouse?
Carphone Warehouse Group PLC is the largest independent European telecommunications retailer. We have around 2,000 of our own stores across Europe, and a number of well-developed online channels.
- What was your first job and how did you become Group Reward and Corporate HR Director?
My career started at 16 when I applied for and was awarded a clerical apprenticeship for British Rail prior to their privatisation. Back in the early 1990’s it was fairly natural to secure a role with a large employer and the two biggest industries in Derby were Rolls Royce and British Rail ittherefore made sense to climb the ladder within British Rail. I soon moved into payroll, inputting data for the Derby train crew depot and this was the start of my life in HR – working in various parts of the country from London to Crewe. Many of my roles in British Rail related to payroll and payroll bureaus with the natural HR element attached.
Following 10 years here I decided to do something completely different and took on a menswear shop in Derby. Shopping and fashion had always been a personal hobby of mine so it was great to have the opportunity to get involved in this area. Having worked in retail since (and grown up a little), I do wonder how I would do things differently if I had that time again.
In 2001 I made the decision to move south and took on a number of HR and reward related roles at The London Clinic, Esporta Health and Fitness, SJ Bermin, Pret a Manger and The Body Shop, before joining Carphone Warehouse this year.
- Silkroad recently found that 57% of HR professionals are incorporating social technology this year – what’s the value in this?
Social technology is rapidly changing the landscape in which HR professionals operate and therefore we cannot be shy in using social media and technology to make our processes more efficient and enable better communication internally and externally. Now people utilise their mobile devices through the employee lifecycle – from initially finding a position, updating on company news through the intranet or ‘app’, checking how well their pension is performing; even completing their exit interview – and so we must consider and adapt our approach to suit a digital era. After all, within the next two years employers will be trying to attract candidates who were born on or after the millennium – will they ever have to complete a manual application form again?!
- You’re taking on a new challenge with a move from The Body Shop to Carphone Warehouse – what are your priorities and what will be keeping you awake at night?
Joining Carphone Warehouse will be a great challenge for me – if it wasn't, I would not be joining. My initial priority will be to quickly understand how the business operates and in-particular what drives the energy and passion of the workforce to deliver a great service internally and great customer experience externally.
The first six to eight weeks will involve a lot of listening and learning about the organisation. Networking with my internal colleagues and gaining a full understanding of the culture that underpins the business. I sit within a group function that will support the various markets, therefore I am sure there will be many opportunities for me to add real value.
- Can you share some of your life lessons with us?
1) Always be charming – manners cost nothing
2) Say 'thank you' and say it often
3) Listen – it's the best form of communication
4) Play. Allow some space every day to laugh out loud.
5) Work life balance. People are more productive when they are happy at home
- You were previously Head of People Systems and Reward at Pret A Manger – how did they manage to keep what’s great about the business alive through rapid expansion?
What’s great about Pret, and how they kept the business alive, is by allowing people to be themselves – not trying to pigeonhole them into a robotic employee. Clearly there would be a line (especially related to health and safety) but generally people had the stage to be themselves and customers would feel this sense of naturalness.
They also took a refreshing approach with functions such as HR and Marketing fully supporting the shops, rather than the other way round. This ensured that the Pret ‘magic ingredient’ – their shop teams – had all the armour required to continuously deliver amazing food, drink and service. It is vital that the support functions and the shops were not divorced from each other. An understanding I will take with me on my future journey.
In addition to this there was reward and recognition. Pret understand the needs of their people and recognise this accordingly. For example, twice a year Pret hosts a legendary party for all employees. Also they pay people fairly which, whilst not rocket science, is really important. The rest will remain a best kept secret!
- What are you reading at the moment?
I am currently reading Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Steps of Highly Effective People'. So far so good. I have also just read ‘Best Served Cold: the rise, fall and rise again of Malcolm Walker’ who was the founder of Iceland. A great read. I really took that ‘nothing’s for nothing’ – in other words what you put in you have a good chance of gaining a return on. He also was very good at aligning with store employees and listening to their needs which would help drive his success.
- With stints at Pret, The Body Shop and now Carphone Warehouse – what’s the secret to your success and in your view what makes a great People Director?
Keeping things simple. Without simplicity we create chaos and hurdles for ourselves. I am also a strong believer that I have to understand life on the floor and therefore spend as much time as I can out in our shops; understanding their operational challenges as much as their people / management ones. For me that’s the key to a successful People Director – be it in retail, hospitality or any other industry. Everything a support function does on a daily basis will have an impact somewhere down the line, in retail that’s in how shops operate. I therefore make it my business to ensure that my team and I think with a retail hat on at all times.
- How would you describe Purple Cubed to your industry peers?
A company small enough to be personal but strong enough to make a big difference, who have a funky, cutting edge technology platform which drives talent and employee engagement.
- If you could change one thing in your career history what would it be?
I actually wouldn't. I haven't always enjoyed 100% of what I have been working on but every moment, whether successful or not, has been my very own personal University.
- Everyone talks about the ‘war for talent’ however with 2.33 million unemployed in the UK alone, there are plenty of people out there – what’s the key to getting them into your organisation?
Attracting talented individuals to your organisation will be easy if your current hard working people are spreading the news about what a great place to work it is – and thanks to social technologies this is easier than ever. As a former employer taught me, 'good people know good people'. Allow your good people to help you win the game of hide and seek to attract the best into your organisation. Of course there is a lot more on this topic in terms of attracting talent but that is my starter for ten.
- What do you do outside of work which you believe makes you more successful in work?
I'm in the business of supporting people to feel great about coming to work. So outside of work I am always people watching – looking for good habits, particularly customer service. A shopping trip with me can be interesting. I cannot stand bad service however you have to look beyond (or behind) the front-line to see what is really driving this. I also love analysing great service. Generally you can see how well a service provider is doing according to the smiles on their employees’ faces.