HR future leader of the month: Steve Othen

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the function about what they think will shape it

What are your main concerns in HR today?

Closed or narrow thinking. Many HR professionals don’t see the value in collaborating and will actively avoid it. Maybe they feel they are already great at what they do, but this type of thinking hinders the development of the discipline.

I also worry about how the profession is perceived. I’m proud to say I work in HR, but the responses I receive to that are mixed. This is often because people’s understanding of HR is limited or old-fashioned, so it’s something we can change.

What will become more important for HR over the next five years?

PwC’s annual global CEO survey showed that in 2015 73% of respondents identified skill shortages as a concern for their business – this is huge. The 2017 report showed growth to 77% of CEOs citing skill shortages as a threat to business growth.

When you consider other factors such as Brexit this becomes even more concerning. The REC just released a report showing how much the UK relies on EU workers. Initiatives to upskill the domestic workforce, like the apprenticeship levy, should have a positive impact in the long run, but we need to think about the short- to medium-term. A fit for purpose immigration policy should be a priority for the government.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

We’ll probably still be discussing performance management and arguing over the merits of implementing or removing performance ratings. People that have been in the industry a long time laugh about the fact that we are still having the same arguments.

I can also imagine still having conversations around what structure we should roll out across our HR teams, or even still discussing what should be a centre of excellence vs. what sits in shared services. I consider this to be business-dependent and don’t feel the need for us to unanimously agree on a single way forward.

What do you plan to do to change HR for the better?

All any of us can do is make sure we are the best version of ourselves. After that there are various opportunities to make a difference. This could be as simple as sharing ideas, speaking at events or giving advice in schools.

I’m a big believer in paying things forward. I’ve been very lucky to have a number of mentors, and in turn I’m keen to offer advice to others who are on a similar career path.

Steve Othen is head of HR and projects at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation

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