The Naked Headhunter – SEPT. 2019, ISSUE 2
Beyond ASOS thoughts from their people experience director
In this second series of interviews Mark catches up with Peter Collyer, People Experience Director, ASOS. Peter talks about; how he sees global HR evolving, building a successful leadership team, where SME’s can impact HR with little resource, his recommendations to CEO’s looking to build and grow, the personal flexibility he had to show when joining ASOS and lastly shares his passions and inspirations.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT THE WAY YOU SEE GLOBAL HR EVOLVING?
Firstly I see HR becoming much more central to a company’s success and whilst this has commenced there are still many organisations who still have “people” too far down their priority list! Board involvement and increasing governance will drive greater focus in these areas and I see the need for far greater alignment between words and actions in a company. Technology combined with greater people analytics will continue to remove low value HR administration and create opportunities for more meaningful work which will satisfy our emerging HR talent to a greater capacity. HR will also migrate towards differentiated offerings as opposed to “one size fits all” approach – to meet the needs of our evolving workforce demographics. For example, Gen Z want and expect to be treated differently the Gen Y. These differences might appear subtle, but will give a competitive advantage if you can recognise it and act accordingly and the HR function has a role in this education.
HOW DID BUILDING A GLOBAL BUSINESS IN ASOS SHAPE THE TYPE OF LEADERSHIP TEAM YOU WANTED TO CREATE?
When I joined almost five years ago, the business was about to start the transition from being functional experts, having established the infrastructure and systems needed for growth, to become a more holistic leadership remit, working across functions and providing input, opinion and ideas to all areas of our business regardless of whether you were an expert. As we grew, we needed to focus far more on communication across and between teams. New teams were being created and we had to focus on greater collaboration and education with teams which didn’t exist five years earlier. We invested a lot of time learning from the leadership decisions (and styles) which drove success in the past at ASOS, and applied that in our thinking of how to take us forward. We created a set of leadership capabilities which we are now assessing against, to fast track skills and expertise in these areas.
WHERE DO YOU SEE AREAS SME’S CAN IMPACT HR WITHOUT NECESSARILY HAVING THE RESOURCES?
Firstly, even if resources are scarce, it needs someone to help create/articulate the vision, purpose and values of the business and it doesn’t have to be the sole CEO. Mirroring the approach and importance we place on our customers, with our people agenda would serve companies well. Appointing a “people mentor” to the leadership team could also help elevate the thinking, if there isn’t an experienced HR leader in place. This is all about opening minds and recognising the ROI and differentiators which can contribute to the company success. We have been through the era where Technology was a key differentiator and today this can be purchased – it’s now the era of the People, who can make or break our success.
WAR FOR TALENT
HOW DO YOU SEE THE WAR FOR TALENT EVOLVING OVER THE NEXT 5-10 YEARS WHEN IT COMES TO WORKFORCE PLANNING?
The parameters between employees and the extended workforce will continue to merge. I believe there will be a natural surge on greater sharing, networking and collaboration amongst different groups of talent and that this will have a positive impact on output, speed and expertise. HMRC will need to evolve to better accommodate the growing contractor community and protect both them and the Company. There needs to be a far greater focus on the talent, skills and capabilities required in the future, with investment plans on how to fulfil these ever changing needs. Many companies are living purely “in the moment”, understandable for industries such as brick and mortar retail, but others need to watch for this.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO CEO’S
WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS DO YOU GIVE CEO’S AS THEY LOOK TO BUILD AND GROW?
- Take time to plan strategy and separate it from operational matters – it requires a different mindset and thought leadership
- Include employees in all aspects of the companies development products services/tech solutions)
- Listen openly to the workforce (and avoid the temptation to defend what you might not like to hear).
- Encourage “reverse mentoring” with your leadership team – allow the senior leaders to be mentored by anything and everything our upcoming generations want to share/excite and teach you.
- I have always used the phrase: “a fish rots from the head.” It’s always been a grounding statement which places the spotlight on the top, before looking elsewhere. (In reality the fish actually rots from the gut – and that analogy takes me to the people if they are at the heart of the business – either way – it makes you stop and think!)
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT THE FLEXIBILITY YOU HAD TO SHOW WHEN JOINING ASOS?
I had my early thoughts of what I believed needed to be put into place for a great culture with great people practices. My initial views of some of the things I observed and experienced shifted from weeks 4 and 5 to weeks 11 and 12 as what I initially thought was quite a crazy way of working, turned out to work perfectly well once I had seen this in action for several weeks. I also had to really stop and reflect on what guidance and direction our younger generations required – much of which I hadn’t noticed in previous organisations who recruited people with proven skills and experience but ASOS has such a huge focus on emerging talent; apprenticeships internships and graduates. I had to stop assuming everyone knew what I was talking about or asking for – and invested more time in checking their understanding of my ask – before setting them on the project.
WHAT AREAS ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT AND WHAT TYPES OF CONNECTIONS ARE INTERESTING FOR YOU AS YOU LOOK AHEAD?
I am passionate about inspiring each person to individually connect with their purpose, drivers and motivators in the work they do each day. It’s not about a job or work for everyone – every single one of us has a story, something we are striving for (for ourselves, our parents or others in our family). I believe authenticity is critical to our new emerging workforce and you can balance the commercial needs of striving to become a high performance team, along with achieving it with strong values, integrity and with a community spirit. I believe HR has a broader role to play, to prepare the entire eco system for people to succeed in their roles. This covers the physical environment they are working in, technical skills, behavioural and also preparing them for life and what it throws at us. Building an emotional connection with the business will reap significant benefits and genuinely make for a more fulfilling life for us all.
Mark Hamill, aka The Naked Headhunter is a Non Executive Director with Ackermann International. Mark has been active in executive search for 20 years and is passionate about the power of search. Mark specialises in global succession search particularly in scaling organisations.
“I am happy to connect you with Peter Collyer, so please just reach out to me if you wanted to chat with him about career opportunities, coaching, industry insight, market knowledge or share any of your business needs with him.”
Phone: +44 7725 828717