"A lack of experience, ability, competence or knowledge can cause harm to a business, and if that happens it’s often HR that has to fix things," warns Ian Williams, head of human resources at AM100 dealer group LSH Auto UK, in AM's 8 Questions To interview.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
I head up the people function and sit on the board, leading the people strategy. I work closely with our managing director, aligning our people strategy to our
commercial objectives. I have a dedicated and committed human resources (HR) team and I set the strategy for: learning and development; resourcing and talent acquisition; payroll; reward and benefits; colleague well-being; and employee relations. So, the full employee lifecycle.
Over the past 12 months, my focus has been on adapting our workforce to operate in a new COVID-secure way. We have introduced rapid workplace testing to help fight the virus and to support the safety of our colleagues and customers. This has the added benefit of reducing anxiety about returning to a new and different ‘business as usual’.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
Workforce development, colleague well-being and organisational design will be key focus areas. The new, socially-distanced way of interacting with customers means colleagues will need to learn and adapt to a new way of working. At the same time, the past 12 months have had an impact on mental health and anxiety for many people in the UK, so, as employers, we need to introduce strategies to help colleagues adjust.
Customers can easily buy most things now online, including cars and services, and this trend has accelerated as people have spent more time at home. We need to support our colleagues so they can learn to sell differently and continue to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Engaging and communicating with the workforce is crucial. LSH Auto has recently introduced a new engagement and communication tool that allows colleagues to socially interact and connect to well-being and mental health services 24/7. We’re proud to have more than 50 certified mental health first aiders covering all locations, who can support colleagues at times of need. We intend to grow this number further. Good mental health and a sense of well-being go hand-in-hand with productivity.
Organisational performance monitoring is critical to ensure financial success. Training and developing colleagues and growing their roles is often beneficial, both in terms of cost advantages and retaining talent.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
I’ve worked in HR for more than 20 years and enjoyed training and development when I worked overseas with Thomson Holidays some years back. I got the coaching buzz because I was a judo coach as my first job and gained my black belt at an early age. Injury halted my competitive judo career, but when
I started out in HR, coaching and development gave me the same competitive buzz. I stayed in the HR profession working in all the specialist areas of the HR spectrum.
I got into my current role at LSH Auto five years ago, when the business bought two market areas from Mercedes-Benz Retail Group. At that time LSH Auto
didn’t have a UK business infrastructure, so it was a complete start-up and an exciting opportunity.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it at your company?
I remember some years ago, someone I respected said to me ‘depth and breadth is important when rising up in your career’. Many people climb up the ladder quickly and don’t have the depth and breadth of experience that helps them to make good decisions. A lack of experience, ability, competence or knowledge can cause harm to a business, and if that happens it’s often HR that has to fix things. So, the importance of depth and breadth is something that has stayed with me and something that I always say to my team. Learning both and then taking the right steps up the ladder can make you successful.
What drives you?
Feeling appreciated and knowing that you’re making a difference.
What’s your favourite app?
Just Eat. I mean, it’s been heavily used over the past 12 months, but a very close second is Virgin Wines.
How do you relax?
Having a six-year-old son, I’ve forgotten how to relax, but I do play the piano.