Image of HRD Shaun Stacey

The Big Interview with Shaun Stacey

Shaun Stacey is Human Resources Director, Citizen Services, Serco UK & Europe, he spoke with Rosie Jenkins about his career and the challenges he and the team have faced recently.

How did you get into HR and have you specialised along the way? 

I somewhat fell into HR having originally started to train in finance and decided it was not for me. 

Having found the profession, I quickly saw it as home. 

In my career, I have held specialist roles in Employee Relations and Reward, and indeed have been lucky to have some operational and transformation experience as well, but I see myself as an HR generalist at heart. 

The things I love about being an HR Director are constant growth and change, the pace and variety of the work I get to do, the opportunity to explore, experiment and develop solutions, getting to use my passion for data but in a way that is not just about the numbers and that I get to work with passionate, hard-working and collaborative people.

What challenges are you and your team currently facing?  

No surprise that our big challenges this year have arisen from Covid-19. 

Like many employers we’ve had to deal with the impact of closures and furlough, which hit the leisure facilities we manage the hardest, shifting many thousands of our employees to home working and the operational strain caused by high absence rates and changing work practices to ensure safety. 

The opposing force though has been the significant scaling up we’ve needed to do in the areas where we have been helping our clients with their response to the crisis, which has led to very quick and large increases over the year in the number of colleagues delivering these services. 

Although all of these things have made demands on us, it is the combined impact that has really led to us being stretched, and at intervals, it has felt relentless. 

My team has been pretty extraordinary in rising to these challenges, and the help we’ve had from colleagues in other parts of our HR operating model has been amazing.

How has Covid-19 changed your role as HRD? What lies ahead for you in the next 6-12 months?

The biggest change for me has been around priorities, as the crisis has required me to change focus or approach things in different ways by finding new solutions. 

I am very proud of are the way everyone has adapted to these new demands, become more agile in decision making, and in particular the way we have collaborated and worked together to deliver both across the HR model and the business. 

It’s sometimes felt uncomfortable to make decisions without the time and/or supporting information I’d normally expect to have or to have to (at least temporarily) drop things that are important to me in order to find the capacity to focus on the emerging big issues, but there has been a real sense of “in it together” in our business underpinned by a trust for each other. 

I think we have been braver and more open to the fact that we will make mistakes given how fast things have been coming at us. 

Looking forward to 2021, the big tickets for me are how we maximise some of the benefits we’ve found from a more agile workforce and home working into a longer-term strategy – there are obviously things we may need to do differently across the employee lifecycle as we move from ‘emergency’ responses to a more permanent future model, building critical skills and developing our people managers, better workforce management and ensuring we have the right employment models for new business, improving wellbeing and continuing our focus on diversity and inclusion.

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion is hot on the HR agenda at present, what actions have you taken around this topic?

The good news is that there is a real passion at all levels in our business to become more inclusive and improve our diversity. 

We have definitely moved beyond the need to explain the ‘why’ to now be very focussed on the ‘what’ and ‘how’. 

We have developed some fantastic networks, we have a great programme of activities, we have worked on our data and understanding the diversity through our recruitment lifecycle, we stimulate the conversation at every opportunity – for example including diversity in our regular briefings and meetings, we have improved our recruitment processes, introduced more training for our people managers and we are taking action to accelerate change in those areas that are the most challenging for us, such as the sectors where diversity is poorest. 

What impact has the use of technology had (the fourth industrial revolution) on how you deliver HR to the business?

As a tech-enthusiast, this is a really interesting area for me, but also as we have large numbers of blue-collar colleagues engaged on some of our services who don’t always have easy access to technology in the workplace this is something that gets a lot of thinking time. 

At the core, we have been working on how we better integrate our technologies and improve the employee experience by making things as simple and easy to access and use as possible, including the ability to use personal devices. 

We’ve also been working hard to use new technology to improve how we deliver, so use of VR to support training as an example, and automating processes where we can. We have also introduced new apps/tools in a number of areas to help reach those people who are not regular computer users. 

How we work with data has also leapt forward and we are constantly making progress in how we bring together and use this to drive our decisions.

What would you change within the benefit of hindsight?

Not much to be honest, the experiences I’ve had over my career have helped to shape me and I’ve learned a lot from the odd bump or crisis, this year is no exception.

I wish I had paid more attention to crisis management planning when we had all of those past warnings around pandemics (bird flu, swine flu etc), I think we’ve done pretty well this year in our response to Covid but I’m sure we all feel we could have been better prepared. 

My advice to my younger self would probably be to listen more, speak less!

What advice/hints/tips would you give an aspiring HRD?

Actively seek out different experiences and be prepared to work in other areas to improve your knowledge, I definitely feel a better HRD for having seen the other side of the fence and worked in operational roles. 

Be inquisitive and keep up to date with trends, technology and what is happening in your markets, it’s easy in our busy lives and endless e-mails for us to become too internally focussed. 

Build a good network and use these relationships, HR professionals are always keen to help each other and there is nearly always someone who can develop your thinking or you can learn from. 

Learn to talk the language of the business and become a friend of analytics to show the value of HR and the impact on the bottom line. 

Develop your communication skills, and have the courage to speak your mind on critical or contentious issues.

Image linking to other HR Blogs like the blog with HRD Shaun Stacey