For our latest Big Interview, Jen Gaster spoke with Kirstie Loveridge, Senior Vice President, Human Resources at AEG Europe.
What are the leadership muscles that you have built during the pandemic that you want to bring forward with you into 2022?
It has been the most challenging time for being in people management but also in our industry and sector.
We were the first to close and the last to reopen and I think leadership muscle to me is always to start from a position of care and empathy.
I think key decision making is always the strength of what has got us all through.
It is never going to be perfect but I think it is important to communicate, be honest and don’t ever focus on the what-ifs – those have been the key things for me.
What were the early influences that shaped you as a leader today?
It is quite interesting because I am taking my 15-year-old on a journey at this moment in time of where he is going to go and what he is going to do, and he said to me, ‘Well you always knew what you wanted to do’.
I knew the industry that excited me and that was hospitality.
That was probably the greatest starting point that any 21-year-old straight out of uni could get into, it taught me so much.
I worked for some amazing leaders and they taught me a lot, I think it was the key to success, you always knew where you stood and that was a great trait to have.
The people focus was always the success of that business so I always started from that position.
I went into staffing at 21, being responsible for 2,000 staff at Royal Ascot, so that bought all the joys…
How are you going to get them there?
How are you going to recruit them?
What are they going to do when they get there?
So, it was more of a people focus and recruitment. But in the business, it was always operational focus, so I have always sat in leadership teams rather than central HR office teams.
I learnt through some amazing MDs that their business was around turnaround, we would go into different contracts and make it profitable, but, firstly, it was about the people and that was as greatest a learning as anyone could have.
How is your role now Senior VP HR different to what you expected when you stepped into that role for the first time?
Every day is different and I have come to HR as a generalist, so I have never been a specialist in any area, but I think this approach has helped me through.
Especially now, it is about culture and inclusion and that puts everything in a people function to the top of the chain.
Your responsibility to drive that culture piece is key.
Don’t be afraid of not knowing it all.
It has grown, ED&I was key and mental health and wellbeing were key as well, but not like it is now.
It is a journey with all of those things but it is the expectation that you know all of these things and I think I have probably had the benefit in my career of being a generalist, and, if I don’t know the answer being able to work with some experts.
Inclusion, we were late to that journey and where do you start?
There is no beginning middle and end it is a journey, so being able to work with some amazing people on this journey has been fantastic.
That is the shift I think from what it was to where it is now.
For us, there are two camps but we have so many different personas and that has been key for us, the whole debate between hybrid working and not hybrid working, for us people need to be in these venues, that is their job.
It is not one size fits all and that is so relevant now.
When you recruit into your teams what are the X-Factors that you look for to make sure there is alignment to that culture moving forwards?
We work in an exciting business and people like that.
What is not to like about being an event at the O2 or a big festival in the summer, that in itself provides a wow factor.
You are going to join AEG which is an entrepreneurial business, there aren’t as many processes and policies and structures and it is near on a blank sheet of paper for most people that join.
Leadership is key, and we have some amazing people in our organisation and I don’t just say that. They never cease to amaze me and that is the attraction people need to join an organisation where they feel culture and inclusion are not just words, they have got the choice, and a big part of that is how much our teams can take people on a journey.
Can you share your thinking around data?
I think where is the data coming from?
People can get too hung up on the trends, a lot of the data comes from engagement surveys and I am a massive believer in unless you are going to do something with it, stop asking.
You can end up with too much data.
Keep it simple, what is it you are trying to measure?
We are very lucky that we have an amazing talent within our organisation, that somebody who started as an HR Administrator has a data bias and we have developed this individual.
We are been doing all of our HR strap work this week, and it is still about not ripping up what we started but shall we check again and see if it is relevant and what is our checkpoint against, it is actually about the data now, but yes work out what it is you are going to measure and keep it simple.
Last year we did our first ever global engagement survey in January, so everybody remembers where we were last January, more than half our workforce was furloughed, but it gave us the most beneficial data we have seen in years.
It was the strengths in what we do well and that was key.
What do you think are the key things the HR leaders of tomorrow need to bring to the table?
I have had the benefit of being in HR for X number of years of working with some amazing talent.
The team I worked with at Compass all those years ago are in some amazing positions now.
If I look at the group, they were my go-to group in the pandemic to see what they were doing!
My giveaway for anyone is to start from a position of caring, if you start from a position of the process you are probably in the wrong role.
I think HR individuals have got a bad rep for procrastination; I think it is about getting the job done.
It is good to get yourself some good project management experience.
Every year we do our HR straps and every year we think wow there is just so much to do!
I think you just have to give people ownership and the responsibility to deliver.
It is not just my top team involved in planning; it is everybody.
Sometimes it is around getting out of the bubble and looking at what others are doing, sharing best practice is really valuable to me.
Understanding what others are doing is good otherwise you can get stuck in your ways.
Get into a role where you feel like you can grow and develop, because HR continues to grow.
Who would have thought when I left uni it would be about inclusivity and ED&I?
My view is you have got to get your foundations right and once that is in place you can move on.