“The rules of the game of work have changed forever; people in office-based roles don’t need to be in five days a week” – Talking HR with Steph Evans-Hill, Head of HR - Confectionery UK&I and Digital Capabilities at Nestlé
What is the biggest challenge facing HR and why?
We’re now working and living in a world of constant change and challenge; who would have thought a few years ago that we would be managing the after-effects of Brexit, a war in Ukraine, the knock-on effects of a global pandemic and a cost of living crisis at the same time?
HR’s role in helping business leaders deliver their ambitions with the right talent who are engaged and equipped to perform has never been more important.
The biggest challenge for HR professionals is in my view therefore all about the ability to be agile and lead through the unknown, creating an environment where talent want to be and are able to deliver at their very best.
What’s the most interesting development in HR you’ve seen recently?
I’m really interested in the topics of inclusion and hybrid working, and I think there is a strong intersection between them that I’m not hearing the HR profession speak about enough. The rules of the game of work have changed forever; people in office-based roles don’t need to be in five days a week. I think an unintended consequence of hybrid working is the risk of creating a two-tier workforce: those who can and choose to be in the office regularly and those who can’t, whether it’s due to distance from their home, caring responsibilities or a disability. How do we ensure those not in the office are supported and sponsored in the same way as those who are able to be more visible? HR has a huge role to play in helping organisations be deliberate and strategic about their people processes and create a culture that ensures there’s an equal playing field for all, regardless of presence in the office.
Is there any one company you think has handled the pandemic and the transition to working remotely and then back to hybrid working well in your opinion?
I remember seeing a booklet on Hybrid Working from Channel 4 that I was really impressed by: they spoke about a 50/50 ‘manifesto’ based on trust in a hybrid world. I loved the way it was put together and the tone of voice used through the article, which was genuine and caring, but clear. For me, it set the standard on communicating a compelling intention for hybrid working.
What burning question would you like to ask other industry experts?
As budgets across all organisations and sectors are increasingly tight, and the pressure for organisations to perform for shareholders short to medium term is so strong, how do you engage your leaders so they invest in talent for the long term in new roles needing emerging skills which would investment away from current, traditional positions?
What do you wish you’d known 10 years ago?
That it’s OK not to know everything! Early on in my career I put a lot of pressure on myself to know all the answers and prove my value by being the ‘go to’ for any problems. That eventually becomes overwhelming and I came to the realisation that I can never know everything – and I’d become shackled if I did. Now, I trust my instincts a lot more and believe in the value I can bring to the table through my perspectives and opinions. If I don’t know something, I will find someone to help me who does!
How did you start your career? How has your role evolved?
I started my career after University with a short stint in Recruitment – but I quickly found it wasn’t for me. I was interested in what happened to the candidates after they joined an organisation but my involvement with them ended at that point. I decided to make the move into the HR generalist space and landed a HR Assistant position with my first organisation. I worked alongside Unions in the factories and it was a great way to learn the ropes.
What is your lifelong passion away from work?
I love to travel and explore new places and I get itchy feet if I don’t get the opportunity to go away for a while. During the pandemic I got married, but we haven’t been able to get away on honeymoon yet – we’re hoping to go to Japan and Australia for the first time.
What can’t you live without?
Of course my wife – but other than her I would say my wonderful dog, Reuben. I think dogs can teach us a lot about what really matters in life.