#CIPDOD15 Transitioning from HR to OD

Claire Thomas, Head of OD at Penguin Randomhouse

Claire became Head of OD when Penguin and Random House merged and was offered the challenge of bringing those two cultures together.

Claire felt it was, and still is, knitting fog.  She’d been told it was about planning and making change happen but became much more emergent and evolutionary.  She decided to stop looking outside for answers and chose to ask what the organisation needed from her.

How you go about your work in OD will depend on what your org needs.  Each is different.  For Claire this was about finding a shared purpose and shared sense of values.  She spent a lot of time learning from others about what was important to them about where they worked and the org they’d come from.  It also involved starting to create a place everyone would jointly want to be.

The values have just recently been launched by the CEO and include the desire to make a difference and to do that differently – to push the boundaries.

Examples –

  1. An employee survey that asked honestly for opinions about what wasn’t working and how they can bring the two orgs closer together.
  2. Enabling people, especially younger generation, to have a voice with the senior leaders.

Claire’s lessons – Seek out the gaps – not reacting to requests, Make things happen – it starts with us doing something, Play the long game – the work is less immediate and urgent which requires and patience and confidence, Find new ways to influence – things are less certain and more ambiguous – can’t rely on hierarchy to influence, Embrace the freedom – discovered new things that have broadened horizons

Next Helen Cooke from Great Ormond Street Hospital

Started as an English Grad, went overseas and taught English as a foreign language, came home and did PostGrad in HR in a variety of roles.Then moved into Great Ormond St as HR.  There was no Director of HR and everything was about hiring, firing and the bread and butter baseline stuff.  Half of her role was making sure people got paid, the other half was health & wellbeing stuff – which the org saw as a necessary evil rather than value-adding.

New CEO appointed HR Director and asked Helen to become Head of OD.  She didn’t really know what it was so went home and researched – it felt nebulous and fluffy to the point she thought she was being eased out of the org.  Turns out she wasn’t!  That was 18 months ago.

In the last 18mths Helen’s spent time on values, a substantial project which has led to things like values-based recruitment.  Talking to patients about designs for a new wing of the building.  Helen also partners with the org on the Structural Design aspects of the structure – always holding to the values.

Helen’s now done a qualification in OD which helps her feel credible and knowledgeable – especially compared to that person who had to google what it was 18 mths ago.  Especially when working with medical teams who value knowledge and research.

Helen has the benefit of a CEO who is absolutely on her side and supports with influencing the agenda.

What Helen doesn’t have is the ability to take whole teams out for days to build team effectiveness – it’s a drip feed approach because there need to be people with the kids.

Helen makes a great point at the end that OD isn’t about being better or more important than the rest of HR – no part of the HR / People world can be entirely effective without the others.  Our strength is in being brilliant together!

This post has been live-blogged from #CIPDOD15.  I’ve done my best to represent the content accurately and fairly but some errors may exist.  Most of it is the speakers’ content and I aim to show the bits that are my opinion.


One thought on “#CIPDOD15 Transitioning from HR to OD

  1. Helen, I so wish I was there, Claire Thomas’ story is so inspiring and very much aligned to our own journey currently.

    Helen Cooke’s comments that different elements of HR work best when working together is insightful for me. We are trying to split HRM / HRD which so many people say is not the right thing to do, and this post reconfirms that.

    thanks Helen for being a super twitter/blogger expert 🙂

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