In the latest instalment of our HR industry executive interview series, we spoke to Charles Brook, Founder at TPC Leadership, about his company, the challenges being faced by HR professionals in 2020 and the evolution to remote working cultures…
Tell us about your company products and services
I founded TPC Leadership in the UK in 2000. Over the last 20 years it has grown into a dynamic global partnership with offices across the globe. We work closely with our clients to co-create solutions that address their specific challenges and objectives, often combining leadership consultancy, leadership development and executive coaching. We also offer coach training for those who want to become accredited coaches in the workplace or externally.
What have been the biggest challenges for the HR industry in 2020?
Obviously, we’re in the middle of the 2nd wave of the pandemic and looking back on 2020 I see the biggest challenge for HR as keeping a workforce engaged, helping teams work effectively whilst working remotely.
For the companies that are having to make staff redundant I see a big challenge around how to live the values of the company and say goodbye in the best way, whether that be through outplacement or some kind of other assistance. As a leader I think it’s incredibly important to stay true to your values in these difficult times.
What are the biggest opportunities?
I believe whilst it’s been a challenge for some, the move to virtual working is a huge opportunity. From an overheads perspective there will be value in bringing down costs in offices and infrastructure. It also presents a great opportunity for employees to save time commuting, having more time and space for family and personal interests. I think the world had already started to become more and more connected and switched on to working virtually. Some companies did it well, some not so much but in the current climate it’s a huge opportunity.
The war for talent isn’t going to go away and I think there will be opportunities to attract talent where it might have been more difficult in the past. So, I believe there’s going to be a real need for companies to state their proposition for their employees and future employees and make it clear what it means to work for them in this new way, in this new world. People are going to look at companies in a different way when deciding who they want to work for, so refreshing the proposition is also an opportunity.
What are the main trends you expect to see in the market in the coming years?
I think you’d expect someone from a leadership consultancy to say this but over the last year there have been some good examples of leadership, both political and in business, but there also seems to have been some awful leadership. So, there is a need for companies and countries to re-evaluate what good leadership means and to step into that – there’s a big opportunity to bridge the gap.
Obviously, the shift to remote working will continue, with all that entails, such as learning how to lead virtual teams, how to enhance relational leadership to keep distanced staff motivated, how to lead yourself to ensure that you aren’t distracted by the home office environment. There’s also a big shift in thinking around team structure, with companies focussing more on ensuring they have a diverse mix of talent – and this in itself requires more team leadership development.
I also think AI will have a huge impact in the coming years and more and more jobs will be replaced by AI. You would never think of lawyers, accountants and consultants being replaced, but those are some of the roles that could be, so there will be pressure in that part of the market
Which leader would you most like to meet?
I’d like to meet leaders across the spectrum of leadership – a charismatic leader like Richard Branson, one of the big tech company leaders such as Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, or a leader from one of the companies that performed well through the pandemic – Mike Roman at 3M is one such leader. I’d want to discuss with them what great leadership means and what they think needs to happen to get better leadership from our politicians.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the HR sector?
It still surprises me how few HR leaders are in a strategic position within large organisations that are people dependent. They should be just as important as the CEO or CFO but in the majority of businesses the HR function is not seen in that way. As people are supposed to be the most important resource, I am amazed at how few organisations live that.
What are TPC Leadership’s clients asking for at the moment?
We’re working with a number of clients on getting staff back to work effectively. There is a strong focus on making virtual teams work. In many organisations it is now becoming increasingly hard for busy line managers to be able to deliver on their day to day roles alongside developing people. The piece that tends to get squeezed is developmental conversations; finding ways to make that work in a time efficient way is still high on the agenda. Clients are also asking how to enable their people to be self-resilient and to help those around them remain resilient in these challenging times.
You’re at the bar at the London or Manchester HR Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
A good old gin and tonic!
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
It’s hard to choose one! One of the things that excites me is working in very complex client situations and helping solve some of the challenges around leadership. So, I love getting my hands dirty, so to speak, and working with a client to create a solution that’s workable, practical and sustainable. I’m also very lucky that I get to work with some very smart clients and colleagues and I feel fortunate that I get to learn from them and be challenged by them – it’s fascinating.
What’s the most challenging thing about your role?
As is true for lots of people when you love what you do, it’s managing the boundaries. There’s never enough time in the day and I have to work hard at managing my time and sometimes saying no.
Best piece of advice
Don’t accept no for an answer, don’t let yourself or others to dumb down your dreams. Dream big and in my experience, when you do it comes true.
If you could wish for anything in the HR space what would you wish for?
I wish that more people from Operations would get involved in HR, whether it’s part of their day to day role or people with an Operations background retraining to work in HR. I often find that where you get that strong connection between Operations and HR and the respect and knowledge of how things work, that’s where you get the big change.