The Secret HR Director: Party planning, cleaning and bodyguarding -The things left out of our job description

When I took my first HRD role, it was with a tinge of regret that I’d no longer be able to get into the nitty gritty of HR operational work.  I’d rather enjoyed working so closely with the business areas – rather too closely when I once was called to a hotel to rescue a drunk, naked member of staff who had got a bit overexcited at an offsite – and following the ebbs and flows of the business.

HRDs sit on boards and do strategic things, don’t they?  And a bit of OD, if they can?

Yes. And a lot more. Because sometimes things are just too confidential for anyone else to take care of, and sometimes things just end up in HR’s patch, for no good reason except the HRD couldn’t run fast enough.

There was a time when I had to arrange accommodation for highly confidential overseas workers, which meant traipsing round flats endlessly in Kensington, mobile phone clasped to my ear on a transatlantic call, with the overseas colleague asking about bathroom square footage.  Or helping the CEO’s student children with CVs.  Or advising the CFO on low carb diets. Or restaurants that would cater for pescetarian gluten-free executives.

As the trusted advisor of the CEO, the HRD can sometimes feel like Han Solo to their Luke Skywalker. I once had to hire a bodyguard for a particularly difficult meeting, in case the particular awkward customer decided to finally biff the boss.

But that all seems glamorous when compared to the facilities management, which can often end up on the HRD’s desk. Office moves, choosing prints and fabrics, testing out chairs, looking at table leg design – all great use of the HRD’s time.  Particularly on a Saturday morning. And the office complaints – things suddenly take on huge importance and running out of milk in the fridges, not emptying dishwashers, and leaving a vodka bottle in the meeting room suddenly become things that only an all staff email from the HRD can sort.

The other thing that wasn’t on the job description of the HRD was an encyclopedic knowledge of, well, everything.   Forget psychometric testing for the role, a quick test should include questions such as:

  1. What is this substance found in the gents’ toilets?
  2. Where can I book an intimate dinner for tonight in Belgravia?
  3. Can you find a lovely internship for the COO’s niece?
  4. Does the Tower of London host parties for 250?
  5. What is the highest rate of taxation in Portugal?

And if you can answer those without hesitation, the role of HRD will never daunt you!


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