Star Interview

Donna Griffiths,
HR Director
at Sharp UK


Starting out a career in the British Army, Sharp UK’s Donna Griffiths has moved up the ranks to take on the role of HR Director. But has she evolved this company’s people team? She reveals all...

10 months into her current role as HR Director of electronics manufacturer Sharp UK, Donna Griffiths has taken the bull by the horns. In such a short time she has already helped to spearhead and launch Sharp UK’s new people strategy, while also using new tech to streamline its internal HR system. It’s boots on the ground for this HR leader.

Having always had a background in learning and development – Griffiths started out her career training up new recruits within the Army – utilising her expertise when it comes to developing people and an organisation at a time where there is constant change has led her to her current position as HR director at Sharp UK. Speaking to myGrapevine magazine for this month’s Star Interview, she shares that utilising tech is particularly important for Sharp UK and its employees – perhaps unsurprising as the business is recognised for creating its own tech products.

Below she reveals why her priority for tech has been to concentrate on finding new ways to allow Sharp UK’s people team members to spend less time on admin-related tasks, so that they can be more available to employees who need support. While it’s clear that tech is a fundamental part to Griffiths’ people strategy, she also shares her hopes to ensure that the team is not siloed from the rest of the firm, to ensure HR works in tandem with the wider business. Read on to find out what Griffiths’ goals are for the next 12 months and what she has learnt from her mistakes.

CV of Donna Griffiths

Experience

Interim Human Resources Director, Sharp Business
Systems UK Plc - May 2020 – present

Director of HR & Employee Wellbeing, Westfield Health
- April 2018 – May 2019

Human Resources Manager, Westfield Health -
October 2011 – April 2018

Education

Sheffield Hallam University

Master’s degree: Human Resources Management & Services

Q

What made you want to explore a career in HR?


A

My background is in learning and development, and I started my career training new recruits into the Army. I’ve always had a passion for working with people, and this role made me realise I wanted my career to be centred on understanding and helping professionals to achieve.

I've always wondered what makes people tick and I enjoy figuring people out. This means everything from what motivates them and their personality types, to how this affects their behaviour, opinions and perspectives. Knowing this at a deeper level helps me to understand their feelings and concerns, and I believe this puts me in the best position to provide better support.

Q

What were your key objectives in your first year at Sharp?


A

As you might imagine, joining a company during the pandemic meant that my in-tray was quite full. I immediately began doing all I could to support the business and the Sharp workforce during such a difficult and unpredictable time, trying my absolute best to mitigate the challenges created by COVID-19.

A key aspect of this was to encourage two-way communication and increase engagement for all our employees during this difficult time. It was vital that our employees felt heard as we faced personal challenges brought on by the pandemic, both expected and unexpected.

Away from the pandemic, I have been working with the team to develop and launch Sharp’s UK people strategy – the objectives of this initiative are to raise our people agenda and make Sharp UK a great place to work. This has been a main focus of mine and will continue to be as we head into the rest of 2021.

“I've always wondered what makes people tick and I enjoy figuring people out”

Q

Looking back at your time with the company so far, what are you most proud of?


A

Over the past 10 months, I have been extremely proud of the resilience of our HR team and the support that they have given to both the business and our people during these extremely difficult months. I think their impact can be best measured by the great feedback that we have received from our employees – I am incredibly proud of how we have supported our people and increased communication and engagement across the company, which is a result of the team’s encouragement and hard work.

Getting to know Donna

How long have you been at your current position?

10 months.

What are the challenges?

Starting in the pandemic has brought many challenges, not least:

• Getting to know the business virtually, and not meeting people face-to-face

• Predicting what our normal way of working will be after COVID-19

• Figuring out what business as usual is at Sharp UK for the people team

Biggest mistake you’ve made and what you learnt from it?

I thrive on challenges, autonomy and by seeing and demonstrating the value that I can add. We are living through a difficult moment, which challenges me to make things better for our business and our people.

I love to learn, while finding new ways to solve old problems. The world of work is constantly changing, and I thrive on change.

Biggest mistake you’ve made and what you learnt from it?

Enforcing a culture change that wasn’t quite right. I’ve learned not to take data and make assumptions of what it’s telling you.

Instead, use the data and insight to run listening groups, attend two-way meetings and ask again and again. It’s easy to make assumptions of an issue and provide a solution, but it has greater impact if you give the issue to an employee group and get them to provide the solutions. It’s much easier to sell to their colleagues too.

Q

Are there any new tech-related HR initiatives you are working on that you can share?


A

At Sharp we are implementing an HR System to streamline our service that allows us to focus on much more value-added activity. We will also be introducing a new flexi benefits platform in the next few months so that our employees can have greater access to the workplace benefits that provide most value to them.

“Over the past 10 months, I have been extremely proud of the resilience of our HR team”

Q

The world of work has changed beyond recognition, what role can tech play in making this transition?


A

During the pandemic we all saw our ways of working move onto online platforms and, once everyone was acclimatised, this has brought plenty of benefits and good new practices. At Sharp, we are of course utilising virtual platforms and adapting our own approach to meetings and events – all this is enabled by technology platforms that many of us had not previously used.

Q

Do you think there are set tech priorities HR should be focussing on right now?


A

As I’ve mentioned already, at Sharp we’re focusing on streamlining our services so that we can devote our time to value added activity. My priority for technology is to find ways where it can enable our team to spend less time on admin and be more available to the employees who we are here to help.

“The world of work is constantly changing, and I thrive on change”

Q

Have you set out any goals you want to achieve in the next year?


A

My top three goals for my next 12 months at Sharp are to develop a high-performing and flexible workforce to drive continuous improvement and productivity across the business. In addition, to work towards making Sharp UK a great place to work by embedding our culture and supporting colleagues and teams to maximise their potential, and develop and support the Sharp UK transformation journey. And lastly, to champion the people agenda to support business change and deliver an improved employee experience.

Q

What’s your guiding philosophy to HR?


A

Deliberate, to plan in alignment with business priorities and develop a meaningful people strategy to support the business strategy. Strategise, to create goals-based on delivering programmes/initiatives, continually evolving, and improving as you go.

Thirdly, think about the big picture – to take a wider view of the business, and what are we trying to achieve. Know the business and understand the challenges that we are working with, not against. Plus, to embed the people team in the business and work with the business not as a siloed team.

In addition, to work to develop effective people managers throughout the company. And finally, consult. To get people involved, and don’t make assumptions. Empower your people through employee voice forums and demonstrate that their insights are built on.