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Behind the HRD

Stephanie Lunn,
Global People and Culture Director

What were your key objectives in your first year at Guinness World Records?

“The first thing I did was to take a step back and get to know the company because I don’t think as an HR professional you can really do your job if you don’t understand the business itself. The days have passed when HR can sit in the corner in an ivory tower. It’s part of a business and the strategy is aligned to the business goals. So, I spent the first few months really getting my feet under the desk, understanding what the business is about. Then I focussed on modernising the people team and finding out where their skills were and playing to their strengths.”

Coronavirus has transformed business, is digital innovation a key part of this?

“We’re a digital company. One of the first things I wanted to do when joining GWR was ensure that we were working digitally. Now, we have to work digitally because we can’t physically interact. That’s true of our offerings too; as a business mass participation events have always been central but now those are taking place digitally. We recently did our book launch and we got all of our offices together on an event call and there was huge participation – even people in Japan stayed up to take part in these events where, as a company, we competed against each other with fun challenges and it was great to see people who otherwise wouldn’t interact getting to know each other.”

Do you believe that the pandemic has changed the perception between the home and working life divide?

“Before the pandemic, people hid their home lives from view. Years ago, I met a woman who told me that she didn’t have any photographs of her kids at work, she never spoke about her kids, she totally and utterly had her ‘work face’ on when she was in the professional environment, but it was a big problem because inevitably her home life would require attention; the school would call or her children needed help, but she’d always make out that it was someone else on the phone. She did this because she believed that she would automatically be discriminated against for being a mother.

Work and home life have now merged due to the pandemic. You may hear a dog barking or a child may walk in on a meeting and that’s becoming much more accepted. We’re now bringing true selves to work, which is something that I’ve always advocated massively.”

Does the title HR still correlate with the function?

“It’s a little too technical; these are people that we’re dealing with, so bringing in the phrase ‘people operations’ really puts people at the heart of what we do. I was presenting internally recently about the reason why I decided to change HR to ‘people and culture’ because a lot of people were asking about the change. I explained that back in 2005 when the SVP of HR at the company I was in at the time sent me an article stating ‘why we hate HR’ and it talked about the fact that we were paper-pushers and that we stopped the business from doing business and I felt quite upset, but I felt that it was a challenge.

“At the time, as now, we were far more focussed on the people; we wanted to ensure wellbeing and productivity and we set ourselves massive targets to improve those which we achieved. That’s what we’re doing now, so that old view of HR just isn’t relevant anymore. We’re a different function far more focussed on being progressive than ever before. I don’t think the title is relevant. I don’t even know if ‘people function’ is the phrase that we’ll continue to use as things carry on progressing.”

To hear more from Stephanie Lunn, discussing the challenges that remote work has brought her team, catch up on what was covered at HR Grapevine VIRTUAL: HR Tech 2.0. Find out why she is ‘digital first’ and what this means for HR functions tasked with finding solutions in the digital age.


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