With vast experience in human resources, yesterday’s name for her skill set, LR newcomer Sharron Pamplin says the clue is in her job title – it’s not about resource management, it’s specifically about people and equipping them so that they, and LR’s clients, can make the most of their skills now and as their careers develop in the future. Often that means developing new capabilities outside their own specialisms.
The psychology graduate attributes much of her knowhow to time spent working for various heavyweight firms in the consulting business, where good consultants demonstrate skills that help clients solve complex business problems and create value for clients, most recently as Chief People Officer at professional services firm, Deloitte, with 25,000 colleagues, managing a team of hundreds. Previously she has been a Managing Consultant at PA Consulting Group, and at Mercer when it took on a major integration project for HMRC, the UK Government’s finance controller, and before that, negotiating with sometimes challenging UK railway unions at British Rail.
She has also made her mark in the voluntary sector. She sat on the Confederation of British Industry’s Employment and Skills Board for close to seven years. She’s on Business in the Community’s Employment and Skills Leadership Team. And she is a non-executive director and chair of the nominations and remuneration committee for Engenuity, a not-for-profit charity building engineering skills for a smarter world. She is particularly proud of her nomination this year as just one of five ‘Chartered Companions’ of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
“Consulting gives you a skill set and an ability to work closely with people and organisations to understand quickly what the business challenges are, and to scope interventions from a people perspective that help to support the business strategy.”
Pamplin puts great emphasis on the value of her consulting experience and the process of becoming completely immersed in a specific project, in the field. “It gives you a skill set and an ability to work closely with people and organisations to understand quickly what the business challenges are, and to scope interventions from a people perspective that help to support the business strategy. I’ve had that experience in various industry sectors and it really does broaden your view.”
An example comes from her time at PA Consulting. She was deployed on a six-month programme working on site in the Barrow-in Furness facility, a base for Astute-class submarines. Specifically, she was engaged on a transformation programme to help engineering personnel work more efficiently, improving safety and productivity.
Creating trusted advisers
Pamplin joined LR last April and has enjoyed every opportunity to spend time in LR ‘on the shop floor’, meeting in-service plan approval teams and donning a boiler suit and a hard hat to shadow LR teams working in the field. “For me, it meant immersing myself in different work environments, different countries, different cultures, to be able to assess how our people work today and how we can support them with learning experiences that will equip them to evolve to deliver the new company strategy, which is shaped by clients and future market needs. This requires the development of capabilities beyond technical expertise.
She recently attended the docking, refit and modification of a large yacht on which a surveyor was assessing the suitability of the propeller for efficient post-refit operation and was staggered by the multitude of skill sets the surveyor had to demonstrate.
“She was there to gather data for advanced calculations on propeller performance. She was working in the engine room where there’s no wi-fi reception, so she was on her own. The master arrived. As the owner’s representative, he wanted to know whether the project was still running to plan; had any issues arisen, and by the way, what were her views on likely future fuels for the big-yacht sector? The shipyard manager then stopped by to find out whether the yacht would leave the dock on the due date so that he could confirm the date for the next job,” explains Pamplin. “If that wasn’t enough to contend with, three other engineers were asking her technical questions on propeller efficiency, and so on.”
“What struck me was the scale of the foundational skills - critical thinking, interpersonal skills, communications skills, listening skills, problem solving, commercial awareness and empathy amongst others - that she needed, combined with her deep technical expertise,” Pamplin adds. “What we need to place more value on is the ability of our people to manage those complex stakeholder relationships, to be a trusted adviser capable of answering searching questions with confidence, while on location. We also have to recognise that our customers are global. Although our head office is in the UK, three quarters of our business isn’t, so we must be very good at responding to those different cultural needs.”
To address this challenge, Pamplin is working closely with business colleagues and partnering her own People Development Team with Solvd Together, an award-winning, people-led corporate learning solutions provider, introducing a self-assessment framework for LR colleagues to learn more about disciplines outside their technical expertise and, for some, their comfort zones. The priority is to enable people to identify areas on which they should focus. She believes the strategy will be useful for new recruits with limited experience outside their own fields and for long-time employees with particular specialisms to deliver a ‘just in time’ (as opposed to ‘just in case’) learning experience. By rating their understanding of a new topic, colleagues will be able to consult a framework providing guidance on areas for development with suggested learning experiences. She believes that this approach will address the feedback LR has received recently from some clients that, in some cases, customer experience could be improved.
Although she concedes the changes won’t suit everybody, she is not a subscriber to the theory that people resist change for the sake of it. “I think people sometimes resist if they don’t understand what the change is for. We’re being really clear that this deeper understanding will help our clients, help LR and help their career prospects and job satisfaction.”
Pamplin is brimming with ideas, but asked about her priorities, reveals, “Top of my to-do list is to help explain and position the change that is needed so our people can engage with it, understand what it means for them and how LR will support them through it.”
“I want them to have a variety of complementary skill sets, a range of tools for their digital kit bags and career development, and different ways of engaging with clients. I want it to be a collaborative journey – one of co-creation, with new world-class consumer grade learning experiences, and rewarding career results.”