The case study highlights a major recent transformation underwent by Britain’s global insurer Lloyd’s. The appointment of Suzy Black as HR Director in 2009 was unprecedented in the history of the company. It indicated a new competitive branding for its HR practices, breaking away from traditional personnel office style of functioning. Though there was initial apprehension from senior managers in the company, Black skillfully managed to get them on board to be part of her HR vision. In the milieu of an ever growing global presence for Lloyd’s, Black was able to create a challenging work environment, healthy incentive programs and meaningful community outreach programs. Black’s approach is flexible enough to modify HR programs to suit specific locations across the globe. Black was successfully able to pull off a balance between efficiency and team spirit which accounts for Lloyd’s ranking high in recent polls in the list of most attractive companies in the United Kingdom.
- What skills does Black think employees need to work successfully in the area of HR?
Suzy Black thinks that employees must be “commercial, challenging, and focused on delivery and excellence. They must understand change and transformation, excel at operations, and balance tactical and strategic thinking and acting”. She also thinks that in order to be successful in the area of HR, employees should develop the acumen to understand organizational complexity and negotiate complexity. These observations by Black are valid and applicable to the practice of HR across industries.
- What are some of the outcomes of the company’s new HR strategy?
The HR strategy implemented by Suzy Black was a successful one. After having begun with the objective of ‘getting the basics right’, she and her team began “to develop an overarching strategic agenda as well as specific tactics, addressing everything from recruitment to performance management to basic policies to rewards and compensations”. The success of this strategic vision is borne by the high ratings Lloyd’s received in the poll for the most desirable companies to work for in the UK. In fact, Lloyd’s is ranked as highly as in the top 40 business brands in the region. In retrospect, one can attribute this success to the clear and focused strategic vision unveiled by Suzy Black at the beginning of her tenure. Her strategic vision is worthy of emulation in any work setting. as it carries merit.
- What do you think might be some of the challenges of establishing HR policies for a global company?
The cultural diversity of the workforce across geographical locations is a challenge to all HR managers including Suzy Black. Black’s intuitive managerial skills led her to adopt a flexible and variant approach. This met the needs of all of Lloyd’s employees while still bolstering the bottom line. The other major stumbling block for the HR Manager of a global firm would be adjusting to the political diversity of various economies where the company has a presence. Here, too, flexibility is warranted, as well as an understanding of local business norms and styles.
- What types of situations do you think might require an HR manager to say “no”?
Suzy Black is able to achieve success through a process of transparency, accommodation and dialogue with senior personnel at Lloyd’s. But she asserts that there will be occasions for standing firm and not making concessions. In other words, there will be moments when the HR manager will have to say ‘no’ in order to “accomplish appropriate boundaries with the business”. This flexible-yet-assertive stance suggested by Black makes a lot of sense. After all, compromising the broad HR vision in order to accommodate and placate peers will lead to unsatisfactory results.