Jeanne Le Roux holds a Master’s degree in finance, insurance and banking, but it’s fair to say that for her, the reality of working life in the many of the places she has studied often failed to match up to the theories about what makes a productive HR environment.
As an HR professional, she expects to find values, attitude and personality underpinning the culture of the workplace. Recently, however, institutions such as the banking industry, and many global corporates have suffered from the perception that profits, workaholism, and ruthlessness are the order of the day. In order to restore their reputations, many companies have begun to re-think their values, implementing them from the ground up.
After years of experiencing different approaches to managing people effectively, Jeanne found cultures she felt comfortable with at Diageo, Disney, and G4S, where she was responsible for carrying out HR audits and other duties over a 10 year period. Now she has founded JLR People Solutions and she has been kind enough to share some of her views with Haggerston Times.
If developing HR strategies for media, food and drinks brands, and creative technology is her stock in trade, creating HR solutions for start-ups is her passion. She is a mentor at BBC lab, and Bathtub to Boardroom, where she discusses people management with start-ups on the accelerator programs, helping entrepreneurs who are new to the game to understand their teams. Great ideas and talented people do not always make great leadership inevitable, and Jeanne’s role is to prevent promising businesses failing by pursuing a flawed hiring strategy.
A questioning and intellectually rigorous personality is almost a prerequisite for a career in HR, and Jeanne certainly possesses these qualities. She concerns herself with questions such as “what qualifies a business as a start-up?”, and “what is its mind-set?” which help her to understand the peculiarities of a small company’s psychological makeup, and on a more practical level “should you sacrifice equity to bring the right person on board?”
The psychology of a start-up is a fragile thing, she argues, which can be very different to that of a VC, or Angel, for example. Many VC’s have been highly successful in their chosen fields, and the challenge is to match them with a start-up that may be struggling to find its feet in the short term. Both take different approaches to their work, the VC, likely to have already experienced a deal of success in their careers, versus the start-up on the brink of achieving something momentous.
HR is all about putting people together whose personalities complement each other well; it’s not a perfect science, but intuition and experience certainly help get results. “More often than not, when I send three clients to an interview, I already know which one will get the job”, Jeanne reflects, “my clients often say to me, “we wish you would just send us the one you think is right, but it wouldn’t be fair on the candidates”.
Different kinds of personalities also require different kinds of recruitment. Jeanne has met all kinds of founders with any number of superstitions, hang-ups, and fears about who they will end up working with. Many have trust issues, understandable if you have put your heart and soul into a project and are about to share it with the non-initiated. Others fail to lead by example. “I’ve met salespeople who have stressed the importance of face to face interaction, demanded that their staff greet everyone in the office in a friendly and convivial fashion, before turning on their heels and striding, face down, past all of their staff, before locking themselves in their offices.” Self-perception makes a recruiters task a far easier one.
A key question that many avoid is simply, “what is your purpose? Is it your destiny to work at a firm like this?” People often try to do what they feel is right for them, and sometimes it takes an outsider with tact and humility to steer them in the right direction. Sometimes it needs a maverick with a strong personality to clear out the dead wood and move the Company forwards.
At its core, an HR strategy needs to scalable; that is why hiring on an ad hoc basis, upon suddenly realising that you have too much work on, horrifies Jeanne. It’s like building a house on quicksand. “There’s no culture, no values established, it turns your company into a drop in centre for career-dodgers”, she admonishes. “You must take pride in what you do, and that goes for your hiring strategy as well as your business”.
Jeanne’s career and studies have allowed her to understand whether a Company has a vision, if that that vision is realistic, and the kind of people it needs to make the vision a reality. Here are her 5 instructions for creating a business culture that is real.
Anything less than 3 out 5 here and you really need to revise your HR strategy. Fortunately, help is at hand.
Jeanne Le Roux is CEO of JLR People Solutions. She has worked in the finance, drinks, creative and tech industries as an HR Consultant. She specialises in helping to create perfect start-up collaborative working strategies. She is a mentor at Bathtub2Boardroom, BBC Lab, and Entrepreneur Academy Accelerators.