What’s innovation for a Director of People and Culture?

Interview with Miguel from Four Seasons Hotel Ritz management team!

There’s no innovation without the right people. Talent is gold nowadays. So I thought that it would be nice to have a top-notch talent leader here in the Innovation Pub. And Miguel is clearly the right guest — he has a few sound statements to share and he is very active sharing his thoughts on social networks. And he works for a luxury brand that we wall know a little bit about…

Let’s start? :)

Who are you, Miguel?

I like to define myself as an HR Marketer. I have shifted between Human Resources and Marketing several times as it is difficult to find Portuguese companies strategically focused on Employer Branding. My current role is Assistant Director of People and Culture at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon.

Miguel Luís — Assistant Director of People and Culture at the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

My ambition has always been to use my knowledge and skills for the development of companies and their people.

What’s innovation for you? It seems that everybody has a different definition! Can you give a few examples?

I have had the pleasure of dealing with different forms of innovation during my career. As the manager of Tagus Park Business Incubator I was fortunate to witness the emergence of Seedrs that innovated by simply creating a UK based crowdfunding platform that works like a stock market.

Innovation here comes from being the first (unique). But I also found innovation in the creation of processes like the DCC — Digital Customer Care service I implemented at Transporta or even a simple digital strategy I developed for OsBelenenses, SAD back in 2013 that was focused on interactivity. Here innovation was not about being the first, but about adjustments of ideas to best serve our target audience.

Innovation is the way by which we keep providing solutions to consumer needs.

Why it’s so hard for established companies to innovate?

I would have to say it all comes down to one of the most powerful forces in the Universe, inertia. All things tend to zero, and if there is a low energy solution available, that is the one that will be picked. To fight inertia one must use large amounts of energy and the process of innovation is without a doubt a high energy process.

What’s innovation in human resources / talent management?

We must first define Human Resources. I would say that there are 5 core standard activities:

  1. Recruitment and Selection (Talent Acquisition)
  2. Onboarding
  3. Training and Development
  4. Performance Evaluation
  5. Administrative Management

Within each of the activities there is room for innovation, in the way it is made, in the strategic paradigm it sets. One thing cannot change, Human Resources need to be a neutral player within the organizational relations. HR does not exist to defend the company nor does it exist to defend the employees. It works with facts to uphold the balance of powers within companies.

How are HR Directors innovating? Do they have a process to innovate?

Human Resources are slowly being replaced by a new designation — People Management — and with it also the paradigm on which we move.

I would say that, although possible, the most important thing for a People Management agent is not to innovate but to facilitate innovation.

That requires the right tools and processes. I do not believe most People Managers are prepared to be innovation facilitators. There are certain areas that have been evolving as pools for innovation such as Employer Branding and Talent Acquisition, with an approach to Marketing practices.

New processes require that EB or TA workers investigate a lot deeper the roles they are hiring for as the job descriptions need to be much more enticing and transparent than before as well as target audiences (Who are we looking for).

How are Hotel Directors innovating? Do they have a process to innovate?

Hospitality is rapidly evolving as technology has surged with many solutions that will optimize several areas of service within Hotels. Most of what Hotel Directors are doing is envisioning the use (or lack) of technology in the model of service of their own Hotels/Companies.

How can the workplace be a good place for innovators?

I have had the pleasure of assisting as a consultant several companies that held Innovation Forums with their workers. True open sessions where there were no wrong answers. This not only allowed the emergence of different solutions but also played a part in the sense of belonging of those workers.

Tell us one story, or more, about innovation / transformation

In 2015 as I assumed the role of Marketing Intelligence Manager of Transporta, a distribution company, as I had no budget for that year I was forced to find ways in which we could increase the overall satisfaction of our end consumers as it was very low.

To my complete astonishment, although it was a practice abroad no competitor in Portugal had Customer Care solutions implemented in our country. Hence began Transporta’s DCC — Digital Customer Care.

We were not that best at delivering but we were the best at keeping our end users informed about their delivery status. Tracking is good but if you have a parcel in delivery for one week, you will start to feel that the information is scarce.

We provided means of contact that worked 24/7, 365 days per year, with an average 2 min response time over Facebook and Twitter. Satisfaction rose like never before and we were month after month the best company at Portal da Queixa (previously we were one of the worst).

As an HR leader, what’s your vision about the future of talent management and how can organisations like yours keep the pace with innovation

Portugal has the lowest birth rate in Europe meaning that soon we will be confronted with the lack of people to hire. And although it might look that we are integrated in global workforce, the true reality in Portugal is that globalization has not arrived to our national recruitment practices. Look at how we design our job profiles, how we promote our job ads and how we conduct our job interviews… We work today as we use to work in the XX century.

Buzz words have arrived and they were adopted into our companies but they do not represent any change in practice. Today you might call yourself an Employer Branding Manager and what you do is recruitment like you used to do before.

Companies need to work on differentiation, but that requires ponderous thought on why they are, what they do and what makes them different. “What is our unique consumer value proposition?” Talent Management is more or less the same process, why do we need this profile, what will it do and to attract him/her what is our Employer Value Proposition.

Why didn’t you embraced a role abroad?

Although I have had several invitations along my career I chose to stay in Portugal not because of the most common reasons like family or fear, but mostly because I am strongly driven with the ambition to make a difference in how Human Resources/People Management is done.

I have been the strongest defender of the evolution of the profile of the People Manager, the required skills and the practices within companies.

Just look at what we teach at our Universities in regards to HR? It’s exactly the same for the last 40 years. The World has changed but the skills and practices of the HR professionals have remained exactly the same.

As someone who is invited to lecture and speak I always felt I had the possibility to be heard and induce some of the change I preach.

What’s your favorite quote?

“The simple idea that if you treat people well, the way you would like to be treated, they will do the same.” — Isadore Sharp



Opinions are my own.

Hugo de Sousa | https://medium.com/theinnovationpub | #TheInnovationPub

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