Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Jane Keith, people development director
Article Type: Practitioner profile From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 7, Issue 5
HR executives share their experience in human resources
Jane Keith joined technology company HP in 1994 and has since built a distinguished career in human resources, holding various roles in recruitment, business HR and HR management within the company’s sales and services organizations. In 2005 she was appointed HR lead for the HP Services business unit in the UK and Ireland and since January 2008 she has served as people development director for HP Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In her current role, Keith is in charge of talent management, career development, diversity and performance management programs for more than 41,700 employees in over 40 countries across the EMEA region.
Prior to joining HP, she worked in events management, marketing and communications in a diverse range of industries including the automotive sector, oil and gas and manufacturing. Through her previous positions, Keith gained expertise in managing large numbers of people, a valuable experience that she has been able to capitalize on in her HR roles at HP.
Rising to the restructuring challenge
When working as a manager in business HR for the UK and Ireland, one of the missions Keith was assigned was to participate in the redesign of the marketing unit and to handle the selection and redeployment of the staff. This task gave her the necessary experience for a much more challenging assignment she would be entrusted with in 2002 – the merger of HP and Compaq to create a $107.7 billion global technology leader with operations in more than 170 countries and over 172,000 employees. When this large organizational change came about, she was ideally placed with recent hands on experience and the skills required to tackle the enormous task of redefining, selecting and redeploying people where they could fit best into the newly merged organization and culture.
It was a very rewarding experience because it was a unique opportunity for HR to bring such value added support and guidance to the business, not just as a facilitator but as an active consultant and strategist focused on redesigning and redefining a workforce. This episode was also very favorable for the general perception of the HR function, as it had proved throughout this sensitive period to be key and of strategic importance for the success of this merger.
How to retain the best staff?
In today’s highly competitive marketplace, companies struggle to attract, but most of all retain, the best staff. Keith says:
To retain talented people and to strengthen their loyalty and commitment, it is essential to understand their specific needs and to adapt in particular to the different needs employees can have throughout the different stages of their lives. This is a lesson she says she learnt from her own experience as an employee.
When Keith joined HP, she was looking for a part time job that would give her enough flexibility to adjust to her family life, and that is exactly what HP offered her at that time. A few years later, when she decided to take a one-year leave to follow her husband to Colombia, HP was again very supportive and even offered her work when she returned to the UK. Keith explains:
As an employee, I felt rewarded and it strengthened my loyalty towards my employer. Understanding and adapting to the needs of employees in their different stages of life is crucial to keep the best elements as they feel that they are in harmony with their work and private lives.
A joint approach to career development
For Keith, career development is mainly about encouraging employees to think differently about their careers, by encouraging them, for example, to relocate geographically or to move from one business unit to another to make them more “marketable” and further develop their skills and experience.
At HP, career development is viewed as a joint venture between employee and employer, and not just solely the employer’s responsibility. Therefore to help people take charge of it, an interactive online tool, the HP Career Development Framework, has been specially designed to help all employees worldwide understand HP’s key roles and the skills that are needed for the future. Employees can self diagnose their current capabilities and gaps and check which skills are needed to fulfil their potential and ambition and then build their own “career map”. In addition, it allows managers to better understand the professional aspirations of employees.
With an organization the size of HP, that has many different markets, products and customers, the opportunities are endless. Its therefore important that we focus on growing an internal pool of experienced and talented employees who develop their skills, in order to be prepared for the future needs of HP.
Jane KeithPeople development director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at HP. She is responsible for 41,700 employees across 40 countries. Previously, she was HR lead for the HP Services business unit for the UK and Ireland.