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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
HR executives share their experience in human resources
Article Type: Practitioner profile From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 9, Issue 5
Paul Cann, HR director
Paul CannHR director at Groupama Insurances.
Paul Cann joined Groupama Insurances in July 2008 as HR director following eight years at ING Bank where he was head of HR operations. He began his HR career in the UK in 1993 as a financial recruitment consultant with City consultancy Joslin Rowe Associates. From 1996 to 2000 he was an HR generalist with WestLB and from 2000 he held senior HR positions at ING, advising a variety of areas across the wholesale banking business.
Groupama Insurances is one of the UK’s leading general insurers. The UK group offers motor, home and health insurance and also provides insurance protection to a growing number of smaller UK businesses. The company employs almost 800 staff in six centers and is accredited with the Investors in People Gold Standard.
Finding the way into HR
Cann comments on his HR career: “I can’t confess to having planned my career in HR from an early age. It was during a brief spell as a graduate trainee in a blue-chip bank working in internal audit that I spotted an advert for a recruitment consultant.”
“Having decided internal audit was not for me, I started work at Joslin Rowe Associates placing staff into City banks and investment management companies. After three fun and quite lucrative years I grew a little bored with the repetitive nature of the role and after a couple of short-term positions a former colleague offered me the opportunity to run the recruitment desk in-house at West Merchant Bank (now WestLB). Soon I started taking on more HR related activities, ultimately becoming a full-time HR generalist.”
“My HR career really took off when I joined ING Barings initially supporting the global IT division. Over eight years my skills expanded as I took on responsibility for new business areas and managed the impact of a series of major organizational restructures. My appointment in the new position of head of HR operations was a career landmark. This broadened my HR experience considerably and ultimately accounted for my success in securing the position of HR director at Groupama Insurances.”
Continued investment in people initiatives
Cann says that during the past year at Groupama an impressive variety of projects and initiatives have come to fruition. He explains: “We introduced a new broad banding structure and enhanced core competencies. A new performance management methodology with tools to support its implementation was launched. We also implemented a new group personal pension plan and a fresh HR system that supports employee self-service. Finally, a strategic review of our talent management offering as well as a full review of corporate learning and development led to the formulation of three year plans which have been initiated in 2010.”
“While some businesses cut back on HR investment during the recession, at Groupama we continued to concentrate on employee development and engagement. Strong internal development and succession saves on external recruitment fees, ensures employees’ capabilities are maximized and creates greater employee engagement with better performance.”
“During the downturn, we maintained the strong belief that adopting a ‘be grateful for your job’ attitude would have been very unwise. Good quality people can always find alternative opportunities and this is especially the case in the insurance market where specialist technical expertise is in demand but in very short supply.”
Talent management a key focus
Talent management continues to be a key focus at Groupama. Cann comments: “I recently attended a conference for our managers on what gives Groupama its ‘X factor’. Unsurprisingly, the consistent response was its people. Yet last year the insurance industry showed a significant increase in the percentage of resignations. As we continue to drag ourselves out of recession, this can only get worse. A key challenge will therefore be the retention of key people, their engagement and the need to continue to drive great performance. In this way we can develop the all important ‘X factor’ that differentiates us from our competitors.”
“Pleasingly, Groupama’s executive board sees talent management as essential for the ongoing success of the business. We have recently created the position of Talent and Resourcing manager to spearhead our talent management strategy. This is talent management in its broadest sense – identifying and developing the right people internally and attracting, acquiring and retaining the right employees. This creates a consistent, agile and business focused approach to all aspects of talent management.
“A successful HR team is required to guide managers through the multitude of employee issues made increasingly complex by new legislation. This is our bread and butter. But where we can add real value is in the field of talent management – its engagement, succession, acquisition and retention. This is where HR can really help an organization to find its ‘X factor’.”
About the author
Paul Cann has been HR Director at Groupama Insurances since July 2008. He joined the company from ING Bank where he worked for eight years and was most recently head of HR operations. He has worked in HR since 1993. Paul Cann is a graduate of the London School of Economics with a BSc in Management Sciences. Paul Cann can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org