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People power

Des Maclaughlin, founder of Mac-D Consulting asks if companies really need a ‘chief people officer’

There is a growing trend within larger businesses and Hotel Groups to employ a ‘chief people officer’. Having worked in a company that had one I’m not convinced that they are a great addition to the company workforce. Part of the chief people officer’s role is about engaging with and motivating employees which is fine, but my concern is that the job can morph into that of the company spin doctor and that in some instances the chief people officers are paying lip service to employees in a company tick box exercise. It all smacks a little to me of Japan ,where employees proudly sing their corporate anthem daily and are taught to wholly live and breathe their company and its values. It’s important to remember we only work to live.

Unfortunately, company spin is becoming more common as increasingly organisations put their shareholders financial demands above their staff’s wellbeing. James Bloodworth recently published a book called Hired in which he took a series of low paid jobs in the UK. It makes for very grim reading. Amazon, from whom many of us buy, came out of his book particularly badly. According to a GMB survey published in the book 91% of Amazon employees would not recommend working for Amazon to a friend. Further, 89% felt exploited; 78% felt their breaks were too short; 71% reported that they walked more than 10 miles a day at work; and 70% of staff thought they were given disciplinary points unfairly. 

Bloodworth noted employees worked on zero-hours, temporary contracts, and reported feel good slogans around the warehouse declaring things such as “We love coming to work and miss it when we’re not here.”

While I’m not suggesting many employers in the hospitality industry treat their staff in this way, this is a relatively low paid industry and it will become harder to attract good staff with the onset of Brexit. This means that it is more important than ever to ensure that staff are satisfied at work and treated properly. 

The good news is I don’t believe there is any great mystery to keeping staff happy, regardless of the company’s size. Management simply need to show staff respect, empower them, pay them fairly and be honest with them. 

In short, management should treat employees in the way in which they would want to be treated. If employers do this, they shouldn’t need to employ a chief people officer or waste money on posters and sloganeering.