In his latest blog, David Thomas shares a write-up for his successful HRD to NED event at Withers London Headquarters

By David Thomas
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We recently collaborated with Winmark to co-host an HRD to NED event at the prestigious Withers headquarters in London. The event attracted a considerable audience, facilitating a rich discussion on the challenges and opportunities of traversing this route.

While the Remuneration Committee emerged as a natural starting point for HR professionals seeking to embark on the NED path, it's crucial to note that it is by no means the sole avenue. The resounding consensus was that HR Directors (HRDs) must demonstrate their broader business credentials beyond people and culture expertise. As an example, the successful stewardship of remuneration requires a comprehensive grasp of the regulations, adeptness in navigating wage escalation pressures, and the financial finesse to engage in substantive discussions with the CFO, audit committee, and other stakeholders.

Whether you are trying to move towards cultivating a diverse portfolio career or taking on a NED role alongside executive responsibility, the following sage advice was offered:

Elevate your network's potential: reconnect with organisations and academic bodies from your past to unearth opportunities for enhanced visibility. Forge connections with fellow professionals in the non-executive space; attend industry events and align with relevant associations or groups to foster meaningful relationships.

Seize opportunities at the apex of your career: explore roles as a NED within philanthropic Boards, extend support to community initiatives, and collaborate with startups to gain experience whilst showcasing your abilities. Look at sector bodies where you can offer a relevant, knowledgeable and independent voice.

Enhance your qualifications: obtain relevant certifications and further education in areas such as corporate governance, strategic management, or finance, to strengthen your non-executive skillset.

Cultivate a personal brand: develop your own voice that highlights not only your HR expertise but your broader talents; including leadership acumen, strategic thinking, adeptness in managing challenging situations and process management capability. Showcase this and provide thought leadership in appropriate forums.

Leverage mentorship: seek support from seasoned individuals and solicit guidance from consultants and Board members within your network.

Craft a distinctive non-executive CV: recognise the divergence between an executive and non-executive CV. Dedicate time to creating a document that resonates with any applications you undertake.

Harmonise commitments: make sure you have the time for an NED role while keeping a healthy work-life balance.

Showcase your value: during the selection process, demonstrate you understand the Board's role in stewardship and responsibility to keep the executive team accountable whilst navigating the complex, company-specific risks and opportunities. Familiarise yourself with the FRC Corporate Governance Code.

Ask critical questions: enquire how the Board engages with the workforce. Examine the cultural alignment between the company's values and the sentiments of its various communities. Delve into the balance between revenue generation, human capital considerations, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives of each organisation you engage with.

A combination of relevant experience, credentials, strategic acumen and appropriate network constitute the criteria for success. The aftermath of the pandemic has introduced labour constraints owing to diminished access to international talent and early retirements. As the imperative to attract and retain talent intensifies, we anticipate that the emotional intelligence demonstrated by HRDs will be valued expertise at Board level.

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