Welcome to Chapelhouse, Head of HR Nicola Greenwood

Nicola Greenwood joins us as Head of HR. Nicola has a dedicated career in Human Resources behind her, and a wealth of knowledge, having worked across many different sectors. She sat down with us to give an insight into her personal experiences of working in HR, the business cultures that have inspired her, and her aims to benefit the very people who make any company work - the staff. 

What attracted you to the role at Chapelhouse?  

I was attracted to the role for a number of reasons. I had been looking for a role that I could see as a long term commitment for both myself and the business. 

I felt Chapelhouse would be a good cultural fit, where I could make a real difference to the long term plans and development of the people strategy, and where I could progress in my career with a progressive company.

As Head of HR, what are the main focuses in your new role for the business? 

My overall focus is to dedicate my time to the people strategy, with the people being at the heart of everything Chapelhouse do. I believe we can achieve great things together by developing our people-related practices and ensuring these practices reward our committed employees.

What do you enjoy about working in HR most? 

One of the things I enjoy the most about working in HR is that it is constantly evolving - from compliance, with change in laws and legislation, to global economics and new technologies. 

No two days are ever the same and there are challenges to overcome every day. One of the enjoyable parts of working in HR is you get to know everyone in the business and be a part of everyone's journey, growth and development.

What are the biggest challenges you often face working in Human Resources? 

As a Head of HR, it can be a challenging role. As they say, “There is no HR for HR”. Throughout the years I have seen this many times, and I have tried to create a supportive network for the teams I have had working for me. It can be quite a lonely role sometimes and can take longer than some other roles to find your place in an organisation. 

The other challenge is people seeing past the title “HR”. It's almost like being a teacher and the children seeing you out shopping and being surprised that the teacher has a life outside of the classroom. It's the same for HR professionals. We lose our identity. I'm not Nicola anymore, I'm just “HR”. 

It can be hard to build those relationships initially when people don't see the person behind the title but having worked in the industry for as long as I have, I don't get offended when I hear “Oh no, HR are here”. I hope people can see the person behind the title and see the positive impacts HR can have.

What do you do you stay motivated and focussed on achieving your goals? 

Being motivated when joining a company is easy, as it is exciting and you have lots of ideas. Trying not to burn out at the start can be difficult, so be realistic with yourself and do not fear failure. Enjoy the learning stages and set realistic goals. Ensuring we stay motivated throughout the journey can be harder, so making sure we have an achievable plan with clear timescales and measurable outcomes keeps me on track throughout my working day. 

Having shared goals also keeps me motivated, as I like to be able to see the impacts on the wider business and not just on a personal level. I would say celebrating the wins is a big factor to keeping up team motivation and helping people keep on track, so I always try and celebrate “quick wins” where I can.

How do you think your previous experience will help you in your new role? 

Having worked in many different industries and sectors from legal and finance to pharmaceuticals, engineering, and care, I have come across several different people-related challenges throughout the years. These have included complex legal matters, conflict resolution, coaching and development, training programmes, change management, and the challenges of growing businesses after Covid-19, and how this changed the recruitment markets in the ever changing digital world with new technologies. 

I feel my inquisitive nature, and need to grow and learn, allows me to adapt to the changing world. My management style gives me the ability to lead on a variety of projects and adjust my style to the situation in order to take on any new challenge.  

Is there a particular business or organisation whose culture has inspired you? 

When thinking about culture, I think of large corporate companies. Virgin comes to mind because of the famous Richard Branson quote: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.” I feel the culture at Virgin would be a positive working environment for employees' development and growth. 

Image: Gareth Cattermole/Getty.

What do you think makes a perfect working environment?

An organisation who values its people with good honest communication, even when the times are hard. It's important to ensure the key messages are communicated correctly. There is often too much pressure to put a positive spin on things, when in reality keeping communications open and honest stops idle gossip, builds integrity and trust with employees and stakeholders, and is key to a collaborative workplace that encourages employees to be themselves. 

What is the best piece of advice you've even been given? 

In business I would say the one that most stands out is my first HR role. My site director told me to stay true to my personal values and it would stand me in good stead to progress in my career. Even when you are doing the things that HR do, which are seen traditionally in a negative light, such as disciplinaries and redundancies, people will still walk away with their pride in tact, as you will always treat them with dignity and respect. This has always stayed with me regardless of the situations I have managed. 

And finally... away from work, how do you like to unwind? 

When I am not working, I like to spend time with my family and friends and try to get away as often as I can. Whether that's short city breaks with friends, holidaying in the summer sun with the children (2 girls), or trips to the caravan with the children, husband and mum. To keep the mind active, we will try and not get locked in the occasional escape room and to keep physically active. I am partial to hit the dance floor for a Cha Cha Cha or a Quickstep! 

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