5 Minutes With… Carol Howard, director, Black Birds Three

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What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
 
That everyone you meet is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. So to be kind always.  Also to get curious about conflict in preference to simply avoiding it or getting defensive.
 
 
What challenges do you think HR will face in the next 10 years?
 
There are some amazing opportunities ahead for HR.  And we need to be energized and engaged if HR is to stay relevant. There’s an increased need for speed, agility and cross-discipline learning and collaboration.  Not just for HR, but most functions. And quite simply we need to be more comfortable with technology, human-centred design and remote working/virtual teams. Good for business, good for people, good for the environment. The mainstream use of social media is having a profound impact on employee communications and how we do our work.  And it’s an influence that’s not going away. I’m excited about what’s ahead!    
 
 
What is the most interesting aspect of your role?
 
It’s the cross-discipline mix that I thrive on.  I specialise in employee communications, change management and culture. I also partner with companies around working globally and virtual teams.  It’s the mind-bending mix of strategy and creativity that I love.  You get to be unreasonably curious, ask questions, assess the state of play and deliver practical solutions.  A standard day could include writing communications, creating a change management plan, giving executive communications coaching and facilitation. Perfect!
 
 
What do you feel is your biggest professional achievement to date?
 
Successfully leading global change and communications for Cisco’s Staffing organisation.  It was complex, fast and furious! And it often included large-scale people, process and culture change impacting up to 70,000 people across 90 countries. It also involved working with global teams across multiple time zones. People ask if it was nerve-wracking but I think of it as exhilarating! It was a complete mix of the tactical and strategic.  Many companies are still finding their feet when it comes to leading people through change in a more open, humane and transparent way.  It’s a responsibility and privilege that deserves more attention from everyone, including HR.
 
How would you sum up HR professionals in two words?
 
I wouldn’t. I’d hate to generalise an entire profession!
 
 
Complete this sentence: If I weren’t in HR, I’d be…
 
Fulfilling an early career aspiration to be a fearless globe trotting newspaper or radio journalist. Or I’d be (except for a highly inconvenient fear of heights) a mountaineer.
 

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