Investing In Our People

Sharon Blore-Rimmer, Head of Global HR here at Czarnikow, identifies her role as an acting interface between the business and its people. Being able to meet business goals while keeping employees engaged is essential for success, but can be a hard balance to navigate. If successful, value is added to the company through the people it employs. This is what we are proud to see evidenced at Czarnikow.

How does it work?

Though it is widely accepted that HR can align with business strategy in a holistic manner, it is less commonly known that helping promote business strategy is in fact a key purpose of HR. When we understand this, we can see not only what the strategy is but how it is developed is important. HR can not only help shape strategy, but help bring it into action. By placing emphasis on the organisation and the individual, a business can begin to align its purpose.

At Czarnikow, we seek to broaden and deepen our relationships to create a strong network from which we can create value. A central part of our network is our people, and by using HR to appoint flexible and specialised teams we can increase and improve the levels of service we can deliver to our clients. In addition, good relationships within the company will be directly reflected in our client relations. We can begin to see then how HR and strategy support and strengthen each other, and how our people are our most important resource.

The recruitment process

When interviewing a potential new joiner, Sharon is on the lookout for two things: an individual’s potential, and how well they might fit into Czarnikow’s culture. We operate in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial and transparent environment that demands flexibility. Knowing whether someone will fit in at Czarnikow is essential, as it’s necessary to have people with initiative and a certain can-do attitude. There’s lots of learning on the job, and someone who doesn’t like being out of their comfort zone may not enjoy life here.

Someone’s potential tells Sharon whether they will be able to adapt to an environment that may ask new and different things of them. She is always looking to get the best out of that person, and allow them to find new skills and talents within themselves as their careers develop. As we have quite a flat structure here, Sharon has to be inventive about how to keep the team engaged. There isn’t a clear promotion ladder, but there is always space for adapting existing roles and moving people into other areas of the business. This is why the HR team is always on the lookout for how best to use people’s skillsets, in order to maintain their satisfaction and gain as much as we can for the company.

In terms of when to hire, we have a more reactive hiring environment than most other businesses. As our business is constantly in flux, our needs in certain areas must be met as and when needed. For example in recent months two new placements have been made in London to fit very specific briefs – one in Ingredients and another in Learning and Development. As Sharon does not have a set number of hires to work towards each year, she needs to be creative and respond to need as and when it arises.

Nurturing careers

Many Czarnikow employees join us as graduates, arguably at a time where they have the broadest possible potential. Often starting in Trade Finance and learning how the business works from the inside, these graduates may then move onto another team in a few years’ time and become key players. One graduate joiner, now working in Analysis, has recently presented to over 200 people and was given the training by HR to do so. Another is now the head of Logistics, having moved from strength to strength within Czarnikow. Both, and the many possible examples, demonstrate the openness and flexibility that Sharon looks for.

When employees move on, Sharon ensures that she is prepared to fill any gap left by their departure. This is particularly important at management level, so she needs to keep in mind how current teams may be able to morph to fit changes. In terms of turnover, she looks at the specifics of who has left and why rather than simply looking at numbers. This can lead to higher retention in future, and gives a clearer picture of if the strategy is working.

An open dialogue

Being able to speak openly about what’s going well and what could be improved is something that everyone wants in their workplace. Feeling constricted or voiceless leads to despondency, and won’t allow for an HR team to know what is going on. To keep an open dialogue at Czarnikow, Sharon has implemented a new way of handling career reviews: employee-led check-ins. This was introduced as the more traditional annual review was feeling inauthentic and outdated. Turning this on its head to become talks with Sharon initiated by employees has led to a more organic way of keeping in touch. Some younger colleagues look for regular updates to reassess their goals, ask for training, and get encouragement. By contrast, some are content with less regular check-ins as they feel they are already on a very clear path. The benefit is that whichever side of this regularity an employee might be, they are keeping in touch with HR at a pace that suits them. As Sharon is once removed from managers, she is able to have a more frank conversation with employees about their goals. This open dialogue reflects the transparency of the company culture, and indeed is a further example of how HR can implement strategy.

Looking ahead

As we continue to invest in IT, I’ve looked to increase the number of young team members in this team. This enables us to retain market knowledge, and allow young joiners to learn from more experienced colleagues. This is Czarnikow’s entrepreneurial spirit at work, and Sharon solving problems from an HR standpoint. It also saves salaries, another aspect Sharon must be mindful of, allowing us to have a larger team at this time of rapid development. As Czarnikow continues to grow and adapt, HR will continue to play a key role in enabling its people to continue to support the business’ strategy.

Author: Carys Wright, Content Writer