Greg Styger, HR Excellence Young Talent Award Winner, Talks HR, Cafcass, and Ambition

By The HR Observer

Greg Styger is an HR Business Partner (Strategy) at Cafcass, the UKs largest employer of social workers.  Reporting to the Director of HR & OD, he is responsible for a wide remit of organisational development initiatives in a multi award-winning HR team. As a winner of the Young Talent of the Year award at the 2014 HR Excellence Awards, Greg Styger sits down with The HR Observer, to share his views on HR as a career path, future prospects and what it takes for young HR professionals to carve out a bona-fide niche for themselves.

gregWhat made you choose HR as a career?
Leaving University in 2011, I originally envisioned a career in Events Management, but wanted to use some of the research skills I had acquired during my degree.  I successfully applied for a Conference Producer role at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which gave me my first exposure to the HR world.

Learning more about HR and its vital role in the business, I increasingly began to consider a career in it.  I was drawn to how it was one of – if not the only – department that truly could set the direction of the entire organisation and that, when it is done well, can drive the business in a way I do not personally believe is possible in any other function.  When HR is ‘done right,’ actively partnering and supporting the business, it not only drives growth and expansion but also can significantly improve the lives of employees that work for the organisation.  Being involved in a HR department that could do this effectively was what drove me to choose a career in HR in 2013, when I joined Cafcass, which was recognised as one of the best Public Sector HR Teams in the UK.

How was the beginning of your journey in the field of HR?
As from starting in any profession, there is a steep learning curve.  HR in particular is so varied and diverse there is a lot to learn when entering it, in addition to understanding how it operates within the company culture and structure.  I realised the best way to learn was by throwing myself into it, looking for as many development opportunities as I could that would allow me to make as great as impact in the shortest space of time.

Did you have a mentor? How important was the role of such mentors in your career?
I haven’t had a dedicated mentor per se, but have had the support of all my managers and colleagues, in particular the Director of HR&OD and Senior HR Manager, which has greatly assisted with my development.  Their support has provided me exposure to some ground-breaking and innovative projects at this early stage of my career, which has shown me how effective HR can be when it’s ‘done right.’

What do you believe is the most important skill for HR professionals nowadays? And in the future?
It’s impossible for HR professionals to survive without a solid understanding of numbers and the workings of the business.  For any department to truly support the core purpose of the business, it has to understand how the organisation as a whole is performing, its strengths and weaknesses, and what that specific department can do to generate the most positive impact.  Understanding the financials of the business, alongside the cost and ROI of any HR initiatives or projects, is essential in ensuing HR is an effective partner to the business.  With the dawn of HR analytics I believe this is a skill that increasingly the profession will have, but it is in my opinion an absolute imperative that has been overlooked by HR for too long.

What advice do you have for young HR professionals at the beginning of their careers?
My main piece of advice is to be bold and ambitious in learning as much as you can about the business and the profession.  By putting myself forward for as many internal projects and external learning opportunities (conferences, networking events etc) I’ve been able to gain a rounded understanding of the HR profession and the social work industry Cafcass operates in.  This has allowed me to be more effective when it comes to my work, being able to make informed, calculated decisions and recommendations on what action will best support the overall organisation.

The annual Middle East HR Excellence Awards taking place on 17th November, 2015 in Dubai, UAE recognizes distinguished regional HR professionals who have made outstanding contributions through demonstrated excellence in the growth and development of the HR profession, and commitment to creating a high performing workforce for the future. Award categories include HR Professional of the Year, HR’s Rising Star, and Employer of the Year, among several others. For more information on the awards, visit www.hrsummitexpo.com/awards. The deadline for submitting entries is August 20, 2015.

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