Birmingham City FC

Baroness Karren Brady was appointed managing director of Birmingham City FC in 1993.

HRreview attended the ADP Rethink conference on January 28 for a day’s worth of HRM (or HCM as ADP call it) insights from a variety of company executives, academics and entrepreneurs, at the InterContinental London Park Lane.

One guest of particular note, for anyone who likes The Apprentice (or, indeed, any West Ham supporters) was Baroness Karren Brady, aide to Lord Alan Sugar and vice-chairman of the East London football club. The “First Lady of Football” shared her ideas on people management strategies, starting all the way back in 1993, when she was appointed managing director of Birmingham City FC at the age of 23.

“Every single part of value of the club is in the football club,” she said of her former team, her mantra being that everyone has to do everything within their skillset that they can. Because a football club does not create a physical product but delivers an experience to fans, all the value is within the team that runs it, she explained. Under Brady’s management, staff would therefore spend time in each department of the business to bring out a more holistic view and skillset. The players even, would work for one day a month in the ticket office.

Related: HRreview Interviews: Terry Terhark

Ms Brady also explained her 50/50 hiring policy of graduates to non-graduates. If you employ too many people of the same mindset and background, she said, then you spend so much time patting yourselves on the back you could follow each other off the edge of the cliff. It’s certainly a contentious point, considering the amount of investment that organisations pump into graduate recruitment. I’d be interested to hear readers’ opinions on this point, so do get commenting below.

Finally, the Baroness said to remember this old chestnut:

There are three types of people in the world: those who makes things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.

– Mary Kay Ash.

That struck me as a bit of an odd thing to say at an HR conference, considering any good HR manager will know that personality profiling shows that different characters perform better in different roles. Yes, you need the go-getting sales execs and the plucky marketeers, but you also need the listeners, the watchers; the monitor/evaluators (to take one of Dr RM Belbin’s nine team roles). Marcus Buckingham had proudly displayed his StandOut roles earlier in the day, which were not dissimilar to those of Belbin. Granted, the Mary Kay Ash quote is a great motivational soundbite for entrepreneurs and business leaders, but I feel it plays down the importance of the watchers and the wonderers – people that will, inevitably, make up the core of many large businesses. Again readers, I’d be keen to hear your view on this, so don’t hold back.

Look out for more Rethink coverage on HRreview. I recommend our interview with ADP’s Terry Terhark for some in-depth discussion of recruitment strategy, employer branding and onboarding.