My working day, Heather Morgan, Director of People, GOSH Charity
In a regular new series, HRD Connect speaks with HR Directors from all different industries about their working day. In our latest feature, we spoke with Heather Morgan, Director of People & Planning at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.
Heather Morgan is the Director of People & Planning at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. Heather has a PhD in organisational psychology, is a Fellow of the CIPD and she is a trustee of two charities.
What time does your day start?
My day starts early as I really value some quiet time in the morning to reflect and think about the day ahead.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up, and what kick starts your day?
I have a quick and efficient morning routine. I turn on a news programme like BBC Breakfast, I get ready and then I’m out of the door. I make sure I have a bottle of water for the train, and I’ll have breakfast at my desk when I arrive.
What is your commute like to work?
I have a short drive to my local train station, and then catch a fast train to London which takes around 30 minutes. Then it’s a short bus ride, or a 20-minute walk to the office. I love watching London when it’s waking up.
What is the first thing you do when you get to the office/start working?
I think it’s essential that HR Directors bring strategic vision and thought leadership to their organisations on all things people related, and to aid in this thought leadership piece, I subscribe to leadership alerts from Harvard Business School. I will often have a coffee at my desk when I get to the office while I read an article or a ‘thought for the day’. I find it quite grounding and it will often help me think about what I want to achieve that day, to look differently at a challenge, or way of approaching a project.
Can you talk me through a typical morning for you…?
I’ll usually get into the office early, so I might start by working on a presentation or report for one of the regular meetings held by the charity’s trustees. I leave the operational running of the HR function to my two trusted HR Business Partners, and instead I focus on longer-term strategic activities, working with my fellow charity directors and leading on all the ‘people’ segments of our trustee meetings and relevant committees.
What do you have for lunch?
I’ll try and grab something like a salad with spinach and fish or eggs for lunch. I wouldn’t describe myself as a foodie so I’m not too worried about what I eat, as long as it’s healthy! I am also a mentor, something I really enjoy, so I might meet one of my mentees outside of the office for a working lunch.
Do you feel more productive in the morning, or after lunch?
Although I’d describe myself as a morning person, I feel very fortunate to have a job I find very stimulating, so I feel engaged in my work whatever time of the day. But mornings are probably when I feel most productive, which is why I like to get an early start.
What does a typical afternoon look like for you?
We have a leadership programme, the ‘Co-Design Leadership Group’ that every single employee can be involved with, no matter their level or experience – we are keen to convey the message that leadership is for everybody – not just those at the very top of an organisation.
I might attend a meeting with this forum to share some thoughts and ideas and get an update on the different projects they are working on to help embed this approach, and following this, I might join the interview panel for a senior level appointment at the charity.
I’ll try and get some time back at my desk later in the afternoon to work on something like a presentation I’ve been asked to give at an external HR conference, talking about our strategic approach to HR at GOSH Charity.
What do you think is the best way to motivate a team?
I think it’s really important that people feel they have a voice and that they have been listened to when they raise an issue or provide any kind of feedback. By acknowledging their comments, it shows that you respect them as an individual, and if they feel respected they are likely to feel more engaged and motivated as a result.
At GOSH Charity we have forums like our Co-Design Leadership group and our Staff Reps. I work with both these groups, discussing ideas and feedback and putting things into place to help the charity be the best possible place to work. We encourage feedback in team meetings, and run all-staff talks, so ideas or challenges can be raised and discussed in an appropriate forum. I also think that understanding exactly what drives the team as a whole, and what motivates its individuals, is crucial.
For me, as an HR Director, it’s about understanding the people in your organisation in order to know what makes them tick, adapting my approach, and working with them.
What is the one thing you never forget to do throughout your day?
I always make sure I spend some time with everyone in my team, whether it’s a formal 121, a discussion after a meeting, or just a few minutes to check-in if we are all very busy. It helps to keep us all connected and it’s important to me that they all know I am there to support them whenever they need.
“I think it’s really important that people feel they have a voice and that they have been listened to when they raise an issue or provide any kind of feedback.”
What time do you leave work?
It depends on what I am doing that evening. I might stay later if I have plans to meet a friend for dinner or go to an exhibition that evening, or if there is a big project nearing completion or a deadline which needs to be met. Otherwise, I try to get out and home at a reasonable hour!
Do you think you have a good work/life balance?
My job is busy, and can involve long hours but I feel very fortunate that I find it really stimulating and rewarding, and I really enjoy the time I spend working. I care a lot about the cause, the people who work here and the values that we have at the charity and these values like being passionate and respectful help make work a positive space to be.
What do you do in the evenings and to unwind?
My sister is a dancer so I’ve recently started learning ballet, as I promised myself I would try something new and completely out of my comfort zone as part of my new year’s resolution!
Working in London means I am fortunate to visit museums or exhibitions, or I might meet a friend for dinner or catch up with my family. I have a PhD and am fascinated by human behaviour and psychology, so I might read a journal or article, or meet one of my mentees for an informal catch up. I also read a lot of the classics in my spare time too.
A bit about you…
What is your personal career highlight?
A real highlight during my time at GOSH Charity has been putting in place innovative and positive improvements and seeing the impact of these reflected in our annual staff survey, known as ‘Your Voice’. For example, as a charity, we can’t offer the same rewards as those in the private sector. We have to be really creative in the ways that we recognise good performance and the benefits we offer, as well as how we help staff to feel motivated and equipped to do an excellent job. A year after we joined I launched a new People strategy to develop a culture of leadership across the charity, to support us going ‘from good, to great’. The staff survey was only six months into this, but the positive results show we are definitely going in the right direction. It’s very satisfying to see that hard work pay off.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I was facilitating a workshop with some senior business leaders at a conference earlier in my career, and wondering how the plenary session might go – what if I wasn’t sure of the answer to a question, or what if what they wanted to do was outside the scope of the workshop objectives? The advice I was given, which I remember to this day, was not to worry about this kind of challenge. You can always find the answer afterwards and follow it up, and every piece of feedback is an opportunity to learn or improve. This was great advice and it meant I could redirect the energy I’d previously spent thinking about what the feedback might be like, back into giving an excellent presentation and workshop. And that advice has really stayed with me in creating work cultures that are open and transparent and where everyone’s view is valued.
What would you like to be remembered for?
As an HR Director, I’d like to be remembered for enabling the business through an insightful and effective people strategy. As a colleague, I’d like to be remembered as someone who always worked hard to give others a voice and an opportunity to be heard, and who focused on developing others’ talents and skills so they could achieve to the very best of their ability.