February 2017 Exec-summary notes: How HRDs can respond to the challenge of playing to a tough audience of Private Equity

Most HR Directors feel that they work in a challenging environment, with demanding audiences and stakeholders. Perhaps one of the toughest environments in the contemporary business environment is the world of Private Equity, with its focus on generating financial returns over relatively short periods of time.

Typically, there is little room for the ‘soft and fluffy’ end of the traditional HR agenda. Leaders in PE are notoriously sceptical of the value of HR other than the purely transactional services such as to handle employee issues in distressed businesses or to ‘slash and burn’ prior to a trade sale.

We had a rare opportunity at this Boardroom event to hear from both the CEO and the People Director about their experiences of leading the people through periods of change.

Simon Smith – Chief Restructuring Officer/CEO, Ben Sherman
Simon is a leading business turnaround specialist with particular expertise in the retail sector. Since July 2015, Simon has been leading the review and restructure of Ben Sherman following the buy-out by US Private Equity company, Marquee Brands. He has successfully delivered the restructuring, stabilisation and transformation of the business over to Marquee Brands and ensured the ongoing business through the appointment of various Global Licensees.

Jo Steen – People Director, Ben Sherman
You will hear how Jo Steen, People Director at Ben Sherman, has successfully established HR as a leading contributor, both strategically and operationally, at this high profile business in the challenging retail sector. Jo, having been hired by the PE owners, has designed a People Strategy which is integral to the overall Business Strategy, redesigned the organisation structure to improve efficiency, and created a culture of working at pace and strong focus on change management.

Whilst Simon and Jo shared their specific experience of the Fashion/Retail sector and PE owned business, the lessons learned we’re equally applicable to HRDs across all sectors who face tough business challenges and demanding audiences.

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