TJ interviews: Jill Maples, Hermes

We talk to Jill Maples, an HR director who’s delivering change. 

How does your HR department do things differently and why? What did you see was wrong with other businesses?

I do not think it is a case of identifying errors other businesses are making, because they are actually not that common. However, I believe there are too many companies that are not integrating HR in the right way.

It is crucial that you adapt and tailor your HR function to be relevant for the business you work within; otherwise it will not have the desired effect and will not support the organisation’s overall strategy.

We are in the process of changing HR from a transactional function that provided administrative services to the business, into a value-add solution that is focused on people. We have worked hard to align the HR strategy to work efficiently alongside the business strategy, and a huge part of this is ensuring that each department understands how the company operates from top to bottom.

It is absolutely vital that the two strategies are aligned, otherwise you will quickly realise that the products and services HR provides are not fit for purpose, and therefore affecting both productivity and profitability of the organisation.

It is crucial that you adapt and tailor your HR function to be relevant for the business you work within; otherwise it will not have the desired effect and will not support the organisation’s overall strategy.

HR often takes priority over L&D in business, so how can you ensure this doesn’t happen?

The HR department must champion learning and development across all areas of the business, and it must play a central role in the overall HR strategy.

L&D is one of the key objectives I am expected to deliver on within my role and we are now strongly focused on producing leadership development for our executive board, trading board, as well as developing a succession programme for senior leaders across our business.

We are also working with external organisations to better understand what training we need to deliver to our future executive and trading boards, which will help with succession planning and future proofing our business.

I’m extremely proud that we are now rolling out future talent and leadership programmes to prioritise succession across the whole business, and not just at an exec and senior management level.

Now we are working hard so we can identify where employees from right across the business can progress. This will allow us to provide them with the key skills they need now and also for the future, and by carefully nurturing this talent we will create the next generation of business leaders.

Delivering these initiatives also provides HR with the perfect opportunity to identify where we may have skills gaps within the organisation, for instance within our IT department or our network of drivers. From there we can highlight where we need to strengthen, either by developing the key skills of existing members of staff, or looking for additional candidates externally.

You’ve introduced ‘peak treats’ – what are these?

As you can imagine, we experience a huge spike in the volume of parcels we must process each day from Black Friday through to Christmas itself, which is known as the industry’s peak period.

This is a very important and busy time for the business and our entire workforce, whether they work in our hubs and depots, our customer service centre, or at our head office. Therefore, we wanted to focus on the wellbeing of our people at this stressful time of year, lending support, and showing just how appreciative we are.

To achieve this we introduced a number of peak treats across all Hermes locations, many of which were suggested by our teams. This included desk massages, free fruit, Christmas Eve buffets, pizza nights, and numerous discounts, including for cinema trips and hairdressing services.

We also ran competitions, an ‘on-the-spot recognition’ programme, and our Peak Star Awards. Meanwhile, we ensured all members of staff received weekly business updates that shared stories of ‘Hermes Heroes’, who had gone the extra mile.

It’s incredibly important to recognise how hard our staff work, especially at this time of year, when many people are slowing down for Christmas.


Jill Maples is HR director at Hermes


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