EXCLUSIVE: Addison Lee’s Mat Davies describes the future of HR as “heavy metal HR”

mat davies

Employee Benefits Live 2018: Mat Davies (pictured), HR director at premier taxi organisation Addison Lee, has described the future of human resources as “heavy metal HR”, stating that the HR industry needs to mirror the music genre in challenging norms and authority, as well as in creating change, if it is to successfully navigate the current world of work.

In a session titled ‘HR and the gig economy: the changing landscape’, Davies said: “Heavy metal is all about challenging the norm, ripping up the rule book, doing things differently, challenging authority, making change. Heavy metal is about pace, it is about energy, it’s about ideas, it’s about agility. And I think those are the things, those are the watchwords, that I would encourage all of us as practitioners to think about.”

For Davies, there are four key ways to adopt a heavy metal HR approach; these centre around taking a behaviour-led stance and considering how employees feel, rather than focusing on processes and procedures. “I want [HR professionals] to look at things differently,” he explained. “I want us to move beyond the, ‘what is our process, what is our procedure?’ And I think if we just take a step back and think about how we think about work and how we treat people, and if we get that right, much of the stuff about how we then need to address it in organisations will then follow, and follow pretty smoothly.”

To deliver heavy metal HR, Davies noted that HR professionals firstly need to inspire. This would include looking beyond corporate governance and instead concentrating on how it feels to work at the organisation, and asking how employees feel, in order to change mindsets and behaviour. “If we get those behaviours right, policy and governance will follow suit,” Davies said.

Secondly, Davies asked HR professionals to explore and to challenge themselves to improve at what they do, having conversations with both colleagues and leadership. The third behaviour Davies sees as crucial is growth; in terms of helping employees to develop, encouraging them to thrive, and ensuring that the decisions they make are the right ones for them personally.

Lastly, Davies stated that HR professionals have to care in order to deliver heavy metal HR. He explained that employers and HR professionals have to recognise that these are individuals, not simply employees, and that their own personal journeys are important, regardless of the role they fulfil.

He said: “When I did my [HR] training, caring about employees was not on the agenda. It is perfectly fine to care about people, to understand what’s going on in their lives, to understand their ambitions, to understand the things they get excited about, the things that get them down, the things that they worry about, because they do not leave that at the front door when they come to work for you. It is part of who they are.”

Davies also addressed the gig economy. He explained that both employees and gig economy workers are looking for the same factors in their workplaces and the work itself. This could include, for example, flexibility, fairness, the fit and feel of an organisation, and being part of a supportive and sympathetic workplace.

“It’s about recognising that the picture that we are dealing with is probably much more complex, much more nuanced and much more interesting, actually, for an HR practitioner to deal with,” Davies concluded.