Installation Speech of New Master, Annette Andrews12/10/2020
Installation Speech of New Master, John F Renz25/10/2022
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a privilege to stand before you today as the newly elected Master of the Guild of Human Resource Professionals. I am delighted to welcome you all as members, freeman, guests and friends of the HR Guild who are in attendance this evening.
I follow a line of excellent Past Masters, the most recent of these being Annette Andrews who spoke earlier this evening. Annette has steered the Guild through the people issues arising from Covid-19, embedded our three year strategic plan and sanctioned our new office HQS Wellington, the home of the Worshipful Company of Mariners and the Scriveners. If I may, just for a moment, pay tribute to Annette using some naval analogies. Annette, the Clerk and strategy team have left us ‘ship-shape’ in spite of the pandemic ‘scuppering’ most of her public Master duties. Hopefully the Guild’s chances of participating in full livery life is now - Covid wise - on an ‘even keel’. If not, we will continue ‘steering a steady course‘ and our 2021/22 programme will – in any case - be a blend of virtual and in person events.
Since the Guild was officially launched in June 2015, under the leadership of our Co-founder and our inaugural Master, Robert Potter, we have been on the most incredible journey. We have a solid infrastructure in place and an operating platform which is our springboard to future growth. Our objects remain consistent: to promote the profession of HR and to give back to our trade and wider society via education, pro bono activities, charitable fundraising and giving, all of which have flourished over the years. Above all, we have set out to develop a true sense of fellowship in an environment where people can get involved to the extent that feels comfortable to them and feel a sense of belonging in a safe space.
Looking first to our education activities, our National HR Leadership Programme will shortly commence its third year with the purpose of equipping senior HR professionals with skills in critical thinking, professional confidence and informed and commercial decision-making on business challenges. To help colleagues within the profession, in addition to our leadership programme delegates who receive mentoring, every member of the Guild can now avail themselves of six hours of free mentoring. This is through a virtual delivery platform and is staffed by very experienced HR voluntary mentors coordinated by Freeman Chris Woodman.
The pro bono team, as re-established by David Clifford and Geoff Morgan, goes from strength to strength. Under the stewardship of its outgoing Chair, Freeman Lex Verweij, its support services have been significantly developed and it now operates under David’s watchful eye whilst we seek a successor to Lex. The team has delivered HR and People Analytics workshops to young people via Making the Leap and also collaborated with the Sea Cadets to develop a session to help Cadets describe the transferable skills and knowledge gained from their participation at an interview. Whilst the latter is very much a national initiative, I am delighted to tell you that the Guild is looking to develop an affiliation with an Inner London Sea Cadet Unit and for this reason I am pleased that Commander James Nisbet is with us tonight as we progress these discussions.
Then we have the Human Resource Professionals Charitable Trust to which we owe a debt of gratitude to our Trustees. The Trust provides two key functions: the first is to provide grants to charities, organisations or individuals in the fields of employability and improving workplace culture whilst also supporting the charitable activities of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal. Past beneficiaries have been Making the Leap, Inspire! And London Village Network all of which help young people under the age of 26 with career and education support. Working with other livery companies, we have further made a grant to No Going Back, the prisoner training and employability programme for those being released into the community in the hope of a fresh start.
The second key function of the Trust is to build our charitable fund to a target of £150k which is the mandatory requirement of the Court of Alderman for professions to progress from a Guild to the next level of livery- this being Company without Livery Status. The Trust presently stands at 88% of its target with just another £20,000 to raise over the coming months. Our sponsoring Alderman, Sir Peter Estlin, has been instrumental in our fundraising, as has one anonymous major benefactor in the Guild, as a result of our Gift Aid Appeal. By the way, if any Guild member or friend wishes to make a voluntary donation to help elevate our profession to this next level – and to enhance our grant-making – then a Gift Aid form can be secured from our Clerk. Thank you to those who have donated to date or are contemplating doing so in the future whether this be a personal gift or a grant from their corporate giving fund which is equally welcomed.
Now a little bit of history for you. Today, I became the 7th Master of the HR Guild and that made me think of other Number 7s who have preceded me. For example, the 7th Lord Mayor was Serlo Le Mercer of the Worshipful Company of Mercers who served as Lord Mayor in 1214 and then 4 more terms from 2017 to 1221 which totalled 5 years overall. Just in case you were wondering, Dick Whittington, became Lord Mayor in 1397 and served in office three times. As a contemporary aside, could I tell you he has a very good 21st century Wikipedia page which he shares with his cat!
Moving on, Livery Company number 7 in the precedence of Livery Companies, alternates between the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners – why? According to the Skinners’ Records, the situation was born out of lethal violence in 1484 whereupon tempers got frayed at the Lord Mayor’s River Procession over the order of precedence. The then Lord Mayor. Robert Billlingdon, mediated between the two parties and resolved that precedence would be alternated each year. This is believed to be the origins of “at sixes and sevens”. I hope that the HR practitioners, employment lawyers and mediation experts here tonight will be much impressed by this accord and perhaps slightly relieved that the City 5k Intercompany Fun Run thus far has not incurred the same rivalry.
So, why am I telling you this? Our history is going to be one of three key objectives for the Guild during my tenure as Master. Looking around the room tonight there are numerous individuals who have been members since our formation in 2015. It is now time to create a modern interactive archive with the original business plan approved by the Court of Alderman and the photos from our first installation dinner, through to the original artwork for our Robes by Fashion Designer, Daniel Lee, again here tonight. Moreover, we will be putting the HR Guild in the context of the CIPD, City HR, the Corporate Research Forum and the City livery and business worlds and hopefully capturing the thrills and spills behind some of the fascinating stories in our Guild today. Mindful of the role played by the CIPD in supporting the original business plan (and some historical content for the project) I am particularly pleased to welcome two original Court Assistants - Peter Cheese and Valerie D’Aeth Hughes CEO and President of the CIPD respectively - this evening.
Our second key objective is to start the application process to elevate our profession from a Guild to a Company without Livery. I have already partially outlined the criteria for this process in terms of the charitable trust target and believe that we are in a strong position with membership of over 100 and the requisite funds in the General Purposes fund to achieve this aim. Hence our appreciation for the support lent by Ceridian and PeopleScout.
And our final objective continues on the theme of education. During 2022 we are planning to launch a Non-Executive Director Programme for HR Leaders so that our profession has greater access to the top table. Details on all three initiatives can be found in your menu cards tonight.
As our Past Master, Annette, said earlier, with the challenges arising on the all important people agenda, this is an exciting time to be part of our invaluable HR profession and the Guild looks forward to supporting you in any way we can as we enter the brave new world of work.
Meanwhile, there are so many people in the Guild and here tonight to whom I would like to express gratitude but – with the port still lingering– so little time. So let me finish with my final piece of naval and livery history.
Anyone who has attended a City of London civic or Livery Company banquet will be familiar with the numerous toasts that follow after the meal and before the speeches. These toasts are usually taken with Port wine, or occasionally Madeira. Normally, pre Covid, the etiquette is to pass the port to your left or as our friends in the Royal Navy would say “Port to Port”. So, as you partake please make a silent toast to Karen Fulton and Debbie and Mary Alder-Bentley who so ably co-ordinate our activities as a thank you for their hard work tonight and in general. Or maybe raise your glass to the HR Guild and all that sail within her. It will certainly be ‘all hands to the deck’ and any help will be much appreciated in in this regard.
Thank you for joining us this evening and – when the time comes – have a safe journey home.