HR future leader of the month: Alex Dobbie

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the function about what they think will shape it.

What are your main concerns in HR today?

I think we could all be more assertive around the value HR can add to the business. We need to be challenging, commercial and lean into every business conversation, rather than wait for the ‘people stuff’ to come up.

We should be businesspeople across all fields (legal, finance, marketing, commercial, operations). But our USP is that we happen to have a deep specialism in all things people and culture. We know our businesses inside out, and continually revisit our base assumptions of this by spending time with the frontline, so that we can make decisions and contributions with real knowledge and credibility.

What will become more important for HR over the next five years?

It feels that we have been saying this for a long time, but we still need to prioritise our approach to diversity and inclusion. This is of particular focus now, with the global conversation underway regarding the contribution that women make and some of the barriers they still experience. In HR we need to take a hard objective look at ourselves to examine whether the processes we sit across are unconsciously part of the system that perpetuates this.

What subjects will HR still be tackling when you retire?

While the rise of AI is undoubtedly going to transform all of our lives, for me the value of human intervention will remain fundamental and businesses will need HR expertise more than ever.

A diverse workforce will be central to this and we will need to reclassify how we view diverse styles in the workplace. At the BBC we are really interested in neurodiversity, and whether there are specific initiatives we can put in place to encourage the recruitment of neurodivergent people. Research tells us that neurodivergent people often make the most engaged, productive employees. And from a creative perspective this is a huge untapped resource.

What do you plan to do to change HR for the better?

I’m not sure I could claim to do that! It would be good if, through the teams I work with, we manage to diversify HR and remove those barriers described above – so that we are looked upon as trusted strategic partners at the top level of our businesses while keeping our people specialism razor-sharp.

That starts with being confident in the contribution we can make across the whole business spectrum. But it’s also being aware that we all have a shared responsibility for the reputation of HR wherever we work, and for pushing the profession forward in all we do.

Alex Dobbie is senior HR project lead at the BBC

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