Liza Strong, Group Head of Organisational Talent & Diversity, Royal Mail, will be speaking at this year’s HR Can Change the World conference. She talks to HR Grapevine about her motivations and inspirations…
What have been the highlights in your career journey that have enabled you to sit where you are today?
Going to EE was a big highlight given the level of change that they were going through. It was a fantastic opportunity, to be part of the Orange T-Mobile merger and integration of a new EE culture. And then, coming to Royal Mail, I chose to come here largely because of Moya Greene our CEO and the agenda that she has around diversity and talent. Plus the fantastic opportunities to leave a legacy and to create something that impacts so many people.
What motivates you and drives you?
When I was at school I was told I should do teaching, because “that’s what girls do”. They probably did some psychometric test and said teaching, or social work, or nursing, and I think that at some subconscious level I did have a sense of knowing I wanted to help people. But I knew I couldn’t do nursing, social work or teaching - I’m not a tough enough person - I think you need to be really strong and very community focused. But I’ve always been very clear that I do want to make a difference to people’s lives and help them progress so I have always been in the L&D/Talent/Diversity space. It is about knowing that I help people realise their potential and move their careers on. That keeps me very clear about why I come to work.
How do you know when you’ve done a good job, what gives you satisfaction?
I’ve stayed connected with all the great people that I’ve worked with, and when I hear that the things I’ve introduced in previous companies are still there, are still being used and still have value, that gives me satisfaction. I think leaving work that has created a legacy and is sustainable feels good. It can sound a little egotistical wanting to create legacy wherever you go, but I think if its driven by the right intention then you keep yourself pure. Although there is a danger that some HR people do just want to stamp their own mark on something, without thinking about ‘what does the organisation need?’ I think that’s a true test of an HR professional; putting aside your own career needs and really thinking about what the organisational needs are.
Who inspires you?
Right now in terms of my diversity and talent agenda, our CEO is absolutely up there. She is very inspiring, has a strong work ethic and takes people on the journey. True leadership in action. Sheryl Sandberg is a constant inspiration - I am a mother to teenage girls and I also love the work I do. Listening to Sheryl Sandberg, and reading her book Lean In, has certainly inspired me to give up the working mother guilt and embrace the richness of all the roles in my life and not be too hard on myself.
Why does Royal Mail matter to you?
I believe we deliver Christmas, so Christmas wouldn’t happen for hundreds and thousands of little people in the UK without us. We are the only organisation that visits every single doorstop in every single community - there isn’t a doorstep that we exclude. There is no other competitor in our space that does that across the whole country, we have the widest network and we touch everyone in the UK, because there is no one that doesn’t receive something from the Royal Mail at some point in the year. Our frontline staff are the heartbeat of our organisation and I feel privileged to be part of an organisation that is so integral to everyone's lives. It's humbling.
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