Meet John Clark, Founding Director of Spark

July 19, 2021

This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.

The following is an interview we recently had with  John Clark, Founding Director, Spark

What is the state of the human resources industry today? 

The state of the human resources industry today is certainly not what it used to be. With the economy still recovering and new technologies on the horizon, it's never been more important for HR professionals and departments to ensure they evolve into a strategic, high-value position that impacts every aspect of their organisation and culture. This evolution has and will, however, make the role of HR more complex and challenging.

The last decade and the years ahead will have seen significant changes to how businesses operate, and people work. Changes in priorities, skillsets, working conditions, technology adoption, and an appreciation of data will see an entirely new HR leader evolve. 

It is though, an exciting time to be in HR. HR is no longer the back office, stale, policy and admin driven department. HR leaders have a seat at the executive table and have (or should) direct influence on business strategy, revenue and growth. 

What are the most common challenges you face when managing employee feedback and reporting? 

Employee feedback is vital for business success. Feedback helps to identify areas where the company can improve. It also allows employees to voice their opinions and concerns, which can help shape culture. Feedback should be managed in a structured way that includes regular reports on how it's being used by managers and team members alike.

Getting quality, actionable feedback is hard, though. It takes time, effort and sometimes even funding to accumulate feedback from each employee. The challenges I see appear when finding and selecting the right tools for collecting information, analysing results, and deciding how best to action them internally or externally. I think most of us are challenged with knowing what tools are available, what will meet our specific needs, and then, once we have feedback, how we act on it. 

What are 3-5 pieces of advice for organisations in your industry looking to improve their employee feedback culture? 

Many organisations face the same challenges when it comes to improving their employee feedback culture. They know what they want in terms of change but are unsure how to move forward in creating a better work environment.

An employee feedback culture is a company's commitment to achieving its goals by listening and responding to the needs of its employees. Feedback from employees provides organisations with invaluable insight into how they can improve to meet these goals.  

1) The organisation should have a clear set of values that are communicated effectively throughout all levels of the company  

2) Employees should be encouraged at every opportunity for input and ideas 

3) Leaders should model behaviours that promote openness and transparency 

4) Leaders must actively listen to what employees say 

5) A regular review process will enable leaders to identify areas where improvements could be made.

What's the future of HR?  

I think the years ahead will be fascinating across the HR space. I believe we will see two significant changes: the profile of HR leadership and, secondly, the use of technology and data. 

HR departments should be led by leaders with diverse backgrounds. HR usually leads to the development of the people skills and technical knowledge necessary to manage personnel. But business acumen and strategic vision are essential and invaluable, global skills honed through various other career paths. That's why it's becoming less and less unusual and more beneficial to see HR departments lead by those with a commercial, finance, or operations background. Specifically, I see successful HR leaders of the future to be:

  • Data-driven decision-makers
  • Understands a balance sheet
  • Expert communicators
  • Strategic planners
  • Masters of policy, practices, and technology
  • A deep understanding of and an ability to shape organisational culture 
  • Change and risk management skills
  • Empathetic 

HR is evolving from a "soft" department to one that is increasingly data and technology-driven. As a result, HR leaders must embrace analytics, technology, and automated processes. The use of data analysis for measuring performance is on the rise, with nearly 2/3 of organisations using it today. This will only continue to grow as more companies start putting a value on HR's input on strategic planning and accountability to achieve company goals. 

Technologies from applicant tracking systems (ATS) to payroll solutions are transforming how HR departments operate – from recruiting and hiring all the way through retirement – making them more efficient than ever before. Automation, driven by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), continues its rapid growth across industries, and many HR departments will leverage AI technologies like chatbots or virtual assistants for everything from recruitment and onboarding to feedback and mediation.

How do you see your role evolving over the next 3-5 years?

I'm an Operations leader with a behaviour that's underpinned by People & Culture. I think that is the way forward for HR professionals and where I will continue evolving my skills and abilities. People are the foundation of any organisation. So if you're focused on aligning people's motivations and drivers with organisational values and strategies, then you're onto a winner. There's also a significant tie in with marketing - looking at employer branding, which is supported through employee happiness and productivity, which helps retention and talent acquisition. Become known as a great place to work. Your employer branding and employee value propositions will ensure the right talent are on board, and having the right talent will directly and positively impact your company's bottom line. It's a very clear golden thread throughout an entire organisation, as such HR will evolve from being a silo to one that is ingrained across the business.

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