Workplace Leaders
Human Resources Director

Brigitte Crawley

At the heart of any thriving organisation are its people: they are not just the workforce, but the heartbeat which provides the driving force behind every success. This understanding is central to the work done by Brigitte Crawley, UK Human Resources Director for ManpowerGroup, the world’s leading global workforce solutions company.

Brigitte met with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss the importance of inclusive leadership, the link between employee engagement and well-being, and the power of a people-first culture.

Brigitte's Journey

Luke: Let’s start with a brief intro to yourself and your organisation. 

I’m the HR Director for ManpowerGroup in the UK. We’re a global workforce solutions company which operates in over 80 countries. The firm was established 75 years ago and it’s still going strong. Our ethos is all about connecting people to sustainable, meaningful employment. 

Luke: I’d like to hear more about your journey. What inspired you to pursue a career in people management? 

I’ve been with the company for 28 years now, having been fresh out of university when I joined. I started on the frontline working as a recruitment consultant in an operational capacity before I was promoted to branch manager. That helped me understand that the people aspect was the part of the job I enjoyed the most, so I moved over to the HR team, progressing through roles such as HR Advisor, HR Manager, and HR Business Partner before becoming Director. That operational background has been crucial to my commercial expertise as an HR practitioner.

Luke: What are the key things to get right when embedding a culture of inclusion and belonging across a whole organisation?

It’s simple: put people first. Your people need to be your top priority, and that commitment needs to be demonstrated by the leadership. You can’t just have a checklist: you need to actually walk the walk. It’s also important to give people the freedom to be themselves and help them to recognise their value. Our organisation also has several thriving resource groups which are led by our employees. They not only act as consultation bodies but also take part in the decision-making process. Inclusive hiring is a key part of our approach, rooting out bias and creating transparency around recruitment practices. We have more than 2,000 employees and more than 25,000 temporary staff in the UK alone, so we have a lot to keep us busy!

Luke: Employees seem to be busier than ever, and they have little free time. How do you make sure everyone gets involved in issues such as diversity and inclusion?

We have quite an intensive induction program which focuses on two aspects: skills and culture. The cultural induction is crucial for helping people to connect with our organisation and our message. We’ve also introduced new standards around our behaviours based on the principles of clarity, caring, and growth. We run several other programs alongside that, including the Growth Mindset, which helps people early in their careers navigate the transition between education and the workplace. We also have an initiative called People Like Me, an online platform which allows people to share their stories, whether professional or personal. That helps to create a climate of psychological safety: people feel empowered to tell their stories, and they know that there are other people like them.

Luke: In the era of hybrid working, people often work across different locations and schedules. What’s the best way to build a shared sense of belonging?

Our business is quite geographically dispersed, with branches in many different cities. The rise of hybrid working has brought new challenges, and one way we’ve addressed that is by creating opportunities for the whole team to get together. If we ask everyone to come into the office, we make sure there is a real purpose. For example, we hold development sessions on Wednesdays, making sure that everyone has at least an hour of collaborative work. Our employee resource groups have a huge part to play, building relationships across different teams and a common sense of identity. As a manager, communication is key, and you need to make sure it runs in all directions.

Luke: What are the traits and habits needed for a successful career in people leadership?

For me, the most important thing is being visionary: you need to create a vision from the strategy, help people to connect with it, and be able to bring people along. Collaboration is crucial, working across teams to bring the best of each other. Finally, you need to be compassionate: it’s one thing to have empathy, but you need to go beyond that and actually do something to make things better. 

Luke: What’s the best approach to building a culture of learning and growth across a large organisation?

You need to have something for everybody. We understand that people learn in different ways, so it’s important to have a multi-pronged approach. For example, we’ve developed our online platform to cater to different learning styles. But it’s not just about providing the tools to enable people to develop; we also need to make sure we have those conversations about learning, skills, and career goals. 

Luke: In a rapidly changing business landscape, how do you keep people open to new approaches and ideas?

If people are left to their own devices, they will revert back to what they already know. So it’s important that we encourage people to try different approaches. We try to be intentional: one of our approaches is using “sprints” to try and build new habits, and we also have champions in different teams who advocate continuous improvement. Those champions often move across teams, so we’re always getting fresh eyes and discovering different ways to do things. 

Luke: How do you draw the link between inclusion, well-being, and the higher-level commercial goals of a business? 

For me, it’s all about culture: people need to feel the value and the impact they have, see opportunities for development, and be recognised and rewarded for what they do. If you tick all those boxes, that will increase engagement, and in turn that will reduce attrition, boost retention, and develop expertise. Happy, successful, productive employees equal commercial success.

Luke: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in your career? 

Never turn down an opportunity to do something different. You never know what you will learn, who you will connect with, or what doors it could open. You’ll never regret trying something new. 

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