They say the shoemaker’s children always go barefoot. This idea, that professionals often fail to apply their skills to themselves, is universal. But in my opinion, nowhere does the expression ring truer than in human resources.

Some people still think HR is all about drawing contracts or hiring and firing people, but the job entails so much more today! Over the last ten years, there’s been a rapid evolution in the way we all work, and the role of an HR manager has changed tremendously because of that. HR departments are now tasked with what I call “everything in the middle”. They handle training and upskilling, and keeping people engaged while reinforcing the company’s culture. They also have a host of other responsibilities, such as improving the organisational design and optimising the overall employee experience, while still keeping the basics on track – including admin, payroll, recruiting and letting go employees. But who looks after HR professionals?

As Group Head of People CoE (Centre of Expertise), I look after talent management and development, employer branding and inclusion projects for Allianz Trade worldwide. I love to understand what motivates people and what triggers their feeling of recognition – it’s one of the main reasons why I’m passionate about HR! I truly feel that when we interact with each other and share our experience, people are not just happier but feel much more valued – which turns out to be beneficial for the company as well. In HR, we do encourage employees to step up, put forward their knowledge and expertise, and network. But a couple of years ago, through direct conversations with our HR professionals from different countries, I realised that in terms of interaction amongst the HR population, we could do better.

Our HR professionals work hard to ensure that everyone from underwriters to credit analysts have the necessary tools and contacts. But previously, HR did not have a lot of opportunities to upskill, and felt disconnected from each other and from Group teams at headquarters. HR teams in the countries spent a lot of time making decisions that had a big impact on people’s professional lives, but for confidentiality reasons they often had no one to share their challenges with. The limited community support resulted in a sense of loneliness for many. Imagine not having anyone around that understands the impact of your specific pressures and challenges!

Two years ago, my team and I set out to discover exactly how to help. We didn’t want our HR teams to feel like yet another initiative was being imposed on them by headquarters. Rather, we needed to make sure that what we came up with made sense to each individual HR professional. The idea was to help them feel more connected and empowered, but not overwhelmed. A first step was getting regular feedback from HR colleagues in the countries and partnering with them each time we launched a new project. But we knew we needed to do more.

So far, feedback on One HR has been great. Our HR teams feel heard, and they say there’s less of a gap now between the different HR teams. My team and I also have a better understanding of what works well, and what needs improvement. We feel we are all building a greater team, together. And as we all learn more, we’ll continue to invest in our HR professionals and develop an even stronger HR culture for Allianz Trade worldwide.

Interested to learn exactly what this means in practice? I’ll be sharing more details about our One HR initiatives and sessions as they’re rolled out – so stay tuned!

Anne-Julie Ribaltchenko

Global Head of Talent Development, Inclusion & HR projects

HR strategic lead for France, Corporate, Mediterranean Middle-East Africa, Americas