The importance of being a team player | Thomas.co
Submitted by thomas_admin on Tue, 10/26/2021 - 09:24

Michelle Butler SFC

Michelle Butler is Director of HR at Southampton Football Club. In this interview, she speaks about why the team use psychometric profiling, why the club decided to extend its use of Thomas assessments during the pandemic, and how diversity and inclusion are reshaping HR as we know it.

Why does Southampton FC use Thomas assessments?

Our psychology team have been using them for player evaluations for some time to support players in their personal development. Then we came together and asked, ‘how do we use PPA to help staff reflect on their own behaviour, and how do we use that in our teams so that we know what motivates each other and how to communicate with each other?’ It’s helpful to understand why people do the things they do, because sometimes they have different drivers to yourself.

We decided to put Thomas’ Personal Profile Analysis (PPA) out to the entire workforce, and we now use it for recruitment to give us a good understanding of how someone is going to behave when they are here, as well as where the gaps are in a team. We continue to use the PPA and the High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI), as well as the Emotional Intelligence assessment for our leadership development programme, which gives us an opportunity for us to start conversations about development.

What are the most important trends you’ve observed during your time in the HR industry?

I’ve been in HR for 18 years and started my working life through an apprenticeship programme. So, one of the biggest things for me in terms of industry trends has been apprenticeships coming to the forefront. Apprenticeships are such an important driver for social mobility. As a recruiter, I’m a big believer in experience and attitude, not just qualifications.

In terms of workforce diversity, it’s so important that we look at every angle. When the Apprenticeship Levy came in – whilst there are problems with the Levy – what it did do was harness apprenticeships for more industries. I don’t think we’re there yet, but it is a good step towards opening things up for people who can’t necessarily afford to go to university. For me that was an important moment in HR.

[HR] was all about contracts, policies and procedures and was very process-driven, whereas now it feels like it’s about opening up conversations and doors.

- Michelle Butler, Director of HR at Southampton Football Club

But the biggest learning point for me over the last eighteen years has definitely been in diversity and inclusion. The transformation – even pre-Covid to post-Covid – has been huge. So many more people are talking about this. Diversity is an area that is so complex and difficult to navigate in terms of different people’s views on the world.

For me, thinking about the work we’re doing at the club, this has been the most interesting work. I would say it is one of the most valuable things that we can do in HR. HR really does focus on a completely different world that I don’t think it necessarily entered before. Previously It was about contracts, policies and procedures and very process-driven, whereas now it feels like HR is about opening up conversations and doors. The world of HR has changed so much, and it’s been really interesting to be part of that. 

During Covid, HR really stepped to the forefront in terms of organising what the world of work looked like. Having to move so quickly during that time and introduce new ways of working is so complex, and it happened so quickly. I don’t think HR has ever been more important than right now.

I don’t think HR has ever been more important than right now.

- Michelle Butler, Director of HR at Southampton Football Club

What have you learned from that experience?

The biggest learning for me has been that policies and procedures are good to give you structure and theory, but actually [HR] goes way beyond that.  I have a strong belief that we should treat each other like human beings and not see each other as another number, or another problem or another risk. It’s about taking the time to speak to each other, dissect what’s going on and finding ways to support our people. 

In your view, which trends will be most influential over the next ten years?

In the next five to ten years, the style of leadership has to change. The focus has to be on diversity and inclusion because people in the workforce now – and certainly people coming into the workforce who have never known a world without digital technology – expect different things when they come to work. The world looks so different than it did, even when I entered the workforce.

Pay always used to be the biggest factor for people. Now it’s flexible working, wellbeing and values. We need to make sure that we are equipped to meet these expectations, whilst being honest about not being able to solve the world’s problems.

- Michelle Butler, Director of HR at Southampton Football Club

The leaders who are that bit older are typically white, male, and have such a different experience from the younger generation, who expect organisations to be purpose driven. I saw some data the other day around the change in behaviours among young people, even just pre- and post-pandemic. Pay always used to be the biggest factor for people. Now it’s flexible working, wellbeing and values. We need to make sure that we are equipped to meet these expectations, whilst being honest about not being able to solve the world’s problems.