After almost five years in the Human Resources (HR) team at NFU Mutual, Paul Murray has recently moved from being a Senior HR Business Partner to Head of Business Partnering and Change within the HR team. With some big projects and developments in store within the company, we sat down with Paul to discuss how he got here, how NFU Mutual has supported his journey, and what we might expect from HR in the future.

Paul, congratulations on the recent promotion! How did you get to this point in your career?
Well, I’ve been at NFU Mutual since the end of 2018, first joining the team as a Senior HR Business Partner. Before that, I’d spent four years working at a different mutual organisation as Lead HR Business Partner. My first HR role was as an HR Administrator for a FTSE 100 financial services company. While I was there, I had opportunities to move into several different roles, mostly in HR, including Team Leader in the Operations function, Management Information (MI) Analyst, HR Training and Compliance Officer, and executive assistant to the Head of HR, though I also spent a year in the Project Management Office which gave me a good insight into the financial services industry through a slightly different lens.

These roles allowed me to experience some of the many different facets of HR and realise that one of the main elements of the job I really enjoyed was the variety, and that’s what took me into the HR Business Partner direction.

What was it about NFU Mutual that appealed to you?
It was a combination of both the role and the organisation. I knew people who had worked at NFU Mutual, who recommended it based on the culture and the company ethos. Plus, having worked at another mutual before, I knew that the mutual model allows you to build an affinity with customers. You get that in spades here, a real understanding of who our customers are and a shared desire to deliver good outcomes for them.

The role itself was an attraction owing to it being a bigger role with a greater remit both in terms of the number of stakeholders I’d be looking after and the size of the business area I was aligned to. With the HR department having distinct Resourcing, Employee Relations, Reward and MI teams, in addition to the HR Business Partnering team, I was initially concerned that the role would be narrower and have less variety than my role at the previous company. But that wasn’t the case at all, and I was still able to put my generalist HR knowledge to use, whilst having the benefit of being able to refer to the subject matter experts in the other teams, so it was great for me.

That does sound ideal! So, what’s going to be different about your new role?
I won’t have an alignment to any specific division. Instead, I’ll be leading the team of about 20 HR Business Partners who support different areas of the business. This also includes the HR Business Partnering Change team - a team whose primary role is to support the people workstreams of the projects/programmes that fall under our Portfolio Planning and Priorities Committee.

I’m looking forward to getting a wider understanding of NFU Mutual, because I’ve mostly focused on the Sales and Agency division and the Agency Network so far. I’ll get to see more of how the different divisions work, their key change programmes, and how they all align. There’s a lot to learn but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. There’s a lot of exciting change happening in the business, and my team will continue to work closely with the different departments involved to support them deliver this change. Other than that, I think a big challenge is the fact that I’ve moved from a team I was a part of, to leading that same team. From a personal standpoint, that’s a challenging transition. However, they’re a great team and I know I’ll get fantastic support from them.

You mentioned big changes within the company. How is HR going to support that change?
So, as an example, there’s a focus in the business about significantly growing our commercial book - and helping to determine what we’ll need and how we’ll achieve this in terms of the skills, knowledge, and experience of our employees to realise this is an area we’re supporting the business closely with.

What are the things that you value within the HR team?
We’re very fortunate with the number of resources that NFU Mutual provides – both internally and externally – to help us achieve our aims in HR. The support we give to employees is very generous. We typically look for a reason to say yes to people, rather than no. However, it’s not just about resources, – it’s also about the culture of our company that’s driven by the people. I’d be very confident that I could approach any of my colleagues in the HR department for their support or guidance and they would be happy to find time to help. There’s a real generosity among the team, they’re always willing to share their knowledge and experience.

Would you say that generosity is an important part of the culture in the HR team?
It’s definitely a very supportive environment. There’s a really positive energy in the team, and there are lots of development opportunities available that enables cross-functional working and a better understanding and appreciation between the different teams within HR.

For example, in the pandemic, we had to transition very quickly to working from home. And when lockdown was coming to an end, we had to work out and agree as a business what our approach to home working would be moving forward, and the implications of this decision. The work on this touched all areas of HR and there was a real need to run at pace. The way we worked together as one HR function, with shared aims, aspirations, and understanding was brilliant.

Thanks for talking to us, Paul. To end things, why don’t you tell us why you think someone should work at NFU Mutual?
You’ll get to work with high calibre people, both professionally and personally, who are collaborative and have a real desire to deliver quality outcomes. There’s a real clarity about why the company exists and who the customers are that it’s serving, and so every day, you can draw a straight line from what you’re doing, to who you’re doing it for.

Interested in joining the team? If you’d like to find out more about the crucial work we do in HR at NFU Mutual, search our current vacancies.