I am three months into my role as HR Director at the RFU. It was a significant career move for me given my working life to date has been with large, global, matrix organisations; specifically Accenture and Shell which employ tens of thousands of people and a turnover in the billions. Whilst it was a very considered career move, motivated by a desire to combine my professional passion (people & HR) with my personal passion (sport), I was not quite sure what to expect. Three months in and I have not looked back!
Working in sport is personally rewarding for me – I strongly believe in the value that sport can bring to children in the lessons they learn from training and competition, benefits to their health and friendships they can make. I now feel that I am playing a small part in driving this agenda which is very rewarding. The quality of the people here surpassed my expectations and I am motivated by the passion the RFU employees and leadership have around increasing participation in men’s and women’s rugby at grass roots level and the support they have for the respective England teams. I have also found myself enjoying my day to day work more as the majority of my work is face to face with the leadership, employees and my HR team. This is in stark contrast to my last role which was at the opposite end of the spectrum being a global role with 23 indirect reports, 22 of whom I had never met face to face and business leaders across 5 continents. It is definitely refreshing not waking early to join conference calls with the East most mornings and with the West in the evenings. Balancing family life with the requirements of time zones and travel schedules is much easier for me now. I don’t know if this is true for all sports organisations, but the freedom I have and influence I can bring feels more significant than in a centralised, globalised business. Strangely for what was perceived as a traditional organisation, the RFU feels more nimble in many ways.
There are elements that are new and challenging but this provides the learning and stretch you hope for in a new role. The size of the organisation from a headcount and financial perspective, definitely does not relate to relative simplicity. There are some complexities that I have still yet to get my head around but the team focus means I have people who will support me with this.
Finally – specific to rugby are the values. The values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship aren’t just talked about, or put in a strategic plan, but are actually lived every day. I did not mind which sport I worked in, my own background is tennis, but I was looking at all sports. At the RFU the core values run through the organisation from left to right and top to bottom, they are values which resonate with me and that I am proud to talk about when I visit schools, talk to parents of children involved in the game and engage with employees about. This is something that the RFU have worked very hard on in recent years and is most definitely paying dividends and as an employee make it a great place to work.
So it is early days but overall, could I recommend the sports industry? Absolutely.
Lucinda Pullinger is the Director of Human Resources at the Rugby Football Union