Adelaide Forbes

Global HR Director
< Back to all people

Adelaide Forbes

< Back to all people

Global HR Director
"I'm driven by how we create succession within the business, our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion &ndash; which is so much more than just numbers, having fun as we learn, being open and supporting each other, being confident enough in our relationships with colleagues to be able to vulnerable, being a business family."

Adelaide Forbes has spent more than a decade helping to build and shape the Macro team to deliver success for our clients. With a global remit to bring the right colleagues to the table, Adelaide’s enthusiasm for helping people to grow through living our values and creating the right culture has seen her own career thrive and set the business apart.

Adelaide’s Q&A

How did you get into what you do?

I’ve been in the UK for 14 years now, but my career began in South Africa, where I started out working in retail and service industries. I moved here during the financial crash to be with my partner, and although there was an element of risk with the move, it was exciting, a fresh start in a new country, a new adventure and an opportunity to learn.

From there I took on a range of interim roles to gain a broad base of experience before joining Brookfield Asset Management (who owned Multiplex), I made a big impression in a relatively short space of time and within a couple of years was approached by Macro, that was 11 years ago now. I joined as a business partner and my main task was about supporting our growth in Europe - building our HR capability so that as we won work we had the right people on board and structures in place to enable us to scale up.

As we won more accounts, the U.S. business became part of my remit which led to my becoming a Global HR Director in 2017. it’s been a wonderful six years, not just for the business but in terms of who we were and who we are now. Our culture, priorities, values and behaviours set us apart.

What do you enjoy most about your current role at Macro?

It’s opportunity. We have continued to evolve and challenge ourselves in terms of who we need to be in our market.  It’s similar from a people perspective – who do they need to be to deliver great performance and reflect the values of the business to help support our reputation for excellence.

When I meet with clients, it’s usually about what they want from us as partners – so I look to shape teams with that in mind but also to drive improvement. Sometimes clients will bring people to us for us to upskill them and help to give them the platform for a great career, it’s such a pleasing part of my work to see people grow in the business.

How do you find a better way?

By creating opportunities for people. We take a day out per year where we plot and plan paths for our talent, so that we all identify opportunities to support colleagues with courses and training and have a way forward mapped out for key people and emerging talent within the business.

I recognise that people move and we’ve had many leave and then return which is a – it wasn’t if, it was when – you don’t get everything in one place and so it’s making sure that people who have left can pick up their development.

What has been your proudest achievement at Macro so far?

I do like that I’ve been part of bids where we’ve won work, specific contracts where the business we’ve won has helped change the business, mature our processes, moved people around to give them opportunities, and also applying our global processes and seeing them work.

It’s what I’m building, my contribution to a legacy for the business that helps us to scale up effectively – since the pandemic we’ve been able to take the step-up in the way that HR partners are front and centre of this leading partnership.

During the pandemic, I’m proud that our colleague engagement increased at a time when other businesses saw it fall - we put a big effort into engaging in a fun way and that’s helped set the tone since.

Why Macro Group?

It was the opportunity to help grow the business – it’s special. A place where if you have an idea and a business case to show it works, you can make it happen. We have to be responsive, to innovate for our clients and then reflect that from a people perspective. We feel a part of growing the business and being commercially involved – at sales pitches, helping with win themes. So my team really understands that and their role in facilitating and equipping the business for how we move forward.

What motivates you every day?

When things are going well, there's a shared understanding. Developing that, along with the depth of relationships, is a big motivation.

I'm driven by: how we create succession within the business; our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion, which is so much more than just numbers; having fun as we learn; being open and supporting each other; being confident enough in our relationships with colleagues to be vulnerable; and being a business family.

What skills do you need to be good at your job?

Ultimately, it's about excelling in managing the people function, and also playing a pivotal role in shaping your organisational culture, driving its success, and ensuring the well-being and growth of employees.

Skills needed and valued today are vastly different to what was needed pre-pandemic, but I would say the skills I need include:

  • Taking the time needed to understand what matters to clients and partners and what makes them tick. Use this to help you earn trust and build credibility.
  • Using analytics strategically to make data and insight informed decisions and measure the impact of decisions and people initiatives.
  • Proactive strategic planning: know your business and markets and use this knowledge to anticipate changing people needs in the business. Develop the right people strategies that will align with business goals and priorities.
  • Being adaptable and flexible - absolutely essential to thrive in dynamic environments, so I don't get fixed on initiatives; I'm prepared to make changes and pivot.
  • Empathy: now more than ever, to genuinely understand and empathise with the needs and concerns of colleagues, to create a positive and trusting workplace culture. This is the unique contribution HR Directors can make.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into what you do?

Seek opportunities to lead projects, teams or initiatives within your current role. Be clear on how HR can help a business achieve its goals.

Keep informed about HR trends. Don't focus on best practice, focus on what is best fit for your organisation and culture. Listen, work across different parts of the business to gather understanding of its requirements and learn, and of course have people at the heart of what you do.

Lots of skills are highly transferable and so also think about how you can use the skills you have in different settings. It opens up choices for you and means that when you progress in your career later on, you also understand the business at an operational level and so can support it better.

< Back to all people