The “transformation” of colleges is much talked about, and clearly necessary in the context of ever greater social need, an increasingly competitive marketplace, mergers, federations etc. but who is going to actually do it and how? Talking to the principals of colleges that are outstanding and especially those who have been brought to outstanding from inadequate or requires improvement, a number of consistent themes are revealed: A clear commercial and financial plan focused on markets and a sustainable business model A senior leadership team led by the principal, having a clear strategic vision deliverable in five years Selling that vision across the college in an optimistic and positive way Realising that attaining the vision is at times grindingly hard work and that we need to hold to it, in everything we do Having a contract that is fit for purpose which recognises the changed offering of colleges and a changed marketplace (flexible, evenings, Saturdays, holidays etc.) An absolute commitment to improving performance and delivery, right across the college. No longer neglecting those lecturers who are “doing ok” and a disproportionate amount of time spent on those who are “failing”. A culture of determined improvement for everybody Consistent and fair management of underperformance, where issues are addressed early and if necessary staff leave Being lucky But who is going to do it? Again many times I hear people say that they “understand what the principal is trying to do” and they are “prepared to go on the journey”, but these statements are not enough. HR directors in particular must be evangelical advocates of the change in their college. They must be outcome focused and not process driven, and they must be commercial and have courage measuring each of the decisions they take against the vision and objectives that have been set. In my experience excellent HR directors have been instrumental in delivering change in colleges and commercial organisations and they have recognised that ‘our people are our greatest resource’. That has meant that they have recognised success (and rewarded it, if not always financially). They have been consistent and fair in their policies, they have striven to improve industrial relations (even if not always successful) and they have created a performance culture where all their staff recognise that there is room for improvement and people are not intimidated by honest feedback, but rather relish it, because they recognise that the need for improvement suitably supported by the college, is a personal opportunity for them as well as the key to enhancing service delivery for students, whose needs have seldom been greater. A well led HR department should be right at the heart of the transformation. No one else is going to do it for you. William Garnett is Head of Employment and Partner at Bates Wells Braithwaite. He will be speaking on this topic at AoC’s Employment Law Conference on 6 October 2016. You can view the programme and book your place on the conference website.