Benchmarking for success

This month Linda Fox, age 39 and HR director of serviced office provider MWB
Business Exchange, explains her role in linking a competency-based project to

How long have you been in this job?

Having initially been recruited for the role of HR manager for UK centres, I
was given the responsibility of HR for the entire company in November 2001 and
most recently became director.

How long have you been with your organisation?

Since January 2001

What does your role involve?

Anything from employee development and training to the strategic development
of HR. It can also involve re-engineering and re-designing departments or the
organisation structure and offering daily advice to managers on all types of HR
and development issues.

What are the best and worst things about this job?

In one word – people! Seriously, the variety of challenges offered by a
fast-paced changing business is really the aspect I enjoy best. The worstÉI
can’t think of any aspect of my job I dislike.

What is your current major project or strategic push?

Being a young company, our focus is very much on development. We have
recently launched development centres across the company and these consist of a
variety of exercises designed to benchmark people’s behaviour against MWB
Business Exchange’s competency framework.

We have been developing a training career path called ‘Steps’ that offers
people a structured way to build their knowledge and skills in the jobs they
do. Steps links with the behavioural competencies already in use and is
designed to help the learner work at their own pace through pre-identified
subjects, which helps both manager and employee record their progress.

We also have a taskforce working on a project to link the Steps programme to
reward, and therefore as people progress through the programme, they will see
their earning capability increase and have the opportunity to gain
non-financial rewards. Future plans are to link this with an external
accreditation scheme.

What did you want to do for a living when you were at school?

I had my heart set on becoming a police officer, but the school career
adviser insisted on catering college!

What was your first job?

I left hotel school and joined a four-star deluxe hotel as a commis waiter
and was promoted to chef de rang (Station Waiter) on day two.

What was the best career decision you ever made?

I suppose it was going into hotels, as they gave me an excellent insight
into all aspects of life and skills

And what was the worst?

Sales executive. The grand title attracted me to the role, however I quickly
realised it was not my thing!

Which of your qualifications do you most value and why?

Passing the CIPD examination gave the greatest boost to my confidence.

Do you think that evaluation is a holy grail or an impossible dream?

Somewhere in between. Without evaluation or a measurement, it is impossible
to judge success or the impact on business. However, I don’t believe in going

What do you think will be the core skills for your job in the future?

Business focus, IT, consultancy skills and project management.

What advice would you give someone starting out in training and

Get some practical experience at the sharp end of the business to ensure you
really know how people feel when you are developing tomorrow’s managers.
Understand your audience, their reason for being and always ask the question
‘how does this benefit the business?’

What are your favourite buzzwords?

Strategic fit and put to bed.

Which buzzwords do you most loathe?

Touch base and talk offline.

Up close and personal

How do you network?

Mostly on an informal basis, via e-mail. I keep in contact with
a number of HR and development professionals. We usually get together for
dinner and informal chats

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Shopping for a living! I am happy in the role I hold now, but
whatever job I choose the organisational culture is one of the most important
factors to me as the fit is vital

Describe your management style in three words

Open, honest and flexible

Do you take work home with you?


What is your motto?

Something good always comes from something bad

How would you like to be remembered by your colleagues?

Honest with a balanced approach and supportive

Where do you want to be in five years time?

I would like to remain in a modern, forward-thinking
environment where people are key to the business

Which is the best management book you have ever read?

Pretty boring to most, but I found Employee Reward by Michael
Armstrong (CIPD) to be one of the most valuable

Which training gurus, management experts or business people
do you most admire?

Peter Honey – straight talking, practical and humorous one of
the best speakers I have ever had to listen to and the Pret A Manger business –
for its fabulous HR strategy and management principles

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