CEO is ‘much easier’ role than HR director, says Carphone Warehouse HR director

It is “much easier” to be a chief executive than an HR director, according to Richard Smelt, group HR director of Carphone Warehouse and former chief executive of One Tel.

After five years previously as Carphone Warehouse’s group HR director, Smelt oversaw the firm’s acquisition of ailing telecommunications firm One Tel this time last year.

“I had to motivate people who were looking at losing their jobs, and maintain morale for existing staff,” he told Personnel Today.

“Our CEO, Charles Dunstone, thought I was the best man to lead the restructure and that my background in HR gave me a strong foundation for the CEO job.”

Transferable HR skills proved to be invaluable to the role, Smelt added.

“Being honest with people, listening to concerns and providing clear direction and timescales were all things I’d learned in HR,” he said.

“Good HR people also have plenty of emotional intelligence and are able to see where people are coming from. Quite a few CEOs don’t have that ability.”

Under Smelt’s leadership, revenues at One Tel rose by 40% to £1.8m in the six months to September 2006. 

“It’s sometimes difficult in HR to see the bottom line effect of your productivity. Being directly accountable for business results was a great experience,” he said.

But, encouragingly for HR staff, Smelt was pleased to return to his original role of group HR director at the end of last year. “A strategic group HR role is a great place to be and I’m keen to develop that more,” he said.

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