Head to head a regular monthly series where we look at similar roles in
different sectors and industries
This week Jane Cotton, HR director at Oxfam, and Mark Barrett, head of HR at
The Body Shop, compare notes on their careers
1. What are your main responsibilities?
JC I’m one of a six-person corporate management team that leads
Oxfam. My focus is HR for over 3,500 full-time staff and 21,000 part-time
volunteers, along with responsibility for facilities management, health and
safety, purchasing and supply.
MB My prime role is to deliver an HR consultancy service to the head
office of some 350 people, and provide support for the four global regions,
particularly UK and Europe.
2. What’s the pay like?
JC The pay is much less than in my previous Civil Service role, but
is not too bad for the charity sector. I knew that when I accepted the job, and
my reasons for joining Oxfam involved far more than issues of remuneration.
MB The pay is good. We benchmark our salaries carefully against the
marketplace. I have a basic salary and an annual bonus targeted at 25 per cent
3. How flexible are the hours?
JC They’re long, but quite flexible – on average, around 55 hours per
MB It is up to me how I manage my hours. I work about 50 hours a
week. The Body Shop is keen for its employees to maintain a healthy work-life
4. What do you like about your job?
JC Practically everything. It is a pleasure to work for an excellent
organisation such as Oxfam, which is committed to overcoming poverty and
suffering throughout the world.
MB I enjoy working for a company that has strong social and
environmental values. The people are great to work with. The culture is
creative, dynamic and fun, mixed with hard work and tough dead-lines. Managers
and staff are very receptive to all HR initiatives.
5. What are the main challenges?
JC Managing staff effectively across more than 70 countries. Each
area has its own cultural traditions and working practices and you have to take
local factors such as climate into consideration.
MB Organisational development. We have recently restructured the
company into four regions and a reduced head office with the intention of
minimising duplication and lack of role clarity, and maximise customer service.
6. What is your biggest headache?
JC It used to be keeping shop volunteers motivated from day to day,
but we have a new trading director doing a great job now.
MB The shift to a regional structure has taken up a lot of time,
preventing us from developing more exciting HR initiatives as quickly as we’d
7. What size is your team?
JC Twenty in my immediate team.
MB Including myself, 19.
8. Who do you report to?
JC Oxfam’s director, Barbara Stocking. In any other organisation she
would be the chief executive.
MB To the global HR director.
9. What qualifications do you have?
JC A geography degree and MIPD.
MB I qualified as a chartered accountant, switching to HR seven years
ago. I have a Masters degree in HRM.
10. What are your career aspirations?
JC I’d like to stay with Oxfam in this role for a few years yet. I
can’t really see anything that would be as interesting or rewarding.
MB While my role continues to be interesting and challenging, I would
ultimately like the number one HR job in an organisation.
11. What training and development opportunities are there?
JC There’s probably less scope in the charity sector than others,
partly because we are cautious about expenditure on external training. But we
have a good in-house leadership programme.
MB Plenty. Learning and development is taken seriously at The Body
Shop, and we encourage employees to have personal development plans, for their
work and their personal needs.
12. What is your holiday entitlement?
JC Thirty days annual leave.
MB I have an entitlement of 33 days, plus up to five days extra that
I can buy through our flexible benefits scheme.
13. What is your working environment like?
JC We have very basic offices, as we seek to minimise this kind of
expenditure, but there are questions about whether that’s really cost
effective, as we’ve all melted in the recent hot weather!
MB Excellent. Based at Littlehampton, my journey to work is only 20
minutes. The head office is visually inspiring, and people have the opportunity
to re-energise by using the on-site alternative therapies (massage, reflexology
14. What other benefits do you get?
JC Part of my job is to travel to areas of the world people generally
don’t visit – such as Angola and Albania. Seeing such places really opens your
eyes to what Oxfam is trying to do and, why. It also helps you to appreciate
the jobs performed by our people on the ground.
MB Share options, health cover, life insurance, discount on The Body
Shop products, health screening, and a company pension, plus the opportunity to
flex a number of benefits each year.
15. If you weren’t in HR, what role in your organisation would you most
JC It would be to run the Trading Division
MB Using my financial skills, probably a general manager in one of
Job at a glance
Hours: 55 a week
Size of team: 20
Leave: 30 days a year
Main challenge: Managing staff in 70 countries
1999-present HR director, Oxfam
1996 Change management, Department of Transport; then personnel director,
Department of Environment &Transport and the Regions
1993 Resources director, Charity Commission
1979-1992 Roles within Department of Transport
Job at a glance
Hours: 50 a week
Size of team: 18
Leave: 33 days leave a year, plus the option of five extra through a flexible
Main challenge: Global organisational development
1994-present Head of HR, The Body Shop International
1989 Financial controller, The Body Shop Int
1985 Group accountant, Austin Reed
1982 Group accountant, Kunik Leisure