head to head a regular monthly series where we look at similar roles in different sectors and industries

1 What are your main responsibilities?

TM As HR director for a National Health Service community trust (Gwent Community Healthcare NHS Trust) it is employing 11,500 staff with an annual turnover of £280m. The trust covers acute, community, learning disability and mental health services.

FO I am responsible for the London Borough of Brent”s human resources and consultancy services. This area covers all aspects of people management, equality/diversity and organisational developments, as well as general management consultancy support to the council.

2. What’s the pay like?

TM Around £70,000. It is enough to go on three holidays a year but still not enough to stay out of debt!

FO The pay is OK.

3 How flexible are the hours?

TM It is a full-time post with directors being expected to work as necessary to fulfil the role. Working flexibly around child and other commitments is left to the director to manage, but is fully supported by the chief executive. Success is measured by contribution and outcome, not presenteeism.

FO Flexible in so far as the working time directive does not apply and I am lucky that there are only 24 hours in a day.

4 What do you like about the job?

TM The wide scope and constant challenges of a very complex organisation with a diverse workforce in a service with unlimited opportunities to learn and develop.

FO It is diverse, challenging and there is a real opportunity to make a difference to the organisation.

5 What are the challenges?

TM Recruiting and retaining staff, life-long development of individuals to contribute to an ever-changing health service, keeping up-to-date with clinical and medical changes, and managing a ‘million’ agendas – both national and local – at the same time.

FO There are a number of challenges in local government right now, including the need to modernise services and the drive for continuous improvement. The people management implications are numerous. We are dealing with such issues as diversity, recruitment and retention, pay, management development and so on. But I guess the real challenge has been rebuilding a viable service which had been decimated in the 1990s, and doing it with limited resources.

6 What is your biggest headache?

TM Workload and time (not enough).

FO Remuneration and supporting effective management of change.

7 What size is your team?

TM Staff of 60, including personnel, training and development, workforce planning, nurse education, medical staffing and administrative and support staff.

FO We are 29 strong, which includes non-HR staff – one of the smallest in London local government.

8 Who do you report to?

TM The chief executive.

FO I report to the chief executive.

9 What qualifications do you have?


FO O and A levels

10 What are your career aspirations?

TM HR director with a national role or chief executive, not sure yet.

FO I would like to complete the work I have started at Brent. My long-term career aspirations would include broadening my experience outside local government in either central government or the private sector, and not necessarily in HR alone. I think becoming a chief executive of a quango would be challenging and rewarding.

11 What training and development opportunities are there?

TM Infinite, if you want to take them.

FO As well as affording me the privilege of representing my peers, my role in Socpo has provided me with one of the greatest learning and development opportunities I have had in my career to date. It has enabled me to get involved in a national agenda which encompasses areas outside HR as well as furthering the cause of local government.

12 What is your holiday entitlement?

TM Six weeks plus 10 bank holidays.

FO 30 days.

13 What’s your working environment like?

TM Never enough accommodation in health premises due to the demands for clinical space, but OK.

FO I work with hard working, committed staff.

14 What other benefits do you get? (company car and so on)

TM Contribution to a lease car.

FO None.

15 What’s the best part?

TM The freedom to make a difference.

FO Receiving position feedback from front- line staff and middle managers.

16 How does your firm treat work-life balance?

TM All the policies are good and in place and personally, I am very happy. I am not convinced they are universally applied to the 11,500 staff though.

FO We offer flexible working, but have targeted this as an area we need to develop further and will be doing so this year.

17 Who do you most envy? (what’s your dream job)

TM Influential, competent, professional women in top jobs but who retain their personalities and humane characteristics. I can’t think of a dream job I want.

FO My dream job changes with the weather. I have always wanted to be a presenter, maybe Jeremy Paxman style, however over recent months I have decided that I most envy Anne Robinson. Not only has she overcome personal adversity, become a millionaire in her late 50s and wears Armani, but she also gets paid for telling people what she really thinks of them. Great!

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