Top Job: Alison Mckenzie-Folan, head of people services, Wigan Council

Where were you working before, and what were your responsibilities?

I was at the Health and Safety Executive, as head of finance unit and previously deputy director of HR. I was responsible for leading major change in HR policies and programmes to support the delivery of organisational objectives.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a BA (Hons) in business studies, a postgraduate diploma in occupational health and safety, and am a member of the CIPD.

What are the duties in your new role?

I will be leading Wigan Council’s HR and payroll function to deliver our people strategy.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

The battle for the HR function to become more fit and efficient, less concerned with administering transactions and file-keeping, and much more business orientated has to continue.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

E-mail is indispensable, but it lulls people into a false sense of comfort and is heavily misused because it encourages the mindset that sending a message equals communication. It doesn’t.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

An instant e-mail retrieval tool.

What is the worst thing about HR?

The obsession with process and with checking to make the sure the process is done according to the book, rather than on whether the outcome is a good one for the business or makes sense to the client.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

By spending time with my family, or singing and dancing with my best friend in my kitchen.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Trying to hold a reasonable conversation about health and safety in a chicken slaughterhouse.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Lively, open and committed.

What was your lucky break?

I don’t believe in them. But working for really good people that I could learn from has been important.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Actors George Clooney and Doris Day, pop music impresario Simon Cowell, musician Paul Weller – the list goes on and on.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Don’t get stuck in a rut. Develop your skills and experience by changing your job roles and responsibilities.

What job would you like your children to do?

One that they enjoy.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Answering these questions

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

With the right team, it can be done.


  • Jul 2008-present: Head of people services, Wigan Council

  • Apr 2007-Jul 2008: Head of finance unit, Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

  • Feb 2006-Apr 2007: Deputy director of HR, HSE

  • May 2004-Feb 2006: HR services transformation programme manager, HSE

  • Nov 2003-May 2004: Head of HR operations, HSE

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