Top job: Ben Emmens, HR services manager, People in Aid

Ben Emmens has joined charity People In Aid, an international network of
development and humanitarian assistance agencies. He joins from Save the
Children UK, where he worked as one of two HR officers advising the
organisation’s emergency programmes. During his time there, he was the
operational HR lead for the charity’s response in Afghanistan, southern Africa,
western Africa, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Iraq.

What will your new role entail?

My key duties will be to co-ordinate and develop membership services and
resources. This includes a code of good practice to support the aid personnel;
undertaking and commissioning research, and developing workshops and training
materials for members.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

My challenge is to raise the quality and standard of HR management in the
humanitarian sector, and I hope to achieve this by introducing innovative
services that will respond to our members’ needs.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?

Meeting our members and participating in the active learning networks.

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

I was leading the panel interviewing a candidate for a senior management
post during a charity fundraising week. A male colleague from another
department dressed up as a witch on a broomstick, burst in shouting and
screaming and demanded that we put some coins in a collection box in order to
be left in peace. The poor candidate was so taken aback that they quickly put
their hand in their pocket and duly obliged.

How do you think the role of HR will change over the next five years?

HR practitioners will be obliged to become ‘business partners’ and the requirement
to truly understand the business will be greater than ever. I hope we will see
much more integration between HR and the line. Also, as recent employment
legislation starts to bite, there will be an increasing need for a deeper legal

How do you fill your spare time?

Youthwork, cycling and walking.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving a permanent job with a good salary in the private sector for interim
work in the not-for-profit sector.

What is the essential tool in your job?

The telephone.

And the most over-rated?


What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Remember every manager is a people manager – know where you can add value.

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

A travel writer.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Ry Cooder. I saw his style in the film Buena Vista Social Club, and how he
managed to get the best out of an eclectic mix of Cuban jazz musicians. I think
he would empathise with my own job.

What is the worst office party you’ve ever attended?

It was in the basement function room of an old office block and came
complete with fluorescent lighting and a Christmas hits CD on continuous loop.

Emmens’ CV

2003 HR services manager, People in

2002 Emergencies HR officer, Save the Children UK

2001 Interim HR officer, Save the Children UK

1999 Associate, Design Research Unit

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