Top job: Helen Scott

What is your new role?

HR director for the business and industry division of Sodexho UK and Ireland.

What qualifications do you hold?

I hold a first-class BA (Hons) in hotel and catering management and a postgraduate diploma in personnel management. I am a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

What are the duties in your new role?

I report to the managing director and have an HR team of 24. I am currently developing the HR strategy and ensuring it is aligned with the business strategy. My areas of focus include employee resourcing, talent management, reward and recognition, and developing a high-performance culture.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The development of an aligned, proactive, customer-focused HR team which acts as a business partner to add value and drive the bottom-line profitability. We need to develop our HR strategy to meet the business challenges, while introducing initiatives and ways of working to ensure high performance.

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

Workplace diversity strategies are key now and will be more so due to the changing nature of our population. Recruiting and retaining talented people who add value to the organisation’s strategic imperatives will become even more important as we face skills shortages in full employment areas.

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

Ensure you have experience in a line management role before specialising in HR, and gain experience of different roles if you are ambitious and want to get ahead. This can be within the same company if it is a large organisation. My experience, however, has been rounded by working in different, but related, industries.

What is the essential tool in your job?

My mobile phone, as I love to talk.

And the most overrated?

E-mail – it is often used as an excuse not to talk face to face or pick up the phone.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Not being brought in early enough when managing poor performance and then having to trouble-shoot an issue when perhaps it could have been prevented.

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

Having to keep focused on an interviewee when Tom Cruise was sitting on the terrace at the Wentworth Club directly behind her.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Dr Meredith Belbin – the analysis is very useful when working in a team.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘People are our greatest asset’ – it is overused and they are often hollow words.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

Anyone who wasn’t fully engaged and didn’t want to work hard and meet their targets.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Organising an employee conference for more than 350 people (including suppliers) without any previous knowledge or experience in employee communications.

What was the last book you read?

The First 90 Days: Critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels by Michael Watkins. This should be compulsory reading for anyone starting a new job.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Tony Blair – we would argue about the state of the nation.

Scott’s CV

  • 2006-present: HR director, Sodexho

  • 2002-2005:HR director,SFI Group

  • 1999-2002: European HR manager, Burger King

  • 1996-1999: HR manager, Wentworth Club

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