Top job: Paul Cheesman

What is your new role?

Global HR co-ordinator for Agap, a missionary charity. We have 28,000 employees (not to mention volunteers) working in around 190 countries.

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

I was working with the European arm of the same charity as its European HR consultant. It involved a lot of coaching of national HR directors and co-ordinators, helping them to develop strategy and systems with their teams, as well as a bit of troubleshooting.

What qualifications do you hold?

I’ve just become a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. I also have a selection of other professional qualifications from previous roles, mainly in insurance and youth work.

What are the duties in your new role?

I report to the chief operating officer. My scope is global, focusing on the 13 continental or regional HR teams. It’s primarily a resourcing and co-ordinating role, building on the patterns of working and reputation I developed in my previous role. I also spend a good proportion of my working week coaching HR leaders, which I’m rather pleased about.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I want HR to be seen as a global strategic partner, competent in people leadership, driving the organisation forward, while not losing its roots of providing exceptional care for staff.

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

In the voluntary sector, it is probably bridging the gap between vision and capability. There is a lot of talk about HR not ‘having a seat at the table’, but too often, the HR staff wouldn’t know what to do if they were given it.

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

About 3,000 years ago, a prophet said we should “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God”. I reckon if HR had that kind of reputation, we wouldn’t go far wrong.

What is the essential tool in your job?

I wrote an HR development process to help HR functions think through their own development. I seem to be using it all over the place now.

And the most overrated?

I don’t dismiss many things. I’m more of a ‘you-never-know-when-it’ll-come-in-handy’ kind of guy.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Other people’s perception of it. You tell someone at a party that you work in HR and they instantly get that ‘where’s the nearest exit?’ look about them.

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

Trying to explain our income structure (we all basically get the same salary irrespective of our role or position) to some external consultants who wanted to help with our reward management.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Can I have three? I’d pick Dave Ulrich (people champions), the Cadbury brothers (great people management, fantastic chocolate) and Jesus of Nazareth (enough said).

What song gets you on the dance floor?

My wife tells me I have no hips, so not a lot. But I went to an Iranian wedding last week and found I didn’t stand out quite as badly as normal. Or maybe they were just being nice.

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

We’re back to that dancing thing again. I think I’ll abstain from answering this one.

Cheesman’s CV

2004-2006 Global HR co-ordinator, Agap

2000-2004 Director of personnel and development, Agap UK

1995-2000 Personnel manager, Agap UK

1991-1995 Schools and youth team leader, Discovery

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