Top job: Tracey Newton-Blows


Tracey Newton-Blows has been appointed group HR director at contact centre outsourcing firm Merchants. She was previously in a variety of senior specialist and generalist HR roles across the Barclays Group including Barclaycard.

What will the duties be in your new role?

Leading a global team to provide HR expertise and interventions, which deliver the business strategy, especially in the areas of talent management and international compensation and benefits.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

Engage as a full board member to deliver Merchants’ growth plans by executing the right HR interventions to support the business strategy.

What challenges is HR facing in the next five years?

Rapidly changing dynamics of international business and the need for HR to adapt its approach and demonstrate commercial focus.

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

Early in my career as HR manager at Bass, I was interviewing for contract staff for seasonal roles in Blackpool. I had to interview a
snake charmer, who brought his snake along too.

Who is your ultimate guru?

David Ulrich, or Professor Cary Cooper at Lancaster University.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

The ‘demographic time-bomb’ concept, and anything that uses marketing customer segmentation acronyms.

What is your essential TV viewing?

Essential viewing includes CNN, Spooks, 24, and You Are What You Eat.

What’s the worst thing about HR?

General lack of commercial acumen, which contributes to an ongoing credibility gap for the HR function
at all levels.

How do you fill your spare time?

Researching and visiting new travel destinations, swimming and spending time with my family, both in the UK and Canada.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving Canada – where I grew up – after having an established track record in operations management to build a new career in the UK. Also, taking a break from HR to complete a full-time MBA at the University of Bath.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Address book, Blackberry and international roaming mobile phone.

And the most over-rated?

Personal organisers, or PDAs.

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

Learn the basics of HR well; identify a mentor or role model, build an ongoing relationship with them and challenge non-value add requests for support from day one.

What was the last book you read?

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

What song gets you up on the dance floor?

Clocks by Coldplay and Bittersweet Symphony by the Verve.

What would be your dream job?

Global HR director for Disney.

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

In my last role with Barclays when, as a member of the HR leadership function, we formed a band and rehearsed in secret for four months to give a surprise on-stage performance to 400 people at Christmas. They rushed the stage when we suddenly appeared and started singing.

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

Nelson Mandela – to gain a better understanding of his life experiences and vision for Africa.

Newton-Blows’ CV

  • Group HR director, Merchants Group
  • 2000 Various senior HR roles, Barclays
  • 1998 European HR executive, Dell Financial Services
  • 1995 Senior consultant, NBS Assessment Services
  • 1990 Various generalist HR roles, Bass

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