A minute with… Kathryn Austin, HR and marketing director, Pizza Hut Restaurants UK

How did you get into HR?

I went into British Airways via their graduate recruitment programme. I ended up working in the food service department and began to represent them on people issues. Then some of the team I was working with went to work for Barclays and I got a call asking me to come and take part in a big change project. That was my first “formal” role in HR. Ever since then, my roles have always had an emphasis on change and have been in customer-focused businesses.

What do you enjoy most about HR?

Kathryn Austin CV

  • Present: HR and marketing director, Pizza Hut Restaurants UK.
  • 2010-2012: Vice president, HR, Pizza Hut UK (when owned by Yum! Restaurants).
  • 2009-2010: Director of HR, Direct Channels and Halifax Community Bank, Lloyds Banking Group.
  • 2008-2010: Head of HR Direct Banking, Lloyds TSB.
  • 2007-2008: Executive search consultant, Wrightson Wood.
  • 2001-2007: Head of HR operations, Barclays.
  • 1997-2001: Regional catering executive, British Airways.

What I love about consumer-facing business is you get to see how what you do has an impact on people’s lives. When you work in the restaurant, you genuinely hear incredible stories about why people have come in. You go home and feel like you’ve done something really good today, not to mention developing people’s careers, too.

What’s the most difficult thing about working in HR?

Sometimes, in our industry, we are our own worst enemy. I’ve worked in big organisations in junior roles, inside and outside HR, and sometimes found HR to be too focused on what’s going on in their department. As a profession, we just need to get out there on the front line.

What has been your greatest career achievement?

The last couple of years have been an achievement for me. It’s been a major achievement to be a part of a core management team post-sale, during a time of change. I’m proud of how I’ve learned to evolve and react to events and make the business work because I have a stake in it. When you genuinely own a profit-and-loss statement, it clarifies your thinking.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

I suffer from being a perfectionist and I’ve had to learn to give people room to make mistakes and grow. I now trust people and give them a long leash.

What has been your biggest challenge?

The flipside of enjoying change is that you want things to happen. You need to deal with that frustration and be patient.

What do you think will be the next big thing in HR?

Blending HR and marketing, as we have done here. If you genuinely believe people are your brand, then it makes sense to pool your resources and your training for HR and marketing together. I think we’ll see more and more businesses doing this, although not every HR professional will feel comfortable with it.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I have a couple of restaurant industry mentors who give me a sense of what’s going on outside the business, as well as a marketing mentor. I also work with a few individuals who I would describe as my behavioural compass, who help me develop people from a behavioral perspective.

If you didn’t work in HR, what would you be doing instead?

I’d definitely be in business, and later on I’d be running my own business. The most entrepreneurial HR people don’t just see their career as just in HR, they’re passionate about the business. What we’re doing now is entrepreneurial, the owner mentality.

If you’re thinking about the next step in your HR career, visit Personnel Today Jobs.

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