Alison Gilbert – Top job

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

I was head of HR for the BaxterStorey Group, which included Portico and Cater Link. I led a team of HR and training professionals.

What qualifications do you hold?

I’m Chartered Institute of Personnel Development-qualified, with a host of catering qualifications, although my chef skills are somewhat rusty today.

What are the duties in your new role?

I have overall responsibility for the development and implementation of the company’s people practices, HR and training strategy, and management of the HR function, advising on HR issues at board level.

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

Attracting the right people, retaining them and developing them to be exceptional.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

The BlackBerry – it’s not healthy.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

The crystal ball.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Jargon, but that’s common across all departments.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

A quick jog across the fields with my golden retriever on a fine day – if it’s wet, a hard work out at the gym.

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

Checking in the staff for Buckingham Palace garden parties with the royal corgis round my feet.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Positive, enthusiastic, determined.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Jamie Oliver to cook for me – I love the simplicity of his food – and my close family and friends to share it with me.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Never forget the personal touch. Get involved. You can learn so much – no two days will ever be the same.

What job would you like your children to do?

Whatever makes them happy, but I would encourage them to have fun.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Jumping from a senior level operations role into HR.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Have fun and enjoy: you don’t know how long it will last.


  • Apr 2008-present, HR director, Charlton House (catering)
  • Nov 2004-Apr 2008, head of HR, BaxterStorey Group (contract catering)
  • Jul 2000-Nov 2004, regional HR manager, All Leisure division, Compass Group (event caterer)
  • Aug 1997-Jul 2000, HR manager, Sodexho Prestige (event and leisure sector caterers)
  • Jul 1981-Aug 1997, various catering management or director roles

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