Head to head

This week John Marsh, head of personnel management at the Prison Service,
and Bjorn Anders Wallin, HR director at Group 4 Falck Global Services, compare
notes on their careers

1. What are your main responsibilities?

JM Delivery of personnel services to 1,800 people in headquarters and
responsible for most personnel policy in the Prison Service other than pay,
industrial relations and training and development.

BAW In addition to my HR remit, I coordinate corporate citizenship
strategy in Group 4 Falck and sit on the board of Corporate Social
Responsibility Europe. This involves taking the lead in managing staff and
service programmes across all operational areas to ensure best practice.

2. What’s the pay like?

JM About £50,000 a year.

BAW Effective people management is crucial to our industry. Our work
is very much focused on public-private partnerships. To build effective
relationships in this industry you need to have relationships based on trust
both with the customer and our employees. I make it my business to ensure that
GSL has terms and conditions that are competitive and well thought out. And
that goes for me too!

3. How flexible are the hours?

JM Some flexibility. I occasionally work from home and help in
picking up my children, but hours are long. I usually work about 55 hours a
week but manage to keep weekends free.

BAW As a company we understand the need to ensure flexible working
hours. As an individual committed to my company I sometimes find that my
practice isn’t exactly what I preach! Although my average day usually begins at
8am and ends at 6pm, there are occasions when I need to respond to a pressing
matter. In those instances, I will work until I have resolved the immediate

4. What do you like about your job?

JM The variety and working both for an organisation which does a
difficult job well, in the main, and for a director-general with a clear vision
of where the Prison Service is heading.

BAW Our company focuses on continuously improving our services so
there is never room for complacency. I find myself facing interesting issues
and new challenges almost every day. GSL is active across such a huge range of
public activities including prisons, prisoner transportation, defence,
immigration, education and transportation. I am lucky to be in a position that
provides such variety.

5. What are the main challenges?

JM My priorities are improving personnel services delivery, reducing
staff absenteeism and recruiting prison officers and other staff in the South

BAW As I said, GSL’s activities are many and varied. These different
areas all involve different staffing and training requirements. Treatment of
asylum-seekers or prisoners has to be handled with care. We have to continue to
give significant attention to heath and safety and to diversity issues. We have
to ensure that our staff are carefully selected and are well looked after
throughout their employment with our company. This is particularly important
given the fact that some of our staff have come from public services and have
been governed by Tupe.

6. What is your biggest headache?

JM Probably casework. We are examining ways of delegating greater
case work to the line. I personally hear one appeal for dismissal a week and
respond to a number of grievances which detract from service and policy

BAW Expansion of the company into new fields inevitably brings with
it new problems and issues but that is inevitable if you are committed to
growth. By far and away the biggest issue that we have to deal with is Tupe
which is in a constant state of evolution. To date we have handled some 40
major staff transfers involving more than 5,000 people.

7. What size is your team?

JM I manage about 170 staff.

BAW We have established a corporate citizenship taskforce that
supervises and oversees the corporate citizenship programmes of the business.
This is composed of eight senior managers. In addition, I work directly with a
team of five at head office and the business streams employ 33 HR staff.

8. Who do you report to?

JM Gareth Hadley, director of personnel, the Prison Service. Gareth
is very supportive and provides the personnel experience I lack.

BAW CEO Jim Harrower. I am a board director of GSL and our overseas
companies in Australia and South Africa.

9. What qualifications do you have?

JM I arrived in personnel as a generalist with wide experience
elsewhere within the Home Office. I have an MA in industrial relations.

BAW I am business school-educated in Sweden with 25 years’ HR
experience in the UK.

10. What are your career aspirations?

JM In the long term to continue to develop in HR but also to have the
opportunity for interchange and posts outside HR

BAW I am extremely happy at Group 4 Falck and love both the job and
the working environment I’ve just described.

11. What training and development opportunities are there?

JM There are good training and development opportunities both for
developing generic skills as a senior civil servant within the Home Office and
for taking HR qualifications. Finding the time is the main barrier.

BAW Group 4 Falck places great store by training and development.
Group 4 was one of the first service providers to apply for Investors in People
as well as ISO 9000. Training and development is crucial to our beliefs in continuous
improvement and investing in people.

12. What is your holiday entitlement?

JM 30 days.

BAW I am pleased to say I have five weeks holiday every year. It is
important that individuals have the opportunity to get an effective work life
balance. Well-adjusted individuals with interests out of work make for happier
and more productive workers.

13. What is your working environment like?

JM Room for improvement. We are waiting for delivery of new
accommodation and IT which will help considerably.

BAW For historical reasons our headquarters are located in the middle
of rolling Cotswold countryside near Broadway. While there I have a wonderful
sense of being far from the pressures of urban life and the daily hassle factor
of commuting is unknown to me. I have no doubt that we are more productive
because of the good working conditions.

14. What other benefits do you get?

JM Non-contributory pension and subsidised holiday pay scheme for my

BAW A fair amount of international travel with the company,
contributing to the development of our organisations abroad.

15. If you weren’t working in HR what job within your organisation would
you most like to do?

JM I would probably look elsewhere across the Home Office or wider
government to a position with a large staff responsibility such as the
Immigration and Nationality Department.

BAW I would work within our Custodial Services operational management
activity. Prison management is people management taken to a fine art.

John Marsh
Head of personnel management, the Prison Service

Job at a glance
Size of team: 170
Qualifications: MA in industrial relations.
Leave: 30 days
Best part: the variety

Curriculum Vitae
2000 Head of personnel, Prison Service
1999 Head of human resources strategy, Prison Service
1997 Team leader in HM Treasury with responsibility for spending by LCD and CPS
1995 Head of grants to voluntary sector, Home Office then DNH
1986 Various roles within the Home Office      

Bjorn Anders Wallin
HR director, Group 4 Falck Global Solutions

Job at a glance
Size of team: eight senior managers, five people at head office and 33 HR
Qualifications: business school in Sweden
Leave: 25 days
Best part: the variety

Curriculum Vitae
2001 HR director, Group 4 Falck Global Solutions
1989 HR director, Group 4 UK
1987 Personnel director, Group 4 UK
1982 General manager, personnel services, Group 4 UK
1975 Personnel manager, industrial relations, Group 4 UK

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