Head to head

The series where we look at similar roles in different types of

This week: Clare Smith, HR director at care provider Leonard Cheshire and
Janice Cook, HR director at children’s charity NCH

1. What are your main responsibilities?

CS My job falls into two parts. I am responsible for everything to do with
HR so that includes personnel, employment law, training and health and safety
for nearly 8,000 employees. Then there are the general responsibilities of a
main board director and includes strategic direction and support initiatives
that will have a positive effect on the lives of disabled people, such as
Workability and Jobability.

JC I’m a member of the senior management group responsible for the strategic
leadership. I also lead corporate policy and strategy in HR, including
personnel, organisational development, training and development,
communications, management information and health, safety and welfare.

2. What’s the pay like?

CS Recent surveys show that the voluntary sector pays directors about 20 per
cent less than those in the private sector and I am no exception. However,
there are other compensations working in the voluntary sector and I know I am
paid fairly vis-à-vis my colleagues.

JC In accordance with our salary policy for senior managers, my pay is in line
with the comparable part of the charity sector market.

3. How flexible are the hours?

CS Leonard Cheshire has more than 160 operational sites, which means I am
out of the office quite a lot. I have to work flexible hours as the travelling
means very early starts and late finishes. The rest of the time I am in the

JC As a senior manager with significant responsibilities, the hours are
demanding. I try to stay within the recommended 48 hours per week, but some
flexibility is possible and time off in lieu is available.

4. What do you like most about the job?

CS The people are great. I have a superb team, like-minded colleagues and a
very supportive boss. There is also a lot of laughter so what more could I

JC The corporate strategic planning and development responsibilities that
complement my strategic organisational development role.

5. What are the challenges?

CS The biggest challenge has been the culture shock of moving from
manufacturing into the voluntary sector. My challenge now is to combine the
best of both worlds.

JC As a voluntary organisation, the challenge is always the limited
resources, as our priority is always to spend most of our money directly on
services for children and young people.

6. What is your biggest headache?

CS I would like to be original, but can’t. My biggest headache is providing
a good HR service within a tight budget.

JC Finding the time to do all the interesting and exciting things that need

7. What size is your team?

CS There are eight people who report directly to me. In the personnel team
there are 13 people, mostly part-time, giving a personnel to employee ratio of
1:700. There is also a four-strong national training team as well as eight
part-time health and safety staff to cover the 160 sites.

JC NCH has a devolved structure for all HR services. I have direct line
management responsibility for 10 posts, and functional responsibility for 90

8. Who do you report to?

CS I report to the director general who is also the chief executive.

JC The chief executive.

9. What qualifications do you have?


JC FCIPD, MSc Human Resource Management.

10. What are your career aspirations?

CS Being HR director for the country’s largest charitable employer does not
leave many new career opportunities. I love my job and Leonard Cheshire is
still a changing and growing organisation with many challenges.

JC Chief Executive of a medium-sized voluntary organisation.

11.What training and development opportunities are there?

CS Leonard Cheshire is an exceptional organisation when it comes to training
and development. I would receive full support for most of the things I wanted
to do as long as I could justify them and pay for them within my department’s

JC NCH is highly committed to training and development and this is no
different for senior managers. I acquired my MSc with NCH funding and support,
and regularly receive learning and development opportunities.

12. What is your holiday entitlement?

CS Currently 26 days plus bank holidays, rising to 27 next year.

JC 32 days a year, plus one extra day at Christmas plus bank holidays

13. What is your working environment like?

CS Brilliant. I have an office with a nice view and best of all it’s near reception
so I can see and talk to people as they come and go (being nosy is an essential
attribute of people in personnel).

JC We are on a very old site, in buildings that have been in our
organisation for decades, with trees and grass – not bad in London.

14. What other benefits do you get?

CS All the benefits most directors get but no car.

JC An NCH car and a final salary pension scheme.

15. What’s the best part of working in HR?

CS The infinite variety. After 25 years in personnel I thought I had seen
everything but Leonard Cheshire employees still surprise me.

JC Influencing the way the organisation develops, particularly in terms of
cultural development. This is enhanced if you are working in an organisation
like NCH which has high values and high quality services.

16. How does your firm treat work-life balance?

CS Leonard Cheshire offers such a wide range of working arrangements that we
can meet most people’s needs.

JC NCH takes work-life balance seriously. We have had flexible working
opportunities, with support for parents and carers for many years. About
two-thirds of our, mainly female, staff work part-time.

17. What’s your dream job/who do you most envy?

CS Nobody. I like being me.

JC Owner of a health farm.

Clare Smith, HR director, Leonard Cheshire

Job at a glance

Size of team: 35, mostly part-time
Holidays: 26 days
Benefits: Working for Leonard Cheshire
Reports to: Director general

Curriculum vitae

2000 Director of HR, Leonard Cheshire
1991 European HR director, multinational paper manufacturer
1989 Divisional personnel manager, heavy industry
1986 Regional personnel manager, paper manufacturing

Janice Cook, HR director, NCH

Job at a glance

Size of team: 10
Holidays: 32 days
Benefits: Car, pension
Reports to: Chief executive

Curriculum vitae

1999                NCH,
director of HR
1990                Head of HR at an inner
London social services department
1987                Personnel manager
Pre-1987         Prior to that, started at
the Bank of England and re-trained as a PA before moving into HR

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