week Tracy Myhill, director of HR, Gwent Community Health NHS Trust and
president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management, and
Francesca Okosi, director of HR, London Borough of Brent and president of the
Society of Personnel Officers in Local Government compare notes on their careers
What are your main responsibilities?
As HR director for a National Health Service community trust (Gwent Community
Healthcare NHS Trust) it is employing 11,500 staff with an annual turnover of
£280m. The trust covers acute, community, learning disability and mental health
I am responsible for the London Borough of Brent’s human resources and
consultancy services. This area covers all aspects of people management,
equality/diversity and organisational developments, as well as general
management consultancy support to the council.
What’s the pay like?
Around £70,000. It is enough to go on three holidays a year but still not
enough to stay out of debt!
The pay is OK.
How flexible are the hours?
It is a full-time post with directors being expected to work as necessary to
fulfil the role. Working flexibly around child and other commitments is left to
the director to manage, but is fully supported by the chief executive. Success
is measured by contribution and outcome, not presenteeism.
Flexible in so far as the working time directive does not apply and I am
lucky that there are only 24 hours in a day.
What do you like about the job?
The wide scope and constant challenges of a very complex organisation with a
diverse workforce in a service with unlimited opportunities to learn and
It is diverse, challenging and there is a real opportunity to make a difference
to the organisation.
What are the challenges?
Recruiting and retaining staff, life-long development of individuals to
contribute to an ever-changing health service, keeping up-to-date with clinical
and medical changes, and managing a ‘million’ agendas – both national and local
– at the same time.
There are a number of challenges in local government right now, including the
need to modernise services and the drive for continuous improvement. The people
management implications are numerous. We are dealing with such issues as
diversity, recruitment and retention, pay, management development and so on.
But I guess the real challenge has been rebuilding a viable service which had
been decimated in the 1990s, and doing it with limited resources.
What is your biggest headache?
Workload and time (not enough).
Remuneration and supporting effective management of change.
What size is your team?
Staff of 60, including personnel, training and development, workforce planning,
nurse education, medical staffing and administrative and support staff.
We are 29 strong, which includes non-HR staff – one of the smallest in London
Who do you report to?
The chief executive.
I report to the chief executive.
What qualifications do you have?
MBA and CIPD.
O and A levels
What are your career aspirations?
HR director with a national role or chief executive, not sure yet.
I would like to complete the work I have started at Brent. My long-term career
aspirations would include broadening my experience outside local government in
either central government or the private sector, and not necessarily in HR
alone. I think becoming a chief executive of a quango would be challenging and
What training and development opportunities are there?
Infinite, if you want to take them.
As well as affording me the privilege of representing my peers, my role in
Socpo has provided me with one of the greatest learning and development
opportunities I have had in my career to date. It has enabled me to get
involved in a national agenda which encompasses areas outside HR as well as
furthering the cause of local government.
What is your holiday entitlement?
Six weeks plus 10 bank holidays.
What’s your working environment like?
Never enough accommodation in health premises due to the demands for clinical
space, but OK.
I work with hard working, committed staff.
What other benefits do you get? (company car and so on)
Contribution to a lease car.
What’s the best part?
The freedom to make a difference.
Receiving position feedback from front- line staff and middle managers.
How does your firm treat work-life balance?
All the policies are good and in place and personally, I am very happy. I am
not convinced they are universally applied to the 11,500 staff though.
We offer flexible working, but have targeted this as an area we need to develop
further and will be doing so this year.
Who do you most envy? (what’s your dream job)
Influential, competent, professional women in top jobs but who retain their
personalities and humane characteristics. I can’t think of a dream job I want.
My dream job changes with the weather. I have always wanted to be a
presenter, maybe Jeremy Paxman style, however over recent months I have decided
that I most envy Anne Robinson. Not only has she overcome personal adversity,
become a millionaire in her late 50s and wears Armani, but she also gets paid
for telling people what she really thinks of them. Great!
Director of HR, Gwent Community Health NHS Trust and president of the
Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management
at a glance
Size of team 60
Qualifications CIPD and MBA
Leave 30 days
Best part Having the freedom to make a difference
1999 Director of HR in Gwent
1996 Deputy director of HR in an acute and community healthcare Trust in
1993 Senior personnel officer commissioning a new maternity unit
1991 Personnel officer undertaking operational personnel role in a hospital
Director of HR, London Borough of Brent and president of the Society of
Personnel Officers in Local Government
at a glance
Size of team 29
Qualifications O and A levels
Leave 30 days
Best part Receiving position feedback from front line staff and middle managers
1999 Director of HR, London Borough of Brent
1997 Head of HR, London Borough of Merton
1995 Head of HR strategy, London Borough of Havering
1994 Personnel strategy planner, London Borough of Havering