Interview with Jane Carwardine, executive director, HR, Identity and Passport Service

How did you get where you are today?

By working hard and making and seizing opportunities as much as possible. I joined Marks & Spencer as a young management trainee straight after A-levels and learned so much about being independent, the world of work and how to get the best out of people. The lessons I learned there have stood me in good stead ever since.

What do you spend most of your time doing at work?

Being with and talking to people about people and business issues, whether in meetings or one-to-one discussions.

Which three attributes do you need to do your job?

A sense of humour, the ability to listen and a willingness to challenge.

What legislation causes you the most headaches?

Diversity legislation – I absolutely support the intention behind it but feel that organisations and managers can become too focused on the detailed interpretations of the law rather than actually getting on and doing what the law was intended to do: make a positive difference.

How do you keep up with changing legislation?

By reading the professional press, such as Harvard Business Review.

What are the common challenges you face in your profession?

Stakeholder management – all too often, many senior managers think they are stakeholders in everything and therefore entitled to a view and an input into decisions being made – this can confuse matters and slow down progress. Also, lack of clarity of ownership between line managers and HR team members – I am very clear that line managers are accountable for managing their teams and making decisions based on advice from HR. Sometimes HR people are reluctant to “let go” and end up telling line managers what they must do, which results in the line manager not owning up to the outcome.

What’s the best part of your job?

Supporting my team members in their development and seeing them flourish.

What keeps you awake at night?


What’s the most outrageous case/situation you’ve ever come across?

Many years ago, having to deal with the aftermath of a very drunken staff Christmas party which resulted in a number of employees being disciplined for inappropriate behaviour, the details of which should be left to the imagination.

What would be in your Room 101?

After Eights, Camberwick Green, toy dogs on wheels, bobble hats and stiletto heels.

If you could change anything about the world what would it be?

To find a way to help all the different religions accept that there is more common ground than they may think and that they should find a way to work together to make the world a better, more peaceful place.

Who’s your hero/heroine?

Former athlete Jane Tomlinson CBE.

How would you like to be remembered?

“She made a difference at work and as a mother, and had fun on the way”.

Carwardine’s CV

2007-present – Executive director, HR, Identity and Passport Service

2001-2006 – HR director, operations/employee engagement Coca-Cola Enterprises

2000-2001 Interim HR director, The Law Society of England and Wales

1996-2000 – HR director, Thorn UK

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