Sainsbury’s HR chief Imelda Walsh resigns

Sainsbury’s HR chief has announced her resignation and will step down in July.

Imelda Walsh took on the role of HR director at Sainsbury’s in October 2001 but will now leave the supermarket chain on 16 July.

Walsh has not lined up another job but told Personnel Today she wanted to take time off to “re-boost the batteries” and consider her options.

A successor for Walsh has not been confirmed, but she said “all will be revealed not too long from now”.

“After nearly nine years at Sainsbury’s, I have decided to call time,” she said. “I am very conscious that I am very lucky to be in a position to stop and reflect, and I’m going to make sure I choose [my next job] wisely.”

Walsh said it had been a personal objective of hers to leave the firm on a high note.

In the year to March 2010, Sainsbury’s pre-tax profits rose to £610m, up 17.5%, and 127,000 staff were able to share in the firms largest ever bonus pot of £80m.

Walsh said she was “very proud” of her achievements at Sainsbury’s, and the firm is now “a very different business today compared to when I joined”.

One of her proudest achievements, she said, was the successful delivery of jobs, skills and qualifications for staff through the ‘You Can’ initiative.

When launched in the autumn of 2008, the HR function aimed to help 10,000 people take advantage of opportunities at the firm by the end of the 2009-10 financial year, but this target was “smashed”, Walsh said.

The programme includes providing apprenticeships, helping the long-term unemployed into sustainable work, and providing staff with new skills.

“We are seeing a plethora of people coming out of the woodwork now with far greater confidence that they can have meaningful careers at Sainsbury’s and that it’s worthwhile to have a career in retail as it gives you good skills,” she said.

“I think we have led the industry in this regard. A number of people are now doing similar things, but we were the first major retailer to do this and to sign the skills pledge back in 2007.”

She added another of her proudest moments was being given the opportunity to conduct an independent review for government on flexible working in 2008.

Before joining Sainsbury’s, Walsh was the HR director of Barclays Retail Financial Services. She has also previously worked for Coca-Cola and Schweppes Beverages.

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