Top job… Ian Westall

What is your new role?

HR director at The Trainline, an online rail ticket retailer.

Where were you working before, and what were your duties?

I was director of customer cervices with The Trainline, accountable for the overall provision of customer sales, service and e-support to our 8.4 million registered users. I worked closely with major clients, translating their needs into requirements that were delivered by outsourced contact centres in the UK and offshore.

What qualifications do you hold?

I’m a chartered fellow of the CIPD.

What are the duties in your new role?

The Trainline was recently sold by the Virgin Group to private equity investors and the current senior management team. The change of control means we have lost the HR support we used to receive from Virgin management. My role has been newly created and is a standalone function with some shared administrative support. I report to the chief executive as one of the executive team.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I have agreed with the executive team a comprehensive HR strategy for TheTrainline and a supporting plan with specific deliverables over the next year.

What are the challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Being a value-added service that identifies and leads change rather than becoming a commoditised service centre offering that only reacts to business requirements, helping line managers understand and face the demands of the global economy and the challenges that arise around age and employability.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Make friends with finance. Whether you work in the public, not-for-profit or private sectors, the common denominator of all key business decisions is money.

What is the essential tool in your job?

The coffee machine – it’s a great place to chat and plug in to the grapevine.

And the most overrated?

My handheld computer.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Everyone has a personal view about how they think other people should be managed and so think they are an expert. At times over the years it has been a frustrating journey to win acceptance that HR is based on training, skills, knowledge and experience, just like other professions.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

I took an interim role and walked straight into a disciplinary issue that involved an employee who had been impersonating someone else and defrauding the company.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Warren Bennis – an insightful and accessible author on leadership.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘People are our greatest asset’ – they’re far more important than that.

What is your essential TV viewing?

I loved Deadwood.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

Anyone with a closed mind – it’s doing the things that ‘can’t be done’ that makes a real difference.

Who would play youin the film of your life?

Homer Simpson – we’ve got so much in common.

Westall’s CV

September 2006 – present: Director of HR, The Trainline

June 2004-July 2006: Director of customer services, The Trainline

February 2003 – June 2004: Independent HR consultant and interim

April 2001 – January 2003: HR director, 7C Limited (contact centre outsourcers)

March 1999 – March 2001: Independent HR consultant and interim

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