Top job: Janet Birch, head of resourcing, Ministry of Justice

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

I was at the London Development Agency, where I was responsible for HR operations, HR policies, reward and retention strategies and organisation design and development.

What qualifications do you hold?

I’m a member of the CIPD, and have an MBA.

What are the duties in your new role?

Resourcing strategy, workforce planning and recruitment.

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

Managing diminishing resources in a more efficient and effective way.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

The risk logs – they state the obvious.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

Thought synthesis, so I could record my thoughts without having to write them down.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Managers at all levels hiding behind HR when making decisions that negatively affect people.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

Chocolate and offloading on my partner.

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

I was holding my first team meeting with all Euston staff at the end of the night shift, and in full flow, when I was summoned to attend a locomotive on fire.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Extrovert, caring and cheerful.

What was your lucky break?

Getting picked as a customer service champion in a major initiative run by British Rail.

What do you regret about your career?

Nothing – I’m too busy to have regrets.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Authors Agatha Christie and Jane Austin, engineer Isambard Brunell and social reformer Rowland Hill.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

To get operational experience somewhere in their career, be prepared to move organisations to broaden their outlook and study for CIPD qualifications.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Moving from one unit to another at the same time as implementing a new computer system. Not to be recommended if you can avoid it, but unfortunately I couldn’t.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Do what you think is right.

Birch’s CV

  • Jan 2009-present – Head of resourcing, Ministry of Justice (runs courts, prisons and probation service)
  • Oct 2007-Dec 2008 – HR and operational director, London Development Agency (regeneration of London)
  • Jun 2003-Sep 2007 – National business support manager, Crown Prosecution Service
  • Jun 2002-May 2003 – HR director, Qualifications & Curriculum Authority (oversees school curriculum and tests, and national vocational qualifications)

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