Top job: John Athanasiou, head of HR, Warner Music UK


John Athanasiou has been promoted to head of HR at Warner Music UK. Previously the company’s senior HR manager, he has been there since 1999 in a generalist role, specialising in graduate recruitment and training and development.

What will be the duties in your new role?

Having recently been acquired by Bronfman Associates, the focus of the role will be on the strategic re-alignment of the business. Day-to-day tactical issues will also be combined with setting the long-term HR strategy.

What qualifications do you hold?

Three degrees – maybe that’s why I’m in music! BA in finance, MA in HRM and the CIPD qualification.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The opportunity to be a true business partner who influences commercial business decisions at the outset.

How will HR change over the next five years?

HR people and the function need to become more commercially accountable for business return. Individuals’ breadth of experience outside of HR will become increasingly important, as business acumen will increasingly become as relevant as functional HR expertise.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Stelios from Easyjet – a young, bright, customer-focused entrepreneur, and one step ahead all the time.

What is your essential viewing?

Sex and the City – it reminds me of my mates and some of the conversations we have!

What’s best about HR?

Apart from being in the know, being able to impact on employees’ performance, behaviour, motivation and ultimately their career.

And the worst?

Some HR functions are obsessed with sticking to the rules and procedures, rather than taking a commercial perspective.

How do you fill your spare time?

I am a volunteer for Starlight, which grants wishes to critically-ill children. I also like reading, travelling and socialising.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

The CEO asked me to present to 300 delegates at a conference in New York – with half an hour’s notice.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Being commercial, approachable, technical and reasonable.

And the most over-rated?

Industry and HR jargon.

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

Never forget it’s a small world.

Do you network?

Its essential. I live by it. In this industry contacts are key.

What would be your ideal job?

A receptionist at The Priory clinic!

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Thierry Henry – it’s all about the va-va-voom. And the fact that I am an ardent Arsenal fan!

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

Arnold Schwarzenegger – he would take up too much space.

Athanasiou’s CV

2004 Head of HR, Warner Music UK

2002 Senior HR manager, Warner Music

1997 Regional HR officer, Dixon Stores Group

1995 Personnel officer, Camden and Islington NHS Trust

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