Top job: Karen Martin

Karen Martin has been appointed as the new HR director for Firstplus Financial Group. She joins the company from Britannic Assurance, where she was head of HR and corporate communications, and part of the executive team.

What will be the duties in your new role?

To assist the CEO and other business directors in the development of the Firstplus business strategy, with lead responsibility for the people strategy.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

To identify and implement HR interventions that have a direct correlation with business success, and therefore influence business performance.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to occupying a position in a highly successful and growing company. Firstplus grew by 27 per cent in the first half of last year, and it expects record pre-tax profits for 2004. I am looking forward to building on this success and ensuring there is a direct link between people performance and further tangible benefits.

How will HR change over the next five years?

For HR to rightfully earn a place at the top table, it must align itself to the business objectives of the organisation. The days of ‘doing things to the business’ are numbered. The value of human capital is now widely appreciated as critical to the achievement of goals and objectives – and HR has a major role to play.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Michael Porter, for his strategic thinking and breadth of vision.

What is your essential viewing?

The West Wing.

What is the best thing about HR?

The sheer range of activities encompassed from operational transactional support to strategic thinking and policy design, employee relations, reward, training and employee development.

And the worst?

However disciplined you are, there is never enough time to do all you would like in the time available.

How do you fill your spare time?

An adventurous soul, I like to trek in remote regions of the world such as Kazakhstan and Morocco. I also like to ski, keep fit at the gym, and relax with my two children.

What is the essential tool in your job?

My Blackberry.

And the most overrated?

An electronic diary – give me back my Filofax!

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

Take time to understand the business of your organisation, its values and the needs of your internal customers. Read around your subject to keep up to date with developments in your sector.

What was the last book you read?

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by John McGregor.

What would be your ideal job?

An artist.

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

A lift engineer!

Martin’s CV

2004 HR director, Firstplus Financial Group

2001 Head of HR, Britannic Assurance

1997 Senior manager HR, Cheltenham & Gloucester

1995 Senior manager, compensation and benefits, C&G

1990 Personnel manager, C&G

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