Top job… Karen O’Reilly

What is your new role?

HR business partner/head of HR and people development at the National Express (Coaches) Executive Group.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I’ve spent the last two years as head of HR, but without executive responsibility. This involved managing HR, people development, driver development and payroll.

What qualifications do you hold?

An MA in HR management and I’m CIPD qualified.

What are the duties in your new role? How big is your team and who do you report to?

I’m an HR business partner to the statutory director. I have a team of 33 and report to the chief executive.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

To become a full business partner with responsibility to contribute to the strategic direction of the business, not just what is on the people agenda.

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

Increased legislation and the challenge of ensuring line managers are in a position to manage their people effectively and within the law. HR professionals also need to act as strategic business influencers.

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

Try all areas of HR, including training and development. More HR professionals need to understand people development and engagement rather than concentrate on employee relations.

What is the essential tool in your job?

I’m not sure about ‘tool’ but the most important element of my job is having the right team to support our customers and me.

And the most overrated?

People who constantly witter on in the latest management/HR language. They give us a bad name.

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

Many years ago, while working in recruitment, I had a guy remove his jacket, shirt and tie to explain an operation he had had, despite my many protestations.

Who is your ultimate guru?

Richard Branson – he seems to say yes to everything and then finds a way of making it work, which I find really refreshing.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

All of it.

What is your essential TV viewing?

Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

Not sure I would dislike working with anyone in particular – some of the people you think you might initially dislike can be challenging and thought-provoking.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving a well-paid, yet no longer challenging, job without having another role secured.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

I believe I can dance to anything – of course, the more alcohol, the better I think I am.

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

Robin Williams – I think he would keep me entertained.

O’Reilly’s CV

  • Oct 2006: HR business partner/head of HR and people development, National Express (Coaches) Executive Group

  • Jan 2004-Sept 2006: Head of HR and people development, National Express

  • 1996-2003: Head of people development, Wolver­hampton & Dudley Breweries (W&DB)

  • 1994-1994: Personnel manager, W&DB

  • 1993-1994: NVQ development manager, W&DB

  • 1992-1993: Training officer, Birmingham City Council

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