Top Job: Lesley Clare, head of HR, Freedom Leisure

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

As a generalist HR manager in a very large international corporate company looking after a client base on one site for a small section of the overall business. Before that I spent more than 20 years in the retail/service sector.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have a BA (Hons) in business studies, I’m a Chartered Member of the CIPD and a member of the British Psychological Society

What are the duties in your new role?

Developing and leading the HR function to support the future of the business – both strategically and hands-on.

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

Outsourcing, skills shortages, and making diversity practical rather than just a paper exercise.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

Reliance on Excel spreadsheets, graphs and diagrams to explain a new idea rather than talking simply about what it means and how it will be achieved.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

A pill to make people act rationally.

What is the worst thing about HR?

People’s general perception of what HR is all about and how it can add to the business.

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

I tend to relax on my drive home from work but also enjoy watching sport in the evening, particularly football and rugby, and playing the piano and oboe.

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

When an HR director brought her dog into the office and it left a ‘package’ under a secretary’s desk.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Enthusiastic, commercial and organised.

What was your lucky break?

Working for an inspirational HR director when I was on the sandwich year of my degree course – my first full-time job. He instilled in me many philosophies that I still use today.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Film star Mel Gibson, footballer Teddy Sheringham, businessman Alan Sugar and Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Maintain a business and commercial focus, don’t get carried away with jargon and remember what you are trying to achieve.

What job would you like your children to do?

Whatever makes them happy, successful and uses their natural talents.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Twice giving up stable, well-paid positions because I felt I could not make the difference and therefore lacked job satisfaction.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

There’s an answer for every problem, it’s just a question of finding it.


Clare’s CV

  • Apr 2008-present – Head of HR, Freedom Leisure (not-for-profit leisure facilities provider)
  • Oct 2006-Mar 2008 – HR manager, BAE Systems (defence and aerospace)
  • Apr 2002-Apr 2006  – HR manager, South, Blockbuster Entertainment (home entertainment)
  • Jul 1994-Apr 2002 – Regional HR manager, Dixons Stores Group (electrical retail)

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