Top job: Mark Byard, HR director, LA Fitness

Health and fitness operator LA Fitness has appointed Mark Byard as HR director. His new role centres around retaining key industry talent, building leadership capabilities and developing company culture, with specific focus on internal relations among the firm’s 3,000 employees.

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

I have recently returned from a sabbatical, having previously worked for LA Fitness as divisional director for the South of England and Spain. Prior to that, I worked for Thomas Cook Retail for 17 years.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The fitness industry is a young industry that has seen major growth in the past 20 years. Communication of our mission, vision and values is a priority. We will focus on the basics, and improve internal communications to build loyalty to our brand.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?

Driving change and success through people. It’s all about building strong teams of people who understand where the company is going, and the part that they all have to play in making the company successful.

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

I had many strange experiences at Thomas Cook, because much of my career was spent dealing with the public!

How will HR change over the next five years?

Downsizing of many support functions is inevitable, and will lead to more pressure on HR functions to deliver more value for less cost. This could result in a more multi-skilled HR culture and more HR generalist roles.

What is the best thing about HR?

Working from inside the HR function gives me a cracking opportunity to really influence the wider business agenda.

And the worst?

I suppose it is seeing that there is always room for improvement in the way that people are managed and valued.

How do you fill your spare time?

I enjoy spending any spare time I have with my wife. We enjoy eating out, and going to the theatre. My main relaxation therapy is gardening.

What is the essential tool in your job?

My team. I have some fantastic people who are very committed to the company. They are full of enthusiasm, and I am looking forward to working with them.

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

Never take anything at face value, and make sure you ask lots of questions before doing anything.

What would be your ideal job?

I have always joked that I would love to be a bus driver. The open road, minimum responsibility and an opportunity to meet people – if only to collect a fare!

What is the best office party you have ever attended?

My 30th birthday fell on the night of our Christmas party at the office. When a large lady arrived, I assumed she had come to serve the food. The only thing on the menu was me, but I entered into the spirit of the evening.

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

Noel Edmunds – I just have an aversion to him that I can’t really explain. My patience would be stretched to the limit.

Byard’s CV

2004 HR director, LA Fitness

1987 Various roles, Thomas Cook Retail

1983 General office manager, Deborah Services

1980 Management trainee, HSBC

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