Top job: Mark Thompson, head of HR and business improvement, Cobbetts

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was commercial director at Rosebys, working initially on store operations and HR, then on corporate projects.

What qualifications do you hold?

A masters in HR development and diplomas in training management and company direction. I am a fellow of the CIPD and of the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning.

What are the duties in your new role?

To ensure that our people strategies are in line with the core values and goals of the business, and to develop the strategic and operational HR function. I have a 12-strong team, and report to the managing partner.

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

To position HR as a true business partner, and to retain and develop talent.

What is the essential tool in your job?

A sense of humour and the ability to make sense of often conflicting information.

And the most overrated?

‘Best practice’.

What is the worst thing about HR?

The constant debate about whether or not HR is valued.

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

On a business trip to India, I was attacked by what I thought was a cobra. It turned out to be a rubber snake.

Who is your ultimate hero?

I have two: Gandhi and my father. My mother died when I was very young and my father did a great job of raising me.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘Right-sizing’ rather than ‘redundancies’.

How do you fill your spare time?

I play badminton and golf, and enjoy cooking.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Thoughtful, pragmatic and decent.

What is your favourite web page?

Neil’s Garage, on the singer’s website,

What song gets you on the dance floor?

Shiny Happy People by REM.

What is your worst habit?

Not remembering names.

What are the greatest risks you have ever taken?

Remortgaging my house to invest in a management buyout, and joining a law firm after a career in retail.

What three items would you take with you on a desert island?

My iPod, lots of books, and some good malt whisky.

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

Al Pacino, to bring out my hidden depths.

What is the best office party you’ve ever attended?

At Holidaybreak, when the senior management got up and performed comedy sketches.

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

A lift engineer.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

Keep things in perspective and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Thompson’s CV

  • Jan 2008-present:  Head of HR & business improvement, Cobbetts (law firm)

  • May 2006-Dec 2007: Commercial director, Rosebys (soft furnishing retailer)

  • Aug 1999-Apr 2006: HR director, Ethel Austin (clothing retailer)

  • May 1992-Aug 1999: Recruitment and training manager, Holidaybreak (holiday group)

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