Top job: Nigel Farmer, HR director, NYK Logistics

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

I managed corporate HR at foods company RHM.

What qualifications do you hold?

BSc in Geology (essential for every HR person, in my view) and I’m a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

What are the duties in your new role?

I am responsible for maintaining and enhancing employee relations at an individual, site and national level to ensure that their needs and the needs of the business remain carefully balanced. At a strategic level, I am responsible for ensuring that the way in which NYK approaches and deals with its people supports and drives the business plan. I report to the UK chief executive and currently have a team of 30.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

To help ensure the business hits its growth targets over the next five years. Maybe that sounds like a cop-out, but the initiatives we’re planning have to be part of the means to that end, ensuring we have the management and workforce capability to make the growth sustainable.

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

There are plenty of better qualified people than me to answer that. At NYK, I would say balancing the day-to-day operational demands, with the absolute need to improve our approach to performance management and the attraction, development and retention of talent.

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

Understand your business, how it works and what is critical to its success. Never lose sight of that, even when the next wave of legislation hits you. And if you can, work outside the HR function at some point in your career.

What is the essential tool in your job?

I hate to say it, but internet, e-mail and the speed that comes with it.

And the most overrated?

Ironic, but the same as the essential, because of the tendency to over-rely on it – there is no substitute for face-to-face relationships.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Too much air-time given to people who perpetually want to debate HR’s role and worry about ‘its place/stature in the organisation’, rather than getting on with it.

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

My first proper job (post-graduate training) was as a production manager in a clothing factory for Courtaulds. Half a dozen blokes and 250 or so women made for an interesting start to working life.

Who is your ultimate guru?

I really don’t have one. The most influential people have always been highly capable colleagues, bosses and even, on some occasions, consultants.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

The most over-used is probably ‘strategy’.

What is your essential TV viewing?

Not very much, but sport tops the list. Beyond that, the thing I’ve enjoyed most over the past year is Life on Mars.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

Any exponent of office politics.

How do you fill your spare time?

Sport again – watching all sorts and playing cricket, hockey and doing a bit of running.

Farmer’s CV

  • Oct 2006: HR director, NYK Logistics (UK)
  • Jan 2006-Oct 2006: Head of corporate HR, RHM
  • 2002-2005: HR director, Wickes
  • 2001-2002: Business unit HR director, Bombardier Transportation
  • 1996-2001: Caradon (now Novar), various roles, including:
  • 1999-2001: HR director, European Radiators Division

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