Top job: Pauline Williams, head of HR, Skipton Building Society

Pauline Williams has joined Skipton Building Society, one of the UK’s largest building societies, as head of HR. Prior to joining the company, she was on a career break, travelling around Europe and North America.

What will be the duties in your new role?
The remit covers not only the building society but also many of the Skipton Group companies. My role involves the development and deployment of leading-edge policies and practices to ensure that the society is equipped to meet the HR demands now and in the future.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?
I hope to continue to build on the society’s excellent track record of people-centered strategy and business development. The society is currently engaged in a project to align all aspects of people management and development under an overarching set of values and competencies that provide clear links between individual and business performance.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?
Working with a great team continu-ing to bring innovative solutions to the business, while building on the many successes of my predecessor.

How will HR change over the next five years?
Issues such as skills shortages, age and diversity will take on even greater significance. HR will be challenged to provide solutions that drive performance and provide greater flexibility and innovation in terms of working practices and reward.

What’s the best thing about HR?
It’s a cliche but it really is about helping to shape an environment where people can flourish through a sense of community and belonging that leads to tangible business results.

And the worst?
People who resist change for no good reason other than ‘that’s how we have always done it’.

What is the essential tool in your job?
Good psychometrics that enable me to really understand what drives and motivates people.

And the most over-rated?
Time management courses.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?
Hang on to your sense of humour as you are going to need it, don’t take yourself too seriously and develop not only emotional intelligence, but emotional resilience also.

Who is your ultimate guru?
I am inspired by everyday people who rise to incredible personal challenges. People such as Brian Keenan, John McCarthy and Terry Waite, who retain a sense of balance and humanity in the face of terrible evil.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?
Having to arrange for personal protection before leading a disciplinary meeting. Fortunately, the individual resigned beforehand.

What is your essential viewing?
Anything with Michael Palin, whether it is classic Monty Python or his more recent travel exploits.

How do you fill your spare time?
I love good food and good conversation, so I tend to spend a lot of time preparing food and sharing it with my family and friends.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?
Perhaps I should say marriage, as it was my husband that persuaded me to give up my job and travel with him – an adventure that lasted 18 years.

What is the worst office party you’ve ever attended?
The worst was many years ago when a very drunk person decided that it would be fun to start a food fight. Personally I prefer to eat the food rather than wear it.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
An engineer – I hate confined spaces.

Williams’ CV

  • 2004 Head of HR, Skipton Building Society
  • 1996 Customer services, Skipton Building Society
  • 1975 Career break and travelling

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