Top job: Rhiannon Chapman, people manager, SBAC

Rhiannon Chapman has been appointed people manager at the Society of British Aerospace Com-panies (SBAC), the trade association for the British aerospace industry.

Where were you working before?
Since my last full-time appointment as chief executive of the Industrial Society, I have been working with a ‘portfolio’ of appointments – non-executive directorships, public appointments, conference work, executive coaching and writing.

What will your duties be?
I am contracted to work with SBAC for 70% of my time. It has been described as a ‘thought leadership’ role, where the challenge is to identify ways in which SBAC can add value for its member companies and the aerospace industry, by leading initiatives in the people management and skills development area.

What do you hope to achieve?
To help the UK’s aerospace industry become more competitive and enable it to take maximum advantage of its attractiveness as an employer of highly-qualified, innovative people.

What are the challenges HR faces in the next five years?
HR’s challenges are the business challenges, which HR people should be responding to.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?
I once – deliberately – locked a former chairman out of his own boardroom during a board meeting.

Who is your ultimate guru?
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet and philosopher.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?
I strongly dislike the use of sporting idiom, which is very excluding of people who happen not to know the sport.

What’s the worst thing about HR?
That it is often overwhelmed by administrative minutiae and is rarely set up to perform as an effective, strategic business partner.

How do you fill your spare time?
I have been building up my involvement in village life. I also love travelling, reading, painting, badminton and spending time with family and friends.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?
When I left the Stock Exchange in 1990 and had nothing lined up. At the time, I had a large mortgage and dependent family, no cash in the bank, no job, no home and no idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I have never looked back.

The essential tool in your job?
The ability to ‘tune in’ to what is going on around me and turn what I hear into useful plans of action – so, my ears, I guess!

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?
Make yourself part of the business – understand its customers and its marketplace, and interest yourself in product development, business planning, finance, marketing, sales, IT and anything else that helps make the business tick.

What was the last book you read?
Play to Your Strengths, published by the human capital consulting team at Mercer, which I would strongly recommend to all would-be-strategic HR people and senior line managers.

What song gets you on the dance floor?
I’m an incurable romantic – so probably Save the Last Dance for Me.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?
Julie Andrews, with the trauma taken out and with a recurring chorus of Climb every Mountain!

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