Top job: Rob Smith

Rob Smith, HR director, The Number 118-118

Robin Smith has been appointed HR director at the new directory assistance
business The Number 118-118. He joins from Swiss airline Mindpearl, where he
set up a number of contact centres across Europe, Australia and South Africa.
In the role, he has been charged with developing HR strategies to sustain UK
growth until 2004 and then move into Europe.

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

While recruiting in Milan in 1999, I set up a simple pin-hole camera with a
flip chart easel as a screen so that my recruitment team could watch the
eclipse. A group of Milanese gathered to see what was going on – it’s the
nearest I’ve come to being a street performer.

How do you think the role of HR will change over the next five years?

The trend of HR professionals being judged more and more on their
understanding of, and direct contribution to, organisational success will

Who is your ultimate guru?

I don’t have any gurus – I believe in learning from clever people,
synthesising that learning and being accountable for my own inputs to
organisational development and success.

What is your essential viewing?

The Brecon Beacons on a bright Spring day.

What’s the best thing about HR?


… and the worst?

HR people who make little attempt to understand the main purpose of the
organisations they work for. Fortunately, they are becoming fewer and fewer.

How do you fill your spare time?

Music – I play saxophone and I am learning the guitar.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Leaving the private sector to become personnel manager for a police force
for two years – the risk did not pay off develop-mentally. But, I left with
genuine admiration for the work of the police and for the professionalism of
many of the officers and civilians I worked with.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Perhaps inevitably, the laptop… but it really is surprising how handy the
Swiss Army knife is (a friend in my previous company gave it to me, he actually
is an officer in the Swiss Army!).

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

Don’t necessarily expect recognition for good work. You’ll ultimately get
your rewards through other means.

If you could do any job, what would it be?

A professional musician or music producer.

Smith’s CV

2002 HR director, The Number 118-118

1999 HR director, Mindpearl AG

1996 Divisional HR director, WH Smith Supply Chain, Swindon

1994 Personnel manager, Leicestershire Constabulary

1989 Personnel controller, Mercury Communications

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