Top job: Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith has been appointed group director of HR at BSS Group, a distributor of heating and plumbing equipment. She will be responsible for leading on health and safety procedures, compensation and benefits and training and development initiatives for the group’s 3,100 employees across the UK and Ireland.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

Prior to joining the BSS Group, I was head of HR at Hays Logistics UK. I led a team that supported 6,000 employees in the UK and Ireland.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

I would like HR to be seen as a business partner by the organisation, and for the BSS Group to be viewed as an employer of choice, where employees can develop and prosper within a culture where they feel valued.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?

The challenge of learning a new business, reviewing the current working practices and evaluating where we can improve on the service we offer the organisation.

How will HR change over the next five years?

HR will become more business-focused and more commercially astute within the organisation.

What is the best thing about HR?

Working with such a wide variety of people – all individual and making a difference to their working lives.

And the worst?

Again, the people – sometimes they let themselves down and don’t use the opportunities given to them.

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

Having an employee have a heart attack in front of me. He was renowned for being a bit of a joker, so when he fell over I thought he was joking until I got to him and realised what was happening.

What is your essential viewing?

Any human-interest programmes such as No Going Back, where people change their way of life to live outside the UK.

How do you fill your spare time?

Family life, being a taxi service to the children, DIY and walking our two puppies, who are full of energy.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Moving from an organisation where I knew everyone.

What is the essential tool in your job?

A sense of humour.

And the most over-rated?

E-mail. It can be an efficient method of communication, but sometimes people hide behind it when a conversation would be more suitable.

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

Learn as much as you can about your business, its market sector, the challenges the business faces and, if possible, try to spend time with line managers to familiarise yourself with the challenges they face.

Do you network?

I tend to network with the senior team of the business to establish a rapport and the credibility of the function. Within the HR fraternity, some of my closest friends are people I worked with in previous HR functions.

What would be your ideal job?

Working for an organisation that saw HR as a business partner, where HR added value by offering a proactive, efficient service to the company.

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

Jonathan Ross. His Saturday morning radio show always amuses me.

Sandra Smith’s CV

2004 Group director of HR, BSS Group

2001 Head of HR, Hays Logistics UK

1996 HR director, Druckers Vienna Patisserie

1994 HR manager, Morgan Matroc

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