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Annie Hayes

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How Did I Get Here? Head of HR at Macmillan Cancer Relief

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For many organisations the mantra ‘people are our greatest asset’ is no more than a hollow PR gambit but not so for the voluntary sector who rely heavily on the staff that have opted for the third way; Head of HR Tracey Huckfield talks about how Macmillan Cancer Relief use HR practices to get ahead.


1. How strategic is your current role and what does it involve?
My role involves researching and recommending areas for inclusion into the HR strategy and then implementing this once it has board level approval.

2. How is the HR function perceived within your organisation?
The people and the knowledge within the function are very well respected, however there is much work needed to update the policies, procedures and guidance for line managers and develop management information. Once this is in place I have no doubt the department will be perceived excellently.

3. How does your business use HR practices to get ahead?
People are the Charity – the service we provide, the funds we raise and the support we provide are all down to the people we employ. Good HR practices are therefore key to the organisation. We offer very good development opportunities and encourage innovation.

4. Why is your company such a great place to work?
It’s a wonderful environment, very supportive and committed to the cause. Senior management places people at a priority and this is felt throughout the organisation. In addition we pay very competitively and have a good benefits package – especially for the voluntary sector, plus excellent access to investment in development.

5. How does HR win hearts and minds in your business?
Through its delivery and relationships. HR professionals need to demonstrate they understand the business issues, people and environment and prove themselves by providing tangible support and effective solutions.

6. Will HR survive outsourcing and changes to service delivery?
I think this depends on the organisation and business type. The voluntary sector is people orientated, there is no ‘product’ to sell, it is all about the quality of the employees and the value they actually add. It would fly in the face of what a charity is all about to outsource the overall approach to management of people – its most fundamental asset. In this environment HR needs to be in tune with the culture and be integrated with the workforce, so they can truly understand the factors affecting the business and people on a day to day basis.

7. What’s the new skill set of HR?
The ability to understand business issues and interpret legislation accordingly. Managers need practical, value adding solutions to people management issues, they need a way through all the perceived ‘red tape’ that enables them to do their jobs and deliver. HR also needs to better understand financials and benchmarking, they need to learn how to speak in terms of bottom line value added and demonstrate this through statistics and measurement.

8. What’s the worst thing about working in HR and the best?
The worst has to be balancing the growing levels of legislation and manager needs. You can understand a manager’s desire to just get something done and want to actively support them in achieving this, however there are numerous elements of legislation that must be covered off and this is very frustrating for managers – so HR is seen as bureaucratic and hindering their progress.

The best thing must surely be winning this challenge, securing a breakthrough with a manager and developing a partnership way of working so they know to involve HR at the right time and cover these elements off before they become frustrating for them.

9. What are the key issues preventing HR professionals from getting a seat on the board?
Most organisations I have worked for have had an HR professional on the board. Again, maybe this is because the workforce is fundamental to achieving the objectives of the organisation so much value is placed upon them. Factors I believe prevent this are the inability to make HR relevant to the business strategy, to translate the people’s contribution into business contribution – this is where the need to understand business issues and financials and communicate in this way, is of paramount importance.

10. If you have a mantra/motto what is it?
There is no business without people to deliver it, so value them effectively.

11. What are you currently reading?
JFK – An Unfinished Life

12. What would be your desert island disc?
Brand New Heavies – Midnight at the Oasis

13. If you could have lunch with three famous people, dead or alive who would they be and why?
Elvis – what a terrible waste of talent, what went wrong?
Sven Goran Eriksson – I am not convinced about this leadership/motivation guru status
JK Rowling – she can pay!

14. If you’d like to be remembered for one thing what is it?
Getting the best out of people, encouraging them to develop themselves and supporting them to achieve greater things.

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.


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Annie Hayes

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