Paul Kearns entered the HR profession in 1978 working in industrial relations and then moved through training and development into generalist HR work. Since 1991 he has been running the PWL consultancy – specialising in HR measurement, HR strategy, evaluation and performance measurement and management. He has published 6 books to date on employee performance measurement, training evaluation/ROI and strategic HR.
All the previous career profiles can also be seen in the special How Did I Get Here? page.
Current job title
Director, PWL, a consultancy specialising in measuring the bottom line impact of HR and training.
Describe your initial training within the profession
I often refer to my early years from 1978 (when I first came into HR) until 1990 (when I left my last ‘proper’, corporate job) as learning how not to do it. Companies got the industrial relations they deserved by not engendering trust in their employees; training courses were usually a knee-jerk reaction to operational problems that should never have arisen; job evaluation placed a strait jacket on individual initiative and innovation; appraisal always looked good on paper but never delivered in practice.
It was this growing scepticism that led me into researching what really effective HR practices should look like and what should constitute the development of future HR professionals.
What positions have you held?
Personnel and Training Manager
Is there a significant event you can tell us about which had an impact on your career?
The last job interview I ever had was for the position of HR director at a subsidiary of Shell (in 1990). Their CEO thought ‘HR’ was just another name for personnel administration and the outgoing HR director only asked one question during the entire interview “what percentage of disabled employees should you have by law?”(!). I realised then that there was something seriously wrong with HR and how it was perceived and set out to change it.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Convincing my HR clients that copying ‘best practice’ is a pointless exercise.
Which of your colleagues played the biggest role in you getting where you are today?
No HR colleagues – the people I have really learnt from were the other board directors I worked with who taught me what running an organisation is really about. They showed me what impresses them – results, ROI and value in £’s – so that is what I have always focused on. Once HR offers that the board never want anything else.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the profession?
The future for HR administrators is bleak – the opportunities for business focused HR specialists who add value is getting rosier by the minute.
Previous How Did I Get Here? features:
Susan Stevens, Toshiba Information Systems
Irene Burwin, HMG Paint
Trevor Lakin, IPPM
Alison Clarke, Quantica
Laurence Collins, Ceridian HR Consulting
Paul Kearns, PWL
Fiona Knight, KPMG
Adrian Glynn, Wilkins Kennedy
Joanne Darling, Cooper Parry
Sue Matthews, Coventry City Council
Nichola Nair, European HR Strategic Programmes Manager for Xerox
Alison Lewis, Corporate Learning & Development Manager, Oxfam
Jessica Diggins, HR Manager, Chartered Management Institute
Linda Klassen-Brown, Group HR Manager, The Logic Group
Keith Hanlon, HR Manager, Quantum Business Media
Andrew Mayo, frequent speaker and writer on HR issues
Jim Brooks, HR Manager for ServiRail Ltd
Jean-Bertrand de Lartigue, Chairman of HR2all
Karen Caddick, Head of HR, Channel Five
Keith Luxon, HR Policy and Reward Director, The Laurel Pub Company
Jeremy Thorn, Chairman and Director of QED Consulting
Roger Pattison, HR – Training & Management Development Consultant
Verity McVarish, HR Manager for Sift Media
David Kelly, Head of Development and Training for Aventis
Jenny Kevan, UK HR Manager for Abbott Laboratories
William Martin, HR Manager, Telewest Broadband
Craig Truter, HR Manager, The Body Shop
Martin Stockton, HR Transformation Leader, Towers Perrin
Nick Heap, Consultant, New Directions
Crispin Garden-Webster, HR Specialist, Asian Development Bank
Sandra Walsh, HR Delivers
Carole Leslie, Director, IT Learning Ltd
Shaun Dunphy, Project and Process Manager, EMEA HR Service Centre for MCI
Debra Artlett, HR Officer, NGJ
Dianne Miles, HR Manager, Rollalong Ltd
Jacqui Mann, HR Manager, Integra NeuroSciences
Isabella Montgomery, Human Resources Officer at The new Housing Association
Iain Young, Head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave
Have you got any useful insights or cautionary tales regarding your career? If you would like to contribute to the 'How Did I Get Here' feature please email our employment correspondent: Dawn-Marie Dart
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