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Spotlight: Stephen Taylor, HR director, Bounty

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Stephen Taylor

In this month’s ‘Spotlight’ series, Lucie Benson talks to Stephen Taylor, who has worked across seven very different sectors in his impressive 30-year career and who explains that his HR department’s success is all down to a good old dose of team spirit.


Vital stats:

  • Company: Bounty

  • The aim: To be the UK’s favourite parenting club

  • Number of staff: 600

  • Number of HR staff: 6

  • Location: Head office in Welwyn Garden City, Herts; secondary office in Diss, Norfolk; the remainder spread across the UK.

  • Contact: www.bounty.com

  • Stephen Taylor’s HR career dates back to the 70s, when, as he puts it, HR was better known as “personnel”. He joined a manufacturing business straight from school and stayed there for seven years.

    “I gained thorough and professional training there and, as I look back, those seven years underpin everything I have done since,” he remarks.

    Since then, Taylor has worked for eight different organisations across seven different sectors, including automotive, brewing, chemicals, construction, engineering, retail and transport. For the last three years, he has been HR director at Bounty, a young family and parenting club, which began in 1959, and provides information, support and products to UK families throughout the pre-birth, birth, toddlers and pre-school life stages.

    So, variety is the spice of life, it would seem. “In an HR sense, that variety shows you can work in any organisation, and in any sector, as long as you are effective,” he comments. “The people agenda is the same in any business.”

    Taylor is professionally qualified, having gained qualifications in business studies and health and safety in the early days of his career, as well as being a fellow of what was the old institute of personnel and development, which he has kept going over the years. He is also currently awaiting the results of a masters programme he has been studying, in employment law.

    “I did this because, clearly, you do have to grapple with employment law a great deal within HR, plus it has always been an area of great interest to me.”

    It’s all about recruitment

    Bounty employs 600 people and in the last two years that has grown from around 500. The company aims to increase this amount to 700 over the next two years. Taylor explains that recruitment is one of his main responsibilities, however the company also allows him to broaden his experience too.

    “The HR team needs to provide support by bringing more people in, by questioning what we are doing and whether we need to change things, and by making sure our policies and benefits are appropriate and effective.”

    Stephen Taylor, HR director, Bounty

    “I wear the HR director’s hat but in addition to that, I also lead the IT and facilities team, and I act as general manager for our photographic business,” he says. “This reflects the scale of the business, and the culture that we have within, which means that if someone is inclined and able to broaden their remit, then the business encourages that.”

    But when he is wearing his HR director’s ‘hat’, recruitment is his main focus. “We have around a 75 per cent retention rate, and if you consider that three quarters of our workforce are part-time, who average around 15 hours a week, that level of turnover is very good.”

    Bounty spends around £8 million a year on people, so Taylor must ensure that the organisation is spending that money wisely and getting good value for it.

    “The business has been growing very fast over the last two years and that growth is not going away,” he continues. “Therefore the HR team needs to provide support by bringing more people in, by questioning what we are doing and whether we need to change things, and by making sure our policies and benefits are appropriate and effective.”

    Another responsibility for Taylor is internal culture and communication. “We are at the heart of a marketing-based organisation, so we do communicate a great deal. We have quite a mix of people who work for us, in terms of skill set. Three-quarters are scattered geographically throughout the UK, so you can never get everyone together at once, and communicate to them.”

    For instance, the sales, marketing and client-facing people all tend to be natural networkers and communicators, he says. “So we have to vary our communication in terms of content and tone, to hit all the different audiences within the company, and we have to work hard to get messages across to everyone.”

    For the good of the business

    The HR team at Bounty consists of six people. Taylor re-organised it when he joined the company to create a business partner structure, which means that three or four people in the team align themselves with a part of the business and work alongside business managers so that they understand what is going on in that part of the organisation.

    “Having worked for different organisations in different sectors, I have to adapt and make sure what I am doing is effective, and ensure my reputation as HR director is a good one.”

    Stephen Taylor, HR director, Bounty

    “This means we can make sure that whatever we do is for the good of that part of the business, rather than us just sitting in a central position and conforming to policies and procedures, which may or may not suit that division,” explains Taylor.

    Taylor believes that having a relatively small HR team means they can communicate easily with each other. “Team spirit is easily maintained and I make sure they have all got focus and feel they have support across the team.”

    He also makes sure they are involved with everything, including the three-year HR strategy plan that he agrees with the board. “I communicate closely with the board in terms of what we are doing, and I then share that with the HR team and ask them to critique it and add their thoughts. The good thing about that is at the end, we have a board of directors who are very clear about what I am looking to do, HR-wise, and they approve it, and then we have the team who are very clear about what we have got to achieve over the next three years.”

    Throughout Taylor’s career, he feels that the biggest challenge has always remained the same. “It has always been how you maintain your own reputation in a positive light. Having worked for different organisations in different sectors, I have to adapt and make sure what I am doing is effective, and ensure my reputation as HR director is a good one. To move from transport three years ago, to this type of business, I have to think about what I am doing, how I am doing it and that I am doing it appropriately for this organisation.”

    Yet, says Taylor, there are many factors that make HR a great career choice, namely being in the middle of the business and having the ability to see and hear everything.

    “HR can shape and influence anything to do with people, and people are always the core of any business. Many companies spend a lot of money on people and in HR, you have the ability to propose an agenda which can maximise people’s contributions. That is always exciting – ok it is challenging, but it is always there in any business.”

    See also:

  • Carol Lath, HR director, Kingsley Napley
  • John Roberts, HR director, Ford Retail
  • Liz Booth, HR director, NSPCC


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