“Hard work and a good grounding are your best assets to succeed in HR”. Victoria Berry, Head of HR at Beatson Clark Ltd., speaks to us about developing a career in HR Leadership.
As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Victoria Berry at Beatson Clark, who began her career in HR at Team Telecom, which she followed up with a role as National HR Manager at SPICE Holdings before moving to Ebuyer.com to act as HR Manager. In 2006, Victoria took a role as Northern Region HR Manager at Connaught, before becoming National HR Manager for Arla Foods, Interim HR Business Partner at Haribo, and HR Director at Oakworth Joinery, then assuming her current role as Head of HR at Beatson Clark in 2012.
Can you tell us how you got into HR and why?
When I left school, I wanted to be a painter-decorator, but didn’t get accepted at Leeds College of Builders I suspect because I was female. Instead, I completed a secretarial course and went onto become an Office Manager, where I dabbled in HR and gained my basic CIPD qualification and also an HNC in Business and Finance. Following redundancy I considered what I had enjoyed about my role and decided it was the HR piece, so whilst working in a temporary role I chatted to some recruiters and I initially took a role in recruitment to gain some further experience.
I stayed in recruitment for a short while, but it wasn’t for me, so I joined Team Telecom in my first pure HR role. I loved the role and found I had a passion for HR and finally felt I had found the profession for me. I worked full time for Team Telecom whilst attending university two nights a week to complete my CIPD degree.
Team Telecom were TUPE’d to SPICE Holdings and whilst working for SPICE was promoted to National HR Manager. I managed a team of HR Advisors, Administrators, and Payroll with national and international responsibilities, it was an amazing grounding. As a generalist I couldn’t have asked for any better.
I’ve stuck to production/manufacturing and construction industries in the main since then; the professional office environment doesn’t appeal to me much.
Can you tell me about the challenges or key themes that you’re seeing across the HR sector?
For me, and many others, mental health is a key area at the moment and I have recently become a Mental Health First Aider. I’m seeing a lot more recognition and acceptance around this issue. However there is still some hesitation at times, sadly this issue still presents with a gender bias. With Beatson Clark I employ a counsellor on behalf of the company, and I have noticed there is less wariness around seeking help and access to getting support is becoming much better.
Personally, I’m also a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and in life, I believe this issue needs to remain under the spot light, not only for the obvious issues such as race or gender but also in how we create our HR policies and importantly how we apply those policies fairly and without bias.
What career advice would you offer to someone either working towards a career like yours, or someone just getting started in their HR career?
I think to succeed in a HR role you need to be agile with the ability to satisfy a wide range of ‘customers’ sometimes with conflicting needs, you need to genuinely care about your profession and balance both Company and Colleague needs.
Having an in-depth grounding and being involved with as much as possible at the beginning of your career is far more powerful, and rewarding, than specialising from the start. I would encourage anyone to gain their CIPD qualifications and to put themselves forward to work on projects outside their own role. I love learning and HR is ever evolving both with legislation and new thinking and I get the greatest pleasure from people who want a career in HR and I would do all I can to encourage this as it is a fantastic and rewarding career choice.
If you can, try to work for a smaller organisation as often they can offer you opportunities to grow and learn before potentially moving to a bigger company. The smaller companies can offer greater exposure to allow someone to gain wider generalist skills. If you can work for a manager who loves what they do, as I did when I worked for Team Telecom, this is infectious and the best supportive environment for someone new or indeed someone with years of experience, I believe to be successful in HR you have to have the passion for it.
Read, attend seminars, network do whatever you can to keep abreast of what goes on in HR, and build and keep good relationships with people (including recruiters, in uncertain times you never know when you’ll need them!)
A key skill in HR is to try and have as much of a balanced unbiased view as possible, however, you also need to be able to have difficult conversations when required, this is one key area that makes HR a better fit for some people and not for others.
At the same time as being able to have the difficult conversations you have to be empathetic. As much as you need to be agile in terms of how you think and the tasks you do, you also need to be emotionally agile without losing your base values, some of the situations you find yourself in may not go the way you expect them and people in difficult situations can act completely differently to how you might expect, you need to respond quickly and appropriately to the situation. The natural ability to read people really helps with that, it’s about your natural, and developed, level of emotional intelligence.
HR is also about the ability understand legislation and its impact on your company, to interpret data looking at trends within the HR generally and with your own company to offer solutions and importantly to understand how HR can impact bottom line figures.
If someone is interested in a HR career they should speak to as many people as possible to get a feel for the role, I believe it is the most exciting and rewarding career choice. It has its highs and lows as all roles do but the sense of personal satisfaction is fantastic; hard work, a strong in-depth grounding and the Passion are your best assets to succeed in HR.
Victoria has been working as Head of HR at Beatson Clark since 2012, and provides HR services for both Beatson Clark Ltd and the Newship Group.
If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.