Head of HR/HR Director

Written by: Annie Hayes
Published on: 8 Jul 2016

HR Director

Being an HR Director is not for the faint hearted, you will need both a thick skin and the conviction to follow through on best practice. The job will never be dull however, with no two days being the same. You will be responsible for delivering the worst and the best of news, managing upset employees, counselling strong-willed heads of department, directing on workplace harassment, balancing best practice with commercial pressures, getting buy-in on people strategies from unconvinced senior management and persuading employees to change their workplace fundamentals for the greater good. Many HR Directors will have climbed the HR ladder, many taking twenty or more years to get to the top. The experience along the way will hold them in good stead.

Key duties:

  • Represent the HR department consistently and with professionalism - facing the boardroom, conference circuit and workforce with confidence and skill.
  • Translate key data into an effective and commercially focused HR and people strategy, working with senior management and influencing them on the best course of action.
  • Provide company-wide information by interpreting people data and analysing figures on staff turnover, cost per hire etc.
  • Give counsel and oversee complex employee relations issues such as grievance and disciplinary cases and manage difficult cases with professionalism.
  • Establish departmental accountabilities for the range of HR functions from talent acquisition to health and safety compliance.
  • Devise recruitment strategy and oversee its implementation. Interview senior hires where necessary.
  • Co-ordinate remuneration policies and advise senior management on staff salaries in reference to external benchmarks.
  • Update and review HR policies, procedures and guidelines and enforce organisation values.
  • Champion a performance culture and continuously review productivity and employee development making recommendations for improvements.
  • Control the HR budget and report on current and future staffing costs and initiatives.
  • Lead on special projects and communicate and direct on strategy and implementation.
  • Champion change initiatives getting buy-in from board members.
  • Ensure legal compliance is met in all HR activities.
  • Challenge the Board where appropriate and suggest alternative paths.
  • Deliver bad news and offer pragmatic solutions.
  • Continuously review the responsibilities of the HR department and make bold decisions when necessary.


  • Bachelor’s degree is minimum; Master’s degree in business administration, human resources management, industrial relations, or even a law degree is desirable.
  • CIPD qualified with evidence of continuous professional development.

Previous experience:

  • Held previous position of seniority, able to establish credibility and build department accountability.
  • Able to problem solve and demonstrate operational and strategic skills.
  • Experience of acting as a role model is essential and leading teams.
  • Comfortable in developing team members and empowering staff.
  • Demonstrates commercial acumen – partners with the business to deliver commercially focused people strategies and has a good overall understanding of company finances and uses this to develop policies.
  • Solid employment law knowledge and proven experience of applying updated legislation to a variety of HR situations.
  • Managed redundancy situations and experienced in coaching managers through this and leading where necessary.
  • Familiarity of managing TUPE situations and able to counsel senior management on appropriate practice.
  • Evidence of having a passion for working with people and working beyond the confines of the job description.
  • Outstanding communication skills – able to deliver bad news and give it a positive outlook as well as ability to influence board members.
  • Proven organisation skills and ability to priortise.
  • Thrives on constant change.

Expected salary:

£40,000 - £100,000

The average salary is around £65,000 per year.


Being a head of department is never going to be a 9-5 job and the demands will vary according to organisation and sector. Some employers will offer the opportunity to work remotely and flexibly.

Career steps:

As an HR Director you are at the top of the HR tree but in many larger organisations there might be the chance to go one rung higher or eventually make a permanent move to the board of Directors taking on more of a business-led role.

  • HR Vice President
  • Chief HR Officer

What they say:

“It’s our focus on growing our Associates (that’s what we call our employees) to drive the performance of our business that really makes my job exciting. Mars University offers a huge range of learning and development programmes that are targeted at developing Associates of all levels, from apprentices, graduates to our leaders of the organisation. We see that these have a huge impact on Associates’ careers and obviously a huge impact on our business performance. Not only have development opportunities grown in the UK, but as a global business our Associates have opportunities to work all over the world.

“I have had a diverse and exciting career at Mars, working not only in People & Organisation, but also in Sales, in local and regional roles and across different disciplines of HR. I’ve worked in my home country of Australia and had the pleasure of working across different countries, before coming to the UK where I’m now based.

“Another thing that makes Mars a great place to work, particularly in a people focused role, is how we are revolutionising the way we work. We know it’s important for Associates to balance their home lives with a rewarding career and recognise that different demographics of Associates want a different working pattern and style. For this reason, we are investing in technology which allows Associates to work remotely, meet smarter and travel less. I have a dual career family and I don’t work rigidly from 9-5. Mars provides me with the flexibility to balance my work so I can deliver great results and still spend time with my three year old.” 

Kate Menzies, People and Organisation Director - Mars Petcare