Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Hayley Tatum, senior vice-president people at Asda Walmart. She discusses a career path that started out in the local pub while still at school, before growing to her current role supporting more than 170,000 people for the UK’s second biggest retailer.
Name: Hayley Tatum
Job: Senior vice president – people
Current employer: Asda Walmart
CV in brief:
- UK & ROI People Operations Director, Tesco 2007 – 2011
- Stores Director, Tesco 2005 – 2007
- Hypermarkets HR Director, Tesco 2002 – 2005
- Director of Learning, BAA 2000 – 2002
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
Asda is the UK’s 2nd largest retailer and is part of Walmart. Asda has 584 stores, as well as a fast growing online and click and collect business. We operate with 170,000 colleagues, in a unique spirited culture where we take what we do seriously, but not ourselves. We strive to make our products better value so customers can afford to live well. We firmly believe that fresh, quality good food at everyday low prices should be accessible to all families.
Who do you report into?
Andy Clarke, President & CEO of Asda.
Tell us about your team
The Asda culture is special and different to other companies. My team is integral to promoting and safeguarding this and ensuring that Asda is a great place to work. The overall people function is split into communities of excellence, business partners and a developing shared service – but that’s about as traditional as we get.
I’m proud of the quality and depth of experience we have across the team and the diverse skill set which helps us to deliver innovative and dynamic programmes for the benefit of our 170,000 colleagues.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
I’m personally passionate about helping young people in the UK into employment. With NEETS hovering between 750K and 1m in the UK, I feel businesses need to take action. I’m proud that the retail sector isn’t snobbish and attracts talent without prejudice. I’ve met so many Asda colleagues who joined as a stop gap or as a last (and final) chance and have then grown in confidence; becoming first class business leaders.
Watching someone who’s been told by teachers or even parents that they won’t amount to anything achieve a promotion or a Retail Honours Degree is the very best and proudest part of my job.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Making time to think. I’m at my best when I’ve given myself time to recharge, and I do this by being on my own to reflect. Balancing being in the thick of the business, whether in stores or in the boardroom, with listening and learning new ideas and insights and working alongside my team all takes more time than I have. So having the discipline to reserve my own time to think is important.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No one day is ever the same although location shapes some of my week. I live in Buckinghamshire, but work Monday-Thursday in Leeds at the Asda Home Office. My day is a whirlwind of meetings, speaking engagements and lots of listening. The Walmart element of my job means video conferences once or twice a week, which with time zone differences can make for an odd schedule at times!
At the end of the week, I try to work nearer to home at stores with colleagues and customers, or at our offices in London where I can interview new talent, as well as take some time to think!
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I’d been curious about Asda for a while, with its reputation for ground-breaking HR practices. At the time I joined our CEO Andy Clarke was in his first year. He was putting together his team and I was thrilled to be part of his vision. The Walmart aspect was also a draw. Being part of the world’s biggest company provides access to amazing leaders, business schools and global career opportunities.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – The team I work alongside
Downsides – That’s a difficult one. Between us we can out sort most things!
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
Be yourself, and be confident to say what you think. Invest hard in relationships. This business is all (and only) about people, so:
- Never stop listening
- Have humility
- Have determination/grit
How did you get to where you are now?
By having a go and working hard. I’ve taken quite a zig-zag path, where I’ve learned from others and my own mistakes. Time as a retail operations leader running stores gave me commercial accountability and experience I draw on time and time again.
What were your best subjects in school?
My best subjects were history and biology – a strange mix! I like facts and can retain a lot of information. I went to a girl’s grammar school, and started work after A-levels. I did my CIPD at evening school and then a Masters in HRM at Middlesex in the late 90s.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
My first job was at weekends while still at school. I worked at the local pub. I did everything, but mainly washing up and kitchen work for £1.25 per hour! My parents are farmers so I’d seen what hard work was throughout my childhood.
In the school holidays after A-levels, I got a job at the nearest Tesco Superstore. It was nearby, had vacancies and although my contract was only 16 hours a week, I volunteered for all the overtime I could get my hands on in every department! I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was learning all about food retailing – hands on.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
I’ve never directly set out a career path! I’ve always taken an opportunistic view and taken on new challenges if they sounded interesting. A few times I’ve needed to be nudged – so I’m grateful to my supporters over the years.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
New situations (which are pretty much every day the more senior you get) are challenging – it’s difficult to be confident when faced with something you’ve not experienced before. I’ve learned to live with ambiguity and to expect change. Accepting this as the usual context of my work helps me stay calm and be able to listen and figure out what to do.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
Boringly nothing. I can’t really describe myself as crazy.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I don’t normally give myself time to think about me. It’s hard to pinpoint one moment in my career, but I always feel most proud of effective teamwork – in our industry working together to make a difference is key.
Do you have any career regrets?
Yes. I only took three months off when my son was born. It was nowhere near enough time and I can’t get it back. A silly choice.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
Take broad and lateral career moves on your way through. You’ll learn as much, if not more, by working in different functions with different leaders. Linear, narrow careers build specialists, but not general business leaders.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
You’re only restricted by the voice in your head, so:
- Don’t worry and overthink things
- Speak up. the worst thing that’ll happen is you’ll be wrong some of the time
- Coffee or tea? Builder’s tea
- Jam or marmalade? Jam. Don’t like the bits in marmalade!
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles
- Mac or PC? Mac
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times
- BBC or ITV? Rarely watch live TV, so thank goodness for Sky+ and Channel 4 (awkward I know!). Love watching the BBC with my family for Great British Bake Off and ITV for anything Ant & Dec.
- M&S or Waitrose? Asda of course!
- Morning or night? Night
- Rain or snow? Not keen on either, but at a push…rain. I don’t like driving in the snow.
- Sweet or savoury? Anything by Cadbury
- App: Maps. I get lost all the time
- TV show: The Good Wife
- Band: Stereophonics
- Song: I Only Wanna Be With You by The Tourists
- Book: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
- Sports team: Amersham and Chiltern Rugby Club, Under 11s. My son’s team!
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Glass of wine, family time and catch up TV as I’m away all week
- Place to eat: Try the Artichoke, Old Amersham taster menu and wine flight
- Holiday spot: Lefkada, Greece or Porth Bay in Cornwall
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Be yourself
By Karam Filfilan
Karam is Changeboard Middle East's editor and UK deputy editor.
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