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Career profile: Helen Hyde, personnel director, Waitrose

Posted on by from Changeboard

Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Helen Hyde, personnel director at Waitrose. She shares her career journey, what makes the John Lewis Partnership a great organisation to work for, and balancing work priorities with motherhood.

Basic details

Name: Helen Hyde

Job: Personnel director, Waitrose

Current employer: John Lewis Partnership

CV in brief:

I’ve worked for the Partnership for 26 years.

I spent 15 years in John Lewis in a variety of operational roles before joining the assurance side of our business. For six years I was the corporate registrar, before joining Waitrose as the divisional registrar. From there I moved across to my present role, which was two and a half years ago.

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

My role is to lead the personnel function for Waitrose, specifically business partnering and partner development.

I have a team of around 160 partners and we’re responsible for the partner experience for the 60,000 Waitrose partners.

Who do you report into?

The managing director of Waitrose, Mark Price.

Tell us about your team

My team is divided into three main areas, covering designing, creating and delivering training both online and face to face, to develop partners at all levels.

I manage two senior business partners, one of whom supports branches and the other our head office and supply chain.

I also have a growth team who specifically recruit and train partners for new branches, warehouse openings or large extensions.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

I really enjoy being part of the Waitrose management board and I love leading my team of very professional and dedicated personnel partners.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

There is so much I’d like to do both internally and externally, so juggling priorities and adding the most value I can in a day is always a challenge.

What does a typical day look like for you?

There isn’t one! I could be in Bracknell, our group head office in London, visiting a branch or working off site. I have days of lots of short meetings and days with a single focus. I love the variety.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I believe the John Lewis Partnership is one of the most extraordinary businesses in the country. I love the fact we are co-owned with no external shareholders and everyone who works for us is a partner and owns a part of the business.

The values are very special too. We have a constitution and the first principle is that we exist for the happiness of our members, through their feeling of satisfaction and worthwhile working in a successful business.

Perks and downsides of your role?

It’s honestly a privilege to do my job. Perks are getting to meet so many of our amazing partners, representing Waitrose and being part of the board that makes decisions about how we develop and grow our business.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Resilience, focus, determination, the ability to communicate really well and inspire my team and others.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I joined the Partnership as a graduate trainee and the rest is history…

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

I loved the arts and studied English, French and history for A levels at Cheltenham College (the boys college not the ladies college!) and read English and drama at Royal Holloway College for my degree.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

My first job was as a selling assistant at Marks and Spencer. I worked in the food hall and in fashion, that’s where my love of retail began.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

No! I thought I might join the police force at one point and I did do a stint in the specials, but I knew I loved retail. I thought I would end up running a shop though, not working as a director!

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Balancing work and home isn’t always easy but my amazing husband went part-time to bring up our son, and he has been the most enormous support.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

I think I must be pretty boring, as I’ve never had to do anything remotely crazy!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Being offered my present job. Being responsible for creating satisfying employment for all of our amazing partners in Waitrose is a huge responsibility and I’m very proud of that.

Do you have any career regrets?

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to run my own small business. Maybe one day, but I’ve still got so much to do for the partnership!

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Know your strengths, use them and be yourself. Grow your network and be considerate to others at all times and of course, work hard.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Believe in yourself and keep a constant open mind.

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Coffee until lunch time, fruit tea or Earl Grey for the rest of the day. Apart from a decaffeinated coffee in the evening!
  • Jam or marmalade? As long as they are home-made, either!
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Rolling Stones
  • Mac or PC? iPad
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Times
  • BBC or ITV? Both but BBC for news
  • M&S or Waitrose? Pretty obvious!
  • Morning or night? Off the scale lark!
  • Rain on snow? Both with the right outdoor gear
  • Sweet or savoury? Dark chocolate with 85% plus cocoa is my weakness

Favourites

  • App: My Fitbit app connected to my Fitness pal, as I attempt to do a bit more walking to stay fit
  • TV show: Morse, Lewis or Endeavour, I love them all as I try and work out “whodunnit” first!
  • Band: Snow Patrol, great to sing along to in the car!
  • Song: Falling Leaves, Eva Cassidy. Just a beautiful song sung by an extraordinary voice
  • Book: Persuasion, Jane Austen, complete escapism!
  • Sports team: Tadley Tigers under-13 rugby team (my son’s team), London Irish and England – in that order!
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: Chill out with friends and family with simple, great food and a lovely bottle of wine
  • Place to eat: Ours or at friends. I always prefer that to eating out
  • Holiday spot: This country, Eskdale in the Lake District. Abroad, any island large or small, in the Mediterranean
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: The definition of happiness is someone to love, something to do and something to hope for. Very simple but it works for me
Sarah Clark

By Sarah Clark

Changeboard

Online features editor at Changeboard

Changeboard

Changeboard

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