Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Eve Russell, assistant director of HR, Workforce, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust. She shares her career journey, from the importance of taking your career step by step to building trust in small teams – and why human problem-solving is at the heart of HR.
Name: Eve Russell
Job: Assistant director of HR, Workforce
Current employer: Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
CV in brief:
- 2010 – 2012, head of HR operations, NHS Gloucestershire
- 2010, independent HR consultant
- 2005 – 2009, deputy director of HR and OD, Great Western Ambulance Service
- 2002 – 2005, HR manager, Cheltenham Ladies’ College
A day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation
I work for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. We are one of the largest hospital trusts in the country and we provide high quality acute elective and specialist care for a population of more than 612,000 people. Our hospitals are district general hospitals with a great tradition of providing high quality hospital services; some specialist departments are concentrated at either Cheltenham General or Gloucestershire Royal hospitals, so that we can make the best use of the expertise and specialist equipment needed. We are the second largest employer in Gloucestershire, with more than 7,400 employees. Many of our staff are world leaders in the fields of healthcare, teaching and research and we aim to recruit and retain the best staff possible.
Who do you report into?
The executive director of HR and OD.
Tell us about your team
I head up the Workforce Function, which includes recruitment, temporary staffing, workforce planning, workforce information and workforce projects. That sounds like a long list but in reality we are an extremely small team trying to work together to ensure we have the right workforce for our Trust, now and in the future.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Finding solutions to those really tricky problems, and working collaboratively to achieve something far greater than would have been possible alone.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Constant change is a challenge but also what I love about the NHS and that’s what keeps me motivated. Seeing the NHS portrayed in a negative way in the media is extremely frustrating, because from the inside its highly apparent how very hard people are working in pursuit of delivering an excellent service.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There’s really no such thing! I am part time, so my work days are very different from my non-working days. I try to balance the constant pressure to be in meetings with the need for head space and thinking time, but I’m not sure I always achieve it! I like being part of a team and always try to “check in” with key people to make sure things are OK, even on the busiest days.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I love being part of the NHS but prior to coming here I had never worked in an acute (hospital) setting, so I was really enthused and inspired about joining such a large acute Trust.
Perks and downsides of your role?
Perks – my boss is great (hope he reads this!), people are generally lovely to work with, and there is a very strong sense of purpose. Plus from a practical perspective working part time is something I really value.
Downsides – I’m not sure. I really enjoy my job, and feel very lucky to be in this post.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
The ability to build strong relationships and gain people’s trust is critical, as are good communication skills and diplomacy. Problem-solving and resilience are things which I rely on every day and am constantly trying to develop further.
How did you get to where you are now?
While on a graduate management scheme at Imperial College I discovered a fascination for the human problem-solving that is at the heart of HR. From there, I undertook my CIPD studies, and had a number of HR/OD advisor and manager roles which provided a great grounding. I joined the NHS in 2005 and have loved it ever since, moving between Trusts and developing my career alongside broadening my understanding of how the NHS works.
What were your best subjects in school?
I studied History and Languages at A level, and then read History at Durham University. I completed my professional studies (PG Diploma in HRM) at the University of Gloucestershire. I’m just about to embark on a PG Certificate in Strategic Workforce Planning through the University of West London – I think CPD is essential and I’m looking forward to getting back into a learning environment.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
Growing up on the Isle of Wight I had lots of summer jobs in catering and hospitality – chambermaiding, waitressing etc. – all great for developing life skills and meeting a huge variety of people. After university, I was very fortunate to gain a place on the Graduate Management Training Scheme at Imperial College. I was attracted by the opportunity to work in the public sector, in a graduate scheme which offered huge variety and real responsibility and the bonus of working in London. I wasn’t disappointed and had a great start there.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
I’ve always worked on the basis that the next step is the important one, and not worried too much about where that takes me in the end. With working life as long as it is now, I don’t see any need to “rush” to an end point.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
It sounds very cliché but getting back to work after having babies and managing all the challenges and conflicts that brings is extremely challenging but worth it.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
Not sure many HR jobs require craziness?! In fact, it’s possibly the reverse. I remember being offered a place on a graduate scheme but turning it down because I felt the selection process had been a bit ridiculous.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Leading different HR teams through complex organisational changes/mergers has been tricky, so it’s always a proud moment to emerge on the other side of something like that. Knowing that you have helped others progress or achieve personal career goals is really special.
Do you have any career regrets?
Not really….but still lots more I would like to achieve!
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
A good thorough grounding is essential, plus a CIPD qualification. Spend time outside of HR so you understand the broader issues around running a business. Then it’s about finding a role which will give you scope to grow and develop as you go along, and also finding a sector which matters to you. Being in HR you’ll always have a supporting role, so it’s critical that you care about what you are supporting.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Worry less about whether you can do things and assume you probably can; don’t be afraid to push yourself, it’s OK to make mistakes along the way (I am something of a perfectionist, which is not always positive).
- Coffee or tea? Tea – always!
- Jam or marmalade? Jam
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Neither really…both a bit before my time!
- Mac or PC? PC
- The Guardian or The Times? The Times nowadays, I find myself feeling a bit manipulated when I read The Guardian as they have such a strong agenda
- BBC or ITV? BBC, adverts are so tedious! I’ll make an exception for Downton.
- M&S or Waitrose? M&S – I did a management placement there during my gap year so feel it would be disloyal to say otherwise (even after nearly 20 years!)
- Morning or night? Morning definitely
- Rain on snow? Well, neither are helpful in the NHS, but if I had to choose it would be snow; with two small children snow causes huge excitement in my house
- Sweet or savoury? Sweet
- App: Whatsapp (great for keeping in touch) or Strava for tracking my running progress (or lack thereof)
- TV show: I love Downton for its fabulous one liners and the incredible chemistry between Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith.
- Band: Maroon 5
- Song: Currently loving Uptown Funk!
- Book: Too difficult to choose just one….
- Sports team: England Netball. It’s all about the girl power
- Thing to do on a Friday night: Girlie night out with friends, or cosy night in with husband. Wine either way
- Place to eat: Anywhere that’s not my kitchen – lovely to have a break from cooking
- Holiday spot: Canada – it was our honeymoon destination and I would love to go back
- Piece of advice you’ve been given: Don’t hold on to concerns which are not helpful to you – either address them, or let them go. I also remember hearing Steve Head speak and I have held on to a lot of his messages around positivity and successful leadership. His “act as if” mantra has really helped me on a few occasions.
By Sarah Clark
Online features editor at Changeboard
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