The Big Interview with Rebecca Gilbert

The HR Heads Career Profile Series: We speak with HR professionals within our network to find out what 'a typical day in the office' looks like, what they consider their greatest career success to be, what advice they'd give their 20 year old self and we also explore some of their favourite things. This edition features Rebecca Gilbert, Executive Director of People & Culture at Condor Ferries.


What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m sure that everybody says this, but there is no ‘typical day’ for me, it can really vary. I always try and make sure that a fair amount of my day is spent developing my team. We’re a fairly new team, so I answer any questions they have and support them by explaining where we’re going as a department and as a business. I’m a member of the Condor Executive Management Board (EMB) so I contribute to things like Risk Management strategies, environmental policies, travel and expenses procedures. It’s great that I’m not purely focused on People & Culture and have the opportunity to contribute to other areas of the business as I’ve always liked the business and commercial aspects of HR! I’m not one for doing things just because it’s the latest HR trend, I like to really understand the internal and external environment we’re operating in – that has always been of interest to me.

Work life balance is very important to me and that’s a conversation I have with senior people frequently. It’s quite usual, now we all have work phones and laptops, for a culture to develop where people feel that they need to work every hour of the day – but I feel strongly that people should not be working in the evenings or on annual leave, it’s important that they enjoy their time away from the office. I try and lead by example, because if I’m telling people one thing and doing another they won’t listen to my advice. When employees see directors or senior staff sending emails in the evenings, they can think they need to action it there and then, when in reality it could wait till the next day.


What are your proudest career moments to date?

A have a few. This year I became a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and completed my coaching qualification! I think it’s important to have professional accreditations alongside operational successes.

In October 2016 I was invited to join the Executive Management Board and that was an immensely proud moment for me. It came quite out the blue, actually! I’d had a meeting that morning with our CEO – I reported directly to him, and he had a lot of involvement with People & Culture. He’d been talking about having someone from People & Culture on the EMB so I told him that I’d really like to be involved. It was that same day that he invited me to join the board with immediate effect. I was completely delighted!


As Executive Director of People & Culture, what do you love about your role?

The main thing I love about my role is having a team. Now that my team is in place, less of my focus is on the day to day HR and I can spend time helping them succeed. I really enjoy that! I’ve recently completed my CTI Coactive Coaching qualification and I use this learning to prompt my team to come up with their own ideas. It’s really interesting to see what they come back with and there have been some great initiatives generated by this approach.

As I mentioned before, I enjoy the commercial aspects and being closer to what’s going on in the business. Being a contributing member of the Condor EMB has been a learning curve, and it’s great to have a CEO who wants you to speak up, regardless of whether the idea you have is feasible at the time – it sparks discussion that may lead to another idea. I love that I work in such an open and supporting environment.



Are there any aspects of your role that you find challenging?

I often find that it’s hard to dedicate time and resource to every area of the business. I’d quite like clones of my team that I could place throughout the organisation to be able to help out! Unfortunately, that’s not possible and we’re much less visible to people than I’d like, simply because it’s impossible for us to be out and about all the time. The current challenge I’m facing is – how do you use other means to increase your visibility when you can’t physically be there? I’ve been looking into things like using video for communication between sites as a more engaging and interactive way to reach out to our employees. But with this comes additional challenges like internet access on ships, seasonal staff and different working patterns between employees.


What lies ahead for you over the next 12 months?

An awful lot, actually! I’m working on a huge People & Culture strategy to run alongside our Condor Business Plan for the next 5 years. We’ve also got a huge digitisation project across the business that we’re looking at, and as a P&C team we’re reviewing our processes and making those more robust. We’re also looking at getting an integrated HR system because, believe it or not, we don’t have one at the moment! It will give us the ability to analyse and better understand the internal make up of our workforce, which will be so beneficial.

For me personally, we’re getting a little black lab puppy in the spring time – that’s something really exciting to look forward to in the next 12 months!


What advice would you give your 20 year old self?

I would say: “be yourself”. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you need to be someone else to get a promotion or take that next step, but I don’t think that’s right. You should be yourself because that is good enough.



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