The Big Interview with Lena Elliot

Lena Elliott is HR Director at Buhler Group.

For our latest Big Interview, she spoke with Rosie Jenkins about how she got into HR and some of the human resources challenges created by the pandemic.

How did you get into HR?

Getting into HR was a conscious decision.

I started my career as a Consultancy Secretary at Ovum, a telecommunications company, working closely with the Senior Consultants and the MD.

Part of my role was to manage the sickness absence and holidays for all employees, this was the part of my duties I most enjoyed, so I decided to study for my CIPD, which I self-funded and attended university two evenings a week.

At this point, I knew I wanted to progress in my career in HR.

While studying for my qualification I looked for a role in HR and managed to secure a role with Alcatel as an HR Administrator and continued to work in various industries including local government, not-for-profit, and private and public sectors.

Through this, I was able to progress in my HR career and build on my experience as an HR Generalist.

Did you or do you specialise at all?

I did consider specialising, but I really enjoy the nature and variety that generalist HR offers and the unknown of what you may be involved with from one day to the next.

I have worked in Senior HR Generalist roles for large corporates and SMEs in global and UK roles, partnering with client groups in up to 15 countries while working for GE and working on a number of challenging projects including mergers and acquisitions, introducing flexible benefits platform in the UK involving all UK GE Businesses, which totalled 18,000 employees.

I have also more recently led a project on introducing a new benefits platform at Buhler for 350 employees.

I was also part of a project team that introduced an Ulrich Model (18,000 employees), job mapping and legal entity changes while at GE (for circa 5,000).

One of my major achievements as an HR Generalist was to set up the entire HR function for Paddy Power in the UK.

On many occasions, I have been involved with advising or leading employee relation cases, change management and implementing compensation and benefit salary grading structure.

In terms of industries, I have worked in IT, telecommunication, recruitment, construction, the betting industry, charity, insurance, healthcare, transportation, energy and now manufacturing as a HR Director for Buhler, which is food manufacturing/digital technology.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your HR delivery?

Covid presented many challenges which meant HR needed to find quick and effective solutions during this time.

I put forward a recommendation for Buhler to be an early adopter of the hybrid model following the pandemic.

There is an added complication as Buhler is a food (among other types of manufacturing) organisation meaning that it has multi-sites across the UK with both office and manufacturing facilities to take into consideration.

The challenge for HR is ensuring the way we communicate and roll out HR policies strikes the right balance for the employee populations and business needs and to continuously review to ensure it offers an effective way of working for employees and the best outcome for the business.

The ongoing challenge for hybrid working is to continuously review whether it remains beneficial for the business, and should this change while taking into consideration how this impacts employee engagement, flexibility and employee retention.