This month we meet up with Tina Lewis, the Director of People and Legal at National Trust. We talk to her about the challenges of working in such a large and diverse organisation such as the National Trust and her biggest achievements to date.

What is your HR background?

I started in operational roles, but I genuinely enjoyed working with people and a line manager suggested I should consider a career in HR. I started in a change management roles, before becoming a HR generalist. I also spent 10 years developing and leading development events.

I quickly discovered I was good at strategy and leading teams and so it made sense to consider moving into HRD roles.

I’ve now been a HRD for around 15 years and I love the variety and challenge that the role brings.

What does your Director of HR role at National Trust entail?

My remit is broad (which I love). I’m part of the Executive team and I’m responsible for HR operations, Learning and Development, HR Business Partnering, as well as volunteering at the Trust too.

We have over 13,000 staff and over 63,500 volunteers. I’m also responsible for our central office facilities, as well as our large in house legal team too. So, everyday is different and it’s always busy!

When you look at your career to date what has been your biggest achievement?

I’m incredibly proud of the progress my team and I have made over the last eight years, to improve the level of engagement of our volunteers and staff.

It was lovely to see our progress recognised over the last few years in the Best Companies awards for the Times Top 100 Not for Profit organisations to work for. 

What’s the biggest difference you’ve made in your role to date?

I think it’s that my team and I have helped our teams feels more confident and capable. It’s important to me that our people feel they can do their roles with ease and confidence. We’re also just starting a big programme to become a more relevant and diverse organisation – this is a big challenge for us, but the level of enthusiasm and commitment feels exciting.

What are the challenges of working in a business like the National Trust?

Just the sheer breadth of what the Trust does means I constantly have to consider how my team and I prioritise where we can add the most value – be it organising training for bat experts or helping our property teams feel confident with new IT systems, it’s all endlessly fascinating, so focus is important!

With such a diverse talent pool in your business how do you engage, motivate and develop your staff?

Many of our staff and volunteers are passionate about the work we do, so we have high levels of engagement. But we don’t take it for granted, we work hard to communicate well and regularly and ensure there’s good two way communication.

We conduct an annual staff/volunteer survey and we act on the feedback. All of the Executive team are visible, actively communicate and support our people strategy. We invest in our people and have a well communicated people strategy.

Your business has a huge volume of volunteers what challenges does that bring to your HR strategy?

We’re privileged to have so many volunteers, but it does mean we have to really think through how we communicate our strategy and plans ensuring they’re clear, compelling and easy to access as not everyone has access to email, or even a pc. It focuses your mind! 

How do you measure the success of your strategy?

In many ways. We have a suite of key performance indicators (KPIs), covering financial, conservation, relevance indicators, as well as people KPIs. We review these regularly and course correct when needed.

For someone who is stepping into a Director of HR role for the first time, what 3 pieces of advice would you give them?

  1. Understand things from your customer’s perspective – what pressures are they under, what do they need from you, how can you help them achieve their plans. If you can see things from their perspective you’re likely to deliver a better solution.
  2. Trust your tummy – you’re likely to be right
  3. Be confident in yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff – an odd mistake here and there is not going to ruin your career!

If you would like to register your interest for our next HR Roundtable event on March 24th 2020 at Kings College London please sign up with your details here.


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