What are the main responsibilities of your role?
BRADFORD: I head up a small team who deal with all of the HR issues for the group. We have just more than 500 staff based in 12 sites across the north-east of England. Jennings Motor Group was formed more than 100 years ago and although it has been a Ford dealer through much of its life, over recent years the business has expanded to include other franchises such as Mazda, Kia and Seat, and now motorbikes, with two Harley-Davidson dealerships, as well as a property division and a Subway sandwich store. It’s a very diverse workforce.
The managing director, Nas Khan, who himself started as a sales executive at Jennings more than 30 years ago, is very keen for all of his key managers to get involved in all aspects of the business, whether or not it would fall naturally into your remit. For me, this is great, as key to any successful HR department is for you to be able to understand the business and why things matter in any given area of it, which, as a consequence, allows us to make good decisions.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
BRADFORD: Along with many businesses, the way people buy has changed dramatically. Due to the internet, customers are much more informed before they enter the showroom or aftersales departments. They can very quickly compare prices and check out reviews online. Customers are becoming more demanding and less willing to accept it if you don’t get it right.
How might these challenges be overcome?
BRADFORD: The only way to actually make a difference and stand out from the crowd is to ensure that whenever we get the opportunity to interact with a customer it has to be outstanding. We have got some great products, and we need people who have the ability to sell their passion over the phone and internet as well as face to face. This obviously has an impact, not only on training of existing staff, but what we look for when recruiting staff and also making sure that the infrastructure is there to support this.
We have always had a policy of recruiting from within where possible, so the development and identification of our future leaders is also another area that is paramount to ensure our future success in a very competitive marketplace.
What attracted you to HR?
BRADFORD: The diversity of the role. I’ve always stayed in an operational HR environment, so you really don’t know what you are going to be dealing with next. There are never two days the same. As a HR manager, I also believe there is a real opportunity to make a difference to the way a company operates and thinks, and the decisions that are made about employment issues have a direct impact on the culture of the company and its reputation.
What is the most important thing you have learned in your career?
BRADFORD: The first thing I was told all those years ago when I first began my career in HR, is that people are your most important asset, and this still applies today. Looking after your employees, giving them a good place to work, listening to what they have to say.
What drives you?
BRADFORD: Being part of a successful business and helping make it a success. I’ve seen the business grow and diversify and that’s very rewarding.
What’s your favourite app?
BRADFORD: Spotify. I have a very eclectic play list.
How do you relax?
BRADFORD: play golf – not always particularly relaxing. I’ve also just bought a greenhouse. I’m not quite self-sufficient but definitely beginning to enjoy the ‘Good Life’ (if you’re old enough to remember that TV sitcom!).