Meet the team

We talk to each other all the time so we thought you’d like to put some faces to our names. In order of appearance…

Bill left his corporate life as HR Director for Coca-Cola's UK operations in 2000 to form HRR Solutions Ltd providing HR consultancy to companies such as BT, Cadbury, Office Depot, Bakkavor etc, Bill set up the first on-line HR system, myHRdept.co.uk, in 2002 to assist SMEs with their HR needs. He has extensive employee relations, trade union and consultation/change experience, is an expert on employment law and is an SHL certified assessor. Find out more about Bill here.
Let's Get Personal

Bill Larke

Director

Catherine formally joined Bill as a co-director of myHRdept in 2005. Having started her career in generalist roles in a variety of sectors including opencast mining, automotive, legal, heavy industry and FMCG (Coca Cola) she later specialised in Reward Management at Rank Hovis McDougall (famous for Hovis). Catherine is CIPD qualified with a post graduate diploma in HRM, is a Hay trained job evaluator and an ACAS certified mediator.

Catherine Larke

Director

Jess joined myHRdept in 2015 as our first ER Adviser. Her experience dealing with complex ER issues in top end retail (Harrods, Selfridges) proved invaluable to us and our clients. She has recently taken on her new role assisting clients to develop their HR agendas. Jess has a first class honours degree in HRM.
Let's Get Personal

Jessica Whelan

Head of HR Services

After a 12 year career as an employment solicitor Jane left private practice to provide employment law specialist tutoring for CIPD students. Jane joined the team in 2016 since when she's put her encyclopaedic knowledge of employment law to very good use.

Jane Lister

ER Adviser

Hilary joined us as an HR Officer in 2017 to build on her already extensive ER knowledge gained at KFC, Yum! but was soon promoted to ER Adviser. She works with clients across industries, regularly attends client sites and is our resident expert on illegal working. She was appointed to her current ER Adviser role in early 2018.

Hilary Beckett

ER Adviser

Olivia joined us in September 2018 as the latest step in her HR career, having previously worked for Birds Eye, Perfetti van Melle (Chupa Chups), Amazon and SAP. She has an MSc in International Human Resource Management, having graduated with Commendation.

Olivia Townsend

ER Adviser

Chanelle joined us in February 2019. She was previously responsible for recruiting retail staff at London Heathrow and prior to that worked as a paralegal specialising in childcare and mental health. She has a law degree and LPC and is currently studying for her CIPD Level 5.

Chanelle Dadral

HR Administrator

Emma joined just one week after Chanelle bringing a wealth of experience gained in the hospitality, security and technology service sectors. Emma is CIPD qualified.

Emma Dozier

HR Administrator

Actually the longest serving member of the team after Bill and Catherine (10 years dog and puppy) and by far the most demanding member, rescue dog Stig specialises in featuring in Facebook posts (always our most popular!) ball catching, growling at visitors and staring intently at anyone with food. Stig picked our current office premises on the basis that there is plenty of room to chase balls!

Stig

Bill Larke
Director

How did myHRdept happen?

It all started in the Swan Uppers pub in Cookham! A friend was Finance Director of a large membership organisation, and they wanted their members, mostly small business owners, to have cost effective access to HR advice and documents, employment contracts etc. That was back in 2002, and I’d not long left Coca-Cola my corporate career. I looked at the market for HR support for smaller business and there wasn’t much choice – lawyers, call centres, insurance-type products. I decided that it would be fulfilling to use my big company experience to help smaller business along. That still gives me a buzz, 16 years on – and I’ve learnt an awful lot more in that time too.

Tell me about the biggest change that you’ve had to deal with whilst growing the business, what did you adapt to make the change

Like most small businesses the biggest step change was taking on staff. Initially myHRdept was just me, then Catherine and I together, as husband and wife. We took on our first employee in 2011 I think when we relaunched myHRdept in the format it is today. Now we employ 10 with another starting on Monday. The biggest change was learning to trust other people, and learning that I couldn’t do everything myself. Recruiting talented people certainly helps with that journey, and I’ve always set out to look for motivated intelligent people with a great knowledge of employment law.

Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?

This happens almost daily, and my role now involved working with the CEOs and owners of our larger clients. I don’t seek to tell them how to run their businesses but I do profess to have a lot of experience of hundreds of businesses, and I have a decent feel for what works and what might not, and that’s not just in people matters. When it comes to people issues though, I try and encourage clients to put themselves into their employee’s situations. It’s long been a principle of mine to treat people how I would like to be treated, and I don’t think that’s a bad principle for any manager of people.

Tell me about the toughest decision you had to make in your career

Every time I have to restructure or close a business with job losses it’s tough, but I always try and approach things as honestly and fairly as possible and encourage clients to do the same. Actually the most difficult decision I made in my career though was to give up my career, my corporate one at least. At aged 30 I was already at Director level in Coca-Cola, providing HR support to some 3,000 and enjoying all the trappings that went with it. I’d been offered promotion again and I knew that I was on a path to a highly successful and very lucrative corporate career, but somehow it just didn’t feel like me. Giving it all up to start my own business wasn’t an easy decision though, and was made no easier by my simultaneously needing heart surgery and going through a divorce!

If you could describe your team in three words, what would they be and why?

I don’t think I could find 3 words that would do them justice! Catherine and I have a team of highly experienced highly capable people most importantly we like each and every one of them. It doesn’t feel like the political world we used to occupy, it’s more like a family, albeit a very hard working one. There’s the 3 words then, capable; experienced, family!

What are the three things most important to you in your work life?

You’re obsessed with 3s! I alluded in my last question to one important factor which is to have a non-political environment. It’s also very important to have client relationships we enjoy. Lastly I think it’s the challenge of being able to make a positive difference to a client’s business. A lot of business people don’t have a clue what HR is about and doubt it can influence the bottom line….when they work with myHRdept they learn how to effect much needed change more quickly, how to recruit retain better people, how to ensure they have an effective structure and how to optimise employee performance. For some of our clients we effectively carry out a ‘Non Executive Director’ type function and when that relationship forms it is enormously satisfying.

If you weren’t one of the Directors of myHRdept what would you be doing if you could?

Part of me wants to be walking the paths of Mallorca with Catherine and Stig the dog, learning to sail a boat and relaxing in the sun, but I know that I would miss working and the rewards (the non financial ones) that working brings. My ideal world I suppose combines both of these things. Having just turned 50 I think I’m too young to retire, but after 30 years of hard graft I think the time to readjust the work-life balance a bit is not too many years off, and it would be ideal, Brexit permitting, if that involved some time in the Balearics, where we’ve been holidaying for nearly 20 years.

Jessica Whelan​
Head of HR Services

Tell me how you ended up in your current role with myHRdept.

I decided, after having my first child, to take a step back from the London commuter life. I was with Harrods at the time and the journey was pretty gruelling to and from work. As scary as it was, I decided to set up as an independent HR consultant and attended a number of networking meetings (that I always found very uncomfortable). From that I undertook a number of fixed price projects but one day received an email from Catherine, myHRdept’s Director. I met both Directors for an initial chat where they talked about their business and plans for the future. It sounded very interesting and something I was keen to be a part of. Now nearly 4 years later there is no looking back. It’s a fantastic place to work. I started initially as an ER advisor, progressing to HR Manager and then into the role of Head of HR Services. Naturally my roles have evolved as the business has grown.

How does this role or Company differ from your previous roles?

This role encompasses all facets of HR. I have previously specialised in the contentious side of HR (employee relations) and worked alongside other HR specialists. Now however my role focuses on achieving more strategic alignment and to work on proactive value add projects for our clients. Depending on our clients’ needs I wear different hats which is great because in any one day no skill is left unused.

The Company differs in the sense that it is in no way corporate or political. We are a family here. It is solution focused and extremely commercial which is fantastic as it allows us to really add value to our clients.

What three words would you use to describe your role?

Stimulating, satisfying and ever-evolving

What have your biggest professional challenges been?

My background was in retail. Unfortunately, I have had to undertake a number of large-scale redundancies requiring collective consultation and numerous closures. Logistically as well as emotionally these require great planning, training and timely execution. It is imperative that you remember your actions are impacting people’s lives and train your supporting management team to ensure it runs smoothly for all. If you become too detached from this you will lose what it means to be an effective HR professional.

I would also add that in HR it is imperative that you get to know your client base incredibly well. The purpose of our role is primarily to advise and safeguard but to be effective at this you have to have fantastic interpersonal skills in order to influence when required. (If you can’t influence then you must be fantastic at providing plan B and C to provide further protection to your clients).

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional?

My career to date and my children are of course up there but I suppose something that shows my personality a tad is that at the age of 15 I was awarded a bravery award from the Metropolitan police. A young man attempted to mug me but my stupid reaction was to start punching him as hard as I could and to hang on to him. He did stab me with a screw driver (no vital organs hurt) but by some sheer luck I took his number plate and recognised someone in the car with him. This resulted in a court hearing and conviction. (I am very determined and a tad feisty)

Describe a situation where you needed to persuade someone to see things your way. What steps did you take? What were the results?

This case involved a client who had received a complaint of racial abuse and threatening conduct from one employee against another that was witnessed by the whole team. The accused had long service and was a friend of the owner. The owner was hoping a disciplinary warning would suffice and that this whole matter would mend itself. Unfortunately, with matters such as breaches of dignity at work it isn’t so easy to appease. The conduct was so severe that it did constitute gross misconduct. If the client had left the accused in situ then they faced a risk of constructive dismissal (the complainant had over 2 years’ service). I advised the client of their options and associated risks and eventually the client came to the right decision for his business which was to dismiss.

Tell me about the toughest decision you’ve had to make in your career?

I have 2……. The first being that I decided 4 years into my HR career to specialise in Employee Relations (ER). All of my seniors advised me to stay generalist for at least 10 but I loved employment law and always found ER to be like playing chess. Most of my peers disliked ER too which I think is what made me love it all the more. Some said it was risky to pigeon hole myself but actually each and every career move I have made has been fantastic and all have added value to my in-depth ER knowledge. Secondly, making the decision to leave the corporate blue-chip shiny world and enter self-employed stand alone. When I made the decision to do this it was either going to make or break my career. It is one I was glad I make as I really have benefitted. Since joining myHRdept I feel I have found my happy place, being a support function for numerous entities who like to try and test me on a daily basis is what makes me tick.

What are the three things most important to you in your work life?

Having a team ethic, a supply of biscuits and coffee and client rapport.

If you weren’t working as Head of HR Services for myHRdept what would you be doing?

I love people and understanding what makes them tick so I would retrain as a Criminal psychologist. Always fancied myself as a Dr of sorts.

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