Written by
Tom Ritchie

Published
23 May 2017

Career profile: Rebekah Tapping, group HR director, Personal Group

23 May 2017 • by Tom Ritchie

CV in brief

  • June 2014 – Dec 2014: Interim HR director, Huntingdon Life Sciences
  • Feb 2014 – May 2014: Interim head of HR, Personal Group,
  • 2011 – 2013: Group HR director, Daisy Group
  • 2006 – 2011: Head of HR, TK Maxx

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation.

Personal Group is one of UK’s leading employee services provider. We help UK businesses to improve their productivity through better engagement with their employees through employee services, benefits and insurance products.

I’m responsible for anything people-related, which encompasses just about anything! I’m also responsible for the not so obvious people-related areas such as our fleet, facilities and health and safety.  

 

 

What is the most rewarding and challenging part of your role?

There are three business divisions within Personal Group. There’s the insurance side of our business; Let’s Connect, our salary sacrifice business and our app, Hapi. My role encompasses the whole group, so at any one time, I’m involved in a number of different things, which I love - it’s hugely rewarding to be learning something new every day.

As for the most challenging: same answer - running the HR function for the entire group! Balancing priorities, resources and managing time can be tricky when all three divisions require support at the same time.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m sure everyone says this, but there isn’t a typical day! I could be working with the team on refurbishing our two offices, retendering our Fleet, working with my team managers to establish our focuses for the year, working with one of the managing directors to understand and advise on a challenge or planning bonus objectives and pay reviews.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I worked at Personal Group as an interim HR director for three months. The people were so lovely to work with, and the whole ethos of the company was great – just what I’d been looking for. I felt at home straight away so was delighted to be offered the permanent position.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

The work of an HR department touches on so many different aspects of the day to day business, so it’s vital to have a good understanding of how the business operates commercially, and the challenges and opportunities associated with that. In terms of characteristics, empathy is the most important one – you must be able to really put yourself in the position of the people you’re advising. I also think it helps to be practical, calm and objective to balance what’s right for the business with what’s right for the employees. 

Career path

How did you get to where you are now? Have you followed the career path you expected?

I started out in operational roles in leisure and retail businesses, running cinemas, night clubs and Woolworths stores. I joined HR after a five-year-old boy ran face first into a Woolworths store window and I dealt with the incident.

I actually wanted to stop before I became ‘the’ person managing the whole HR function but one day my boss, the HRD resigned. I took on the role and never looked back. I’d achieved that by the time I was 38 which was much earlier than I expected.

 

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Too many to count!

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I’m most proud of the teams that I’ve built. I take satisfaction in seeing people perform at their full potential. I love building a team of diverse people who bring different skills and experiences to the table.

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Be determined, be prepared to make sacrifices and try to find a supportive mentor who will nurture you through your career.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?  

Stop worrying and don’t place so much importance on what other people think of you!

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? Coffee, I love the smell.
  • Jam or marmalade? Marmalade, I make my own from Seville oranges.
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I can’t get excited about either but I suppose The Beatles!
  • Mac or PC? PC, my brain isn’t wired for a Mac.
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Times, I find it easy to read.
  • BBC or ITV? A tough one, I’d have said BBC for interesting programmes but ITV has been giving them run for their money recently.
  • M&S or Waitrose? Waitrose, we don’t have it ‘up North’ so they’re a novelty and feel a bit posh!
  • Morning or night? I’m a morning person, being up for the gym at 6:00am wins every time.
  • Rain or snow? Snow. I live in Lancashire, I don’t need any more rain in my life!
  • Sweet or savoury? Sweet every time.