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the HRD talks | HR Podcast

Welcome to the HRD talks podcast

the HRD talks is the HR podcast by Actons.

Each episode, Nic Elliott, employment lawyer, talks to HR Directors and People Directors about their journeys into HR, gets their insights into current trends in the world of work and takes their advice on the future of HR and how HR professionals can deliver value and progress their careers.

Do listen and follow or subscribe on your podcast provider, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Music:



Season 2

Episode 3: Dawn Browne, People & Talent Director at Fuller’s

In this episode Dawn Browne, People and Talent Director at Fuller’s talks to Nic as the podcast goes on tour, recording from the Hercules pub in central London!

Dawn shares her career journey, having never intended to work in HR, starting out at British Airways, joining Quantas, then Compass Group, before joining Fuller’s 12 years ago.  Nic asks Dawn about the leadership lessons she learned working with baggage handlers and cabin crew!

Dawn talks about how she fell in love with Fuller’s as a business and progressed to the role of People and Talent Director.  She shares the importance of their business to the local community and the value of great leaders to success.

Nic and Dawn discuss the challenges of significant business change, with Dawn describing how selling the brewing side of the business was managed. Dawn shares how she built a new look people function and developed trust with the operational side of the business.

Dawn also shares how the business approaches its values – and how their people genuinely live and breathe them. Nic asks how Fuller’s have approached the challenge of recruitment and retention.  Dawn specifically focuses on retention as the key to avoiding a recruitment problem.

Dawn talks about “inclusion” and the journey of education and engagement.  She shares details around the businesses’ focus on “age”, seeking to recruit older workers to the sector.  Nic also asks Dawn about her journey as a female in a male-dominated industry.  Dawn describes how being the business’s first female executive has impacted her and the business.

Dawn shares her advice around career progression and her tips for moving towards the top job in a people function, and making it about the success of your business!


Supplier shout-out: JR Comms (Jess Roberts) – Internal Communication and Employee Experience | Jessica Roberts Communications ( and Wage Stream – Financial wellbeing for frontline workers – Wagestream

Dawn’s LinkedIn: Dawn Browne | LinkedIn

Nic’s LinkedIn: Nic Elliott | LinkedIn


Episode 2: Neil Morrison, Group HR Director at Severn Trent

In this episode Neil Morrison Group HR Director at Severn Trent shares his career journey, from the NHS to Argos, through to Penguin Random House Publishing and then Severn Trent.

Neil shares his thoughts on good work, the importance of creating jobs, and organisations looking after their workforce. Neil talks about how Severn Trent have sought to take 100,000 people out of poverty by providing employment or the skills to find jobs elsewhere.

Nic asks Neil about the future of work and Neil predicts that Nic will be replaced by AI! Neil also highlights that the future of work looks different for different parts of the workforce, and cautions us against buying into HR myths!

Neil shares his thoughts on “HR group think” and how he believes we need a data and evidence based approach to the world of work. Neil discusses the challenge of bringing social policy into the workplace and the potential dangers of “bringing your whole self to work”.

Neil talks about “societal impact” and the challenges the water sector has faced in recent years.

Neil talks about the privilege that it is to be an HR professional and shares his advice for those looking to progress in their career.

Neil shares his thoughts on the importance of line managers and the impact they can have on teams. He talks to Nic about the psychological side of managing people and the importance of understanding the impact of actions on an individual and the wider workforce.

Neil and Nic discuss the importance of honest conversations and the value in being able to say sorry!


Supplier shout-out: Workday Peakon –

Neil’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 1: Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health

In this episode Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health shares her career journey, including 20+ years at Tesco and working her way up to her current role at Westfield.

Vicky shares her thoughts on the profession, ranging from “toilet rolls to disciplinaries” and explains her more strategic role as Director of People.  Nic asks Vicky about their success winning best employer awards and the journey towards platinum Investors in People.

Vicky and Nic also discuss the “coaching culture” at Westfield and the focus on wellbeing, keeping in mind the mantra of practicing what they preach!  Nic talks to Vicky about her views on hybrid working, Artificial Intelligence, and the cost of living crisis.

Vicky shares some great advice to HR professionals starting their career and to those looking to take the step up to the People Director.  Vicky also talks about the importance of building a professional network and some tips for doing that well.  Nic and Vicky cover avoiding “HR fads” and ensuring that you are evidence and data based!

Supplier shout-out: Drew Povey 

Vicky’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:



Season 1

Episode 9: Karen Jewell, Director, HR and Organisational Development at Equip UK Technologies Ltd

In this episode, Karen Jewell, Director, HR and Organisational Development at Equip UK Technologies Ltd shares her career journey from HR roles in the energy sector, to HR Director at Derby City Council, to leading the people strategy for the Rab and Lowe Alpine outdoor apparel and equipment performance brands.

Karen talks about her experience at Equip during COVID, taking brave decisions to continue buying and fulfilling orders where others couldn’t, and creating opportunities from the challenges faced at that time.

Nic asks Karen about the extraordinary growth of the Rab and Lowe Alpine brands in the last few years, with turnover reaching in excess of £100 million. Karen explains how the business has also significantly grown its headcount using the strength of their brand, LinkedIn for recruitment, focusing on retention, and utilising their employees as ambassadors.

Karen tells Nic about her approach to wellbeing at Equip, training “wellbeing champions”, signing up to the UK Thrive at Work charter, and partnering with a specialist mental health and wellbeing service for colleagues, taking a proactive approach to the issue.  Karen also shares Equip’s strategy on sustainability and how they have authentically embraced this important issue, becoming climate neutral in 2019, and aiming for net zero by 2030.

Karen gives her honest view on the HR profession and shares her advice for those who might be considering it as a career.  She also explains her views on women in leadership and how best to demonstrate value to the organisation you’re working with.

This episode was recorded at the beginning of 2023.

Supplier shout-out:

Karen’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 8: Pat Woodfield, Executive Group Director, Business Strategy, People & Culture at YMCA Robin Hood Group 

In this episode, Pat Woodfield, Executive Group Director, Business Strategy, People & Culture at YMCA Robin Hood Group shares her career journey from executive personal assistant, to HR Manager, to COO and CEO roles, to Executive HR positions.

Pat talks about the great work the YMCA is doing, including their new site in Newark, the Malt Cross music hall, and the famous caves of Nottingham!

Nic talks to Pat about the changing nature of the people function and what People & Culture actually means at YMCA.  Pat also talks about the challenges of recruitment and retention in the charity sector and the strategies they deploy on that front.  Pat explains that the team has recruited approximately 190 in the last year with more to come!

Nic and Pat talk about the challenges of managing PR risks in the modern workplace and the rapid pace of change. Pat advocates for the generalist HR role and the importance of a good network of contacts and the benefits of utilising a coach.

Pat also shares her advice to HR professionals starting their careers and senior HR professionals working in an executive team.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier Shout Out: Employee benefits specialist in Surrey and London UK (

Pat’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 7: Charlotte Coore, Head of People & Culture at 200 Degrees & Zoe Ogden, People Director at Impression

In this episode, recorded back in March 2023 on International Women’s Day, Charlotte Coore, Head of People & Culture at 200 Degrees Coffee and Zoë Ogden, People Director at Impression share their career journey in HR and experience working in rapidly growing SME businesses.  

Zoë and Charlotte talk about the differences between working in larger corporates and smaller SMEs and the challenges of working in a standalone HR role.  They also share the challenges of being female and operating at a senior level within an organisation.

Zoë talks about the generational differences in how employees are viewing work and how the world of work has evolved post COVID.  Charlotte talks about the importance of colleagues sharing about their mental health, the wellbeing agenda, and how businesses can adapt to have a positive impact on their people’s lives.

Zoë also talks about the benefit of pay transparency and the benefits Impression have seen from taking an open approach to pay and retention.  Charlotte and Zoë also share the advice they would give to their younger selves starting out in their HR career.


We hope you enjoy this episode!


Supplier Shout Outs and


Zoë’s LinkedIn:ë-ogden-56395258/

Charlotte’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 6: Adam Dilks, Group people Director at Nightcap Plc

In this episode Adam Dilks, Group People Director at Nightcap Plc shares his career journey in HR from a training scheme at Tesco, to his current role helping Nightcap achieve its goal of becoming the leading late night bar group.  He claims it’s not just about the cocktails!

Adam tells Nic about the entrepreneurial approach at Nightcap, led by Sarah Willingham (ex-dragon’s den,) and how they are focusing on delivering their belief that “everyone deserves a great night out”.  Adam contrasts the “oil tanker” nature of large corporates and how he’s enjoying being at a “jet ski” business.

Nic talks to Adam about how the hospitality sector are embracing inclusivity, managing the transient nature of their workforce, and giving their people a great experience of work.  Adam explains how employers can’t operate in the same way anymore and how employee expectations have changed, and how recruitment is like dating!  

Adam also touches on technology, AI, and how employers can use that well and not be afraid of change.  Nic asks Adam about his thoughts on equality, diversity and inclusion and Adam shares his internal “why” that drives him to focus on inclusion and how that avoids it being tokenistic. 

Nic and Adam also debate whether the Dragons on Dragons’ Den were judges or just “the Dragons”!

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Adam’s LinkedIn

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 5: Ben Horner, HR Director at Boots UK & ROI & NO7

In this episode Ben Horner HR Director, Boots UK & ROI and No7 shares his experience from nearly 20 years at the company.

Nic talks to Ben about his transition from the Boots legal team to the role of HR Director and the challenges he faced taking on that role during a global pandemic!

Ben shares a variety of initiatives Boots have introduced relating to menopause and disability, designed to support their team members and customers alike. 

Ben shares his advice for HR professionals starting their career, as well as those looking to advance it, and gives his ‘supplier shout out’ to an organisation he has worked closely with and is supported by Boots – Business in the Community.

This episode was recorded in April 2023.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier shout out:
Business in the Community – Business in the Community (

Ben’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn: 


Episode 4: Maria Hawley, Director of People at Fisher German

In this episode, Maria shares her journey from selling underwear on a market stall, to a career in nursing, through to building a successful career in human resources, working at law firm Nabarros, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and eventually her current role as Director of People at Fisher German LLP.

Nic and Maria also discuss Maria’s recent success winning “HR Leader of the Year 2023” at the British HR Awards, and the importance of Maria’s team in supporting that success.  Maria talks about the diverse nature of the work Fisher German carries out and the challenges of managing people issues in the professional services sector.  Maria also discusses the challenges of attracting and retaining talent in their business and some of the initiatives they have set up to address this.


Maria shares her thoughts on current trends in the world of work like the 4 day working week, the impact of social media and press coverage on employers managing people issues, and the importance of treating departing employees with kindness and compassion, to ensure they are ambassadors for your organisation.

Nic asks Maria why she is such a prolific user of LinkedIn, the benefits that she finds that brings, and why there aren’t more HR leaders visible on social media.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier shout out:
WorkLife Central

Maria’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 3: Andrew Stephenson, Chief People Officer at Equiniti

In this episode Andy talks to Nic about his journey from selling TVs in Currys into the People Director roles at some of the UK’s most recognisable brands.

Andy shares his views on how the world of work has changed post COVID and how employers must adapt to new ways of attracting, developing and retaining talent. Nic talks to Andy about building successful teams and the importance of transparency in the area of reward and career progression.


Andy discusses his work in the area of customer experience while at the retailer DFS and his resulting academic research into the impact of net promoter score on sales.  Andy also shares his thoughts on how the HR profession can simplify things for managers operating in a business and the importance of “taking things away” rather than simply adding a never ending list of new HR initiatives.

Andy talks to Nic about Equiniti’s emphasis on customer focus, leadership, and a relentless focus on employee engagement.  Nic and Andy finish with some thoughts on the importance of wellbeing and advice from Andy on how people professionals can progress their careers.

 We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier shout out:
Workday – Workday Enterprise Management Cloud | Finance, HR, Planning, Spend

Armstrong Craven – Research-driven Talent Solutions | Armstrong Craven

Andy’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 2: Jane Rawden, People Director at Teal Transformations Ltd

In this episode Jane, People Director at Teal Transformations Ltd,  shares insights with Nic from her wide experience, having worked at Babcock, in professional services, Awbery Management and Bistrot Pierre.  Jane contrasts her experience of working “in-house” as a People Director with a role operating as a consultant supporting a diverse range of clients.

Nic and Jane discuss the importance of leadership and openness, and consider the new world for employers post COVID, where expectations have been reset and things have become challenging and more complex for employers.  Jane shares some thoughts on her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic working as an HR Director in the hospitality sector, managing 26 restaurants at Bistro Pierre.  Nic talks to Jane about her views on the future of the HR profession and Jane shares her tips for people professionals progressing in their career.

Jane reminds us to be kind to ourselves and gives her ‘supplier shout out’ to Raise the Bar – Leadership and Management Development.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier shout out:  
Raise the Bar – Leadership and Management Development

Jane’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:


Episode 1: Sarah Taylor, People & Culture Director at Staffline plc

In this episode Sarah Taylor, People and Culture Director at Staffline plc, shares her experience of working at BAE Systems, Boots, Carlsberg and most recently Staffline, who currently engage approximately 40,000 workers every day across the UK and Ireland.  In a comprehensive review of the world of work, Nic and Sarah discuss the importance of leading people well, shaping a people strategy, and creating a culture of success.  


Sarah also shares the challenges of the recruitment sector, Staffline’s purpose of “enabling people into good work”, becoming the UK’s most trusted recruiter, and giving people the best possible experience of work.  Sarah also talks about the importance of targeted data for HR teams, team development, and gives her shout out to ‘Thrive’ learning & skills platform and ‘Matthew Radley & Associates’ coaching consultancy.

We hope you enjoy this episode!

Supplier Shout Out:

Matthew Radley & Associates

Sarah’s LinkedIn:

Nic’s LinkedIn:

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