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How I got here: David Wilkinson, Premier Foods

David Wilkinson, group HR and communications director at Premier Foods gives his tips for a successful career in HR.

Group HR and communications director, Premier Foods, April 2014 – Present

2014 was an important time for Premier Foods, with a new CEO intent on addressing some of the big strategic issues that had been holding the business back. This included an increased desire to modernise the people agenda. I was appointed to lead the HR team and since then we have made huge changes to the organisation, which you can now see reflected in colleague engagement levels, and ultimately the strong business results.  


HR director, Hovis, Premier Foods, January 2013 – March 2014

As part of the Premier Foods family at the time, my role at Hovis was as a divisional HRD which felt like a sensible next career step on the way to eventually being able to take on a bigger and broader role.  


Director of HR support/group HR manager, Premier Foods, June 2007 – December 2012

I returned to the food industry – right where I wanted to be. We’d just acquired RHM and Campbell’s and so initially it was a crash course in cultural cohesion. The HR agenda for a long time became all around restructure, reorganisation and trying to ‘right-size’ the business. It was a pretty tough time I have to say and required a massive amount of determination and resilience.  


Head of HR, Renault UK, October 2002 – June 2007

Renault put me back into a more generalist HR role while giving me experience in a new industry. I joined when the business had just entered into a strategic alliance with Nissan. The biggest challenge was two very different cultures coming together, but I certainly learnt a great deal”. 


Head of learning and development/management development manager, Nestle UK, October 2000 – October 2002

My first experience working in a business with large international brands and I enjoyed my time there. It was a very well-run business and lovely environment to be in. My passion lies in the food business and I gained valuable experience as head of L&D. After two years I felt the need to move back into a broader and more dynamic HR role.  


General manager – training and brand standards/regional HR manager, Granada, September 1997 – October 2000

I joined Granada in the late 1990s – at a time when a whole raft of new employment legislation had come in – and it was a fast-paced, full-on environment. It was tough going, a real culture shock, but exactly what I needed to stretch me and broaden my HR and business skill set.  


Top three career tips: 

  1. Be flexible and open to opportunities – sector, geography, specialism – even if they don’t obviously fit with the plan you have in mind. Sometimes the least expected roles can lead to really meaningful stretch and personal growth.
  2. Be authentic and be yourself – don’t try to be somebody you are not. Find a role that works well with your personal values and where you look forward to the day ahead. That is when you’ll be your best.
  3. Be curious and always open to learning – businesses change fast, you need to have a learning mindset.


This piece appears in the May/June 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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