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How I got here: Steve Rockey, Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group

Steve Rockey, people director at Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group, shares his tips for a successful career in HR.

People director, Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group, January 2017 – Present

My first hotel business has taught me so much. It’s founder-led and entrepreneurial and ticks all my boxes. The role has taught me the power of sticking to your values, no matter what. We furloughed and created internal furlough programmes to retain all of the team with no redundancies. It’s all smiles and handshakes when things are going well but you really find out what your culture is made of when it’s not.  


People consultant and founder, Esoteric HR, April 2016 – December 2016

I decided to go out and consult again and really enjoyed meeting lots of different businesses. It was stressful, but I really enjoyed helping various businesses with their plans. I learnt there are lots of great businesses that can lose sight of what makes them special, and helping them to codify that was really great.  


Head of people, Big Easy Restaurants, May 2015 – April 2016

I wanted to get back into building a restaurant business. The timing was perfect and I love BBQ food. We opened an enormous restaurant, nearly doubling headcount overnight.  


Sabbatical/HR consultancy work, October 2014 – May 2015

My first dabble in some consultancy work which I really enjoyed and helped build my confidence that I could, if I wanted to, explore this more in the future. I learnt there is an opportunity to help small businesses with people plans to help their future growth so I banked that for the future.  


Head of people, Byron, December 2011 – September 2014

I made a ton of mistakes along the way, but really enjoyed leading the team, creating a strategy and executing it to more than double the size of the business nationally. We created everything from scratch: recruitment, values, rewards and benefits, growth and succession plans and training. This is the role I will always look back on to benchmark culture and values of any business and cemented my love of growth business.  


HR manager, Pizza Express, December 2005 – December 2011

I spent six years at Pizza Express starting as employee relations manager learning all about hard-nosed employee relations and employment tribunals, attending lots, learning all about employment law and representing the business at a few of them. I figured if I could master employee relations, the rest would be easy.  


HR executive, Compass Group, July 1999 – October 2005

I graduated and joined Compass as an on-site HR officer at the Millennium Dome cutting my teeth in admin, recruitment, ER and lots of HR processes. Looking back my six years in Compass were the foundations to build everything else on having learnt all aspects of generalist HR.  


Top three career tips:

  1. When considering a role, if it’s not a yes, then it’s a no. Always work in, or help to create, a business that you would want to work in. As the people person if you don’t want to work there, then the chances are that no one else will either. 
  2. If it’s not right, it’s wrong. Never be afraid of standing by what you think (or know) and never compromise your values for the business you work in. 

  3.  Cool your jets. Take time to understand the business, how it works and what makes it tick – without that you won’t be able to accomplish half of what you want to do or could really achieve.


The full piece of the above appears in the January/February 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.