HRD to... deputy CEO: Jo Land

We asked former HRDs how and why they moved into roles at the top

"I was HRD as part of the executive team when the organisation recognised that the social care agenda required our chief executive to have quite an external view. So he was looking at much longer-term horizons. That meant the organisation didn’t have a point that things came to before him.

It was also becoming apparent he couldn’t do everything he was invited to do. So it was an opportunity for the organisation to create that second level of CEO. The idea was the person who got it would carry on doing their core role. I think some organisations really silo HR roles. I’m very lucky that in my career with Avenues Group I’ve been able to do a lot of things outside of HR. I’ve been involved in governance, due diligence in mergers...

I coach a couple of HR people, and one of the things I always say to them is: if you feel you’re honing too closely try to widen out a bit. I took up a role as treasurer of the Charities HR Network deliberately because I know if I can avoid finance I will. I took up a role as chair of another small charity; I wanted to understand governance and the other side of the table.

I think it’s a confidence thing and because HR has been the poor relation in the past. The chief operating officer and finance director are sort of automatically promoted. HR is only just getting to grips with measuring the ROI for good HR practice. I think that will take us one step closer.

There is an element of HR wanting to stay on the side of championing the employee voice and holding the organisation to account. In some difficult conversations I’ve been in I find myself reverting to almost devil’s advocate. So you’re a critical friend to the board.

I’m very happy with my role at Avenues currently, but I suppose in terms of my next steps I think there’s probably a CEO role out there for me. I’m not sure it would be the right thing for Avenues. If in the future the organisation were to use a change in leadership to reinvigorate and redirect itself then I’m not the person for that. Equally if the opportunity came up to do an HR role in another organisation I certainly wouldn’t rule it out."

Jo Land is deputy CEO and director of OD at Avenues Group

Further reading

Your organisation needs you: HRD to CEO

HRD to... third sector CEO: Jon Sparkes

HRD to... private sector MD: Esther O'Halloran

Check back over the next few days for more examples of those who've made the switch