In June, HR magazine presented Waters with the accolade of HR director of the year 2009, after being voted for by the majority of her industry peers.
Waters is one of the pioneers in the adoption of innovative approaches to workforce management and her enthusiasm for the benefits of work-life balance are unrivalled. She has been unflagging in her efforts to demonstrate that flexible working is good for business.
Her understanding of the implications of an ageing workforce meant she was an obvious choice to be the first chair of the advisory board of the Ageing Lab, launched earlier this year by Nesta, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts. BT is a leading employer when it comes to an ageing workforce and was awarded an international innovative employer award by not-for-profit membership organisation AARP in 2008 in recognition of its employment practices towards older workers. The company's youngest employee is 16 and oldest 75, marking an age gap of nearly 60 years.
But it is Waters' activity in relation to care that really marked her out in 2008. A long-time supporter of the need for employers to play a role in helping employees with caring responsibilities, she chairs the new Employers for Carers membership forum. It is supported by Carers UK and is designed to deliver hands-on advice to employers about supporting the UK's three million working carers. She is also a passionate campaigner on the issue and has gained the ear of politicians from all parties.
Despite a spate of high profile redundancies at BT as the group restructures, Waters has also spoken out about the need to be mindful of not targeting people who have 'different' working practices in order to reduce costs in the recession. "Working smarter and more flexibly is essential during difficult times. It makes business sense to keep skilled and experienced employees and avoid the costs or recruitment and retraining later," she has said. "Whether the economic climate is good or bad, it does not change the fact that we have a rapidly ageing population and that caring responsibilities are going to grow."
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