Introduction and Biography

Catherine Macdonald is an HR leader with over 25 years’ experience and is currently the Head of People at Harworth Group plc – listed on the London Stock Exchange and with one of the strongest people strategies in the Yorkshire region.

Gaining her CIPD and early years’ experience at Tesco, and she has also worked at Pizza Hut and has overseen the headcount double at Harworth Group during her time there. We enjoy working with Catherine and always enjoy talking – learning from her views on EDI, ESG and employee wellbeing. Delighted to have the opportunity to share her views with our wider network.

What is your personal story? How have you reached the position of HRD? What can others learn from your experiences?

I did an English and Drama degree and had dreams of working in the arts behind the scenes. I worked as a Television Researcher in my first year after university. I spent time on This Morning and for Action Time who made You’ve Been Framed. However, I had a realisation that it wasn’t the right “world” for me and to be honest I really didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I turned up at the Graduate Milk Round and interviewed all of the people on every stand to find out what they offered someone like me. I was drawn to retail and in particular Tesco. Their graduate scheme trained you in all the store disciples and you then made your choice at the end of the programme where you wanted to specialise, which was perfect for me. I was immediately drawn to HR, liking the variety and scope of the role. I spent 8 years at Tesco, first in stores, then regional roles and finally in HR project teams at Head Office. Tesco taught me my craft and put me through my CIPD. I then worked at Pizza Hut as Organisation Change manager, which was a fabulous young dynamic company. In my first month they sent me to Disney University in Florida for a week!

Then I took a few years out to be a mum. I got back into HR work doing some consultancy work and a few other part time roles.

I have been at Harworth for 5 years now, initially joining on a 3 day a week contract for 6 months. Harworth has gone from strength to strength and it is a fantastic place to work. My role has grown along with Haworth’s. We have doubled the number of people, expanded our geography into 2 new regions and have ambitious targets for growth.

I would say don’t be closed in your options –you never know where life will take you. Work hard, build good relationships and be true to yourself, that will take you a long way in HR.

How do you think employers should define an excellent EDI strategy?

EDI is a challenge for all employers but I think it is great that it is now firmly on the agenda. There are many very good reasons driving this from tackling a broad range of societal inequalities, to creating sustainable value for communities, to spreading economic prosperity, but most fundamentally it is the right thing to do.

Harworth has a diversity and inclusion policy and people in the business are committed to recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce. However, the diversity policies that most property businesses have, do not seem to be translating into more representative workforces. We need to stand back and ask ourselves questions such as: Do we properly understand what people – particularly young people - are interested in when considering a career?  And are we putting out the right messages and reaching the right audiences? The built environment is part of every community, but are we visible as an industry in all those communities and demonstrating our work?

I would say the key is to be open and ensure your strategy has buy-in at senior level. If we are honest, we all have work to do in this area and I see it as being about education and communication. We are revisiting our ED&I policy this year and will refresh our training for everyone with an added emphasis on inclusion. This year we are also strengthening our links with local schools. It would be great to think we can play a part in broadening the horizons and creating opportunities for young people.

What are the biggest changes on people strategies that have been accelerated over the last year?

We are in a period of growth at Harworth and our people strategy is focused on getting the best talent and new skills to support our growth plans. It is a hot market for talent out there and we have reviewed all of our policies to ensure we retain our talent as well attract the best out there too.

Tell us about Catherine Macdonald outside of the world of work

I have been married 22 years and we have 2 teenage girls.

We built our own house which was a labour of love but I am very proud of what we have. I enjoy all things musical theatre, being outdoors and getting out on my electric bike which was definitely my best lockdown purchase!

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