Interview with Alison Dalley, head of reward at Fujitsu Services

Alison Dalley, head of reward at Fujitsu Services, has a wealth of reward experience and is now keen to tackle the pension challenges thrown up by the recession.

For Alison Dalley, head of reward at Fujitsu Services, HR is in the blood. Her father pursued an HR career in the cosmetics industry and, once she left university, Dalley followed in his footsteps.

As part of an industrial placement at IBM, Dalley took part in a graduate HR rotation programme, an experience she says was invaluable in preparing her for the years ahead. “The best thing I did was work in the payroll team, despite it seeming like the worst idea at the time,” she says. “You see everything in payroll. I would say it is a good place for people in HR to start.”

Dalley first tasted reward when acting as a benchmarking consultant for a salary and benefits review at IBM, and has worked in compensation and benefits ever since.

After a 17-year stint at IBM, where she ultimately managed the UK compensation and benefits function before taking on an international remit, Dalley was headhunted by Sun Microsystems. The move brought a new set of challenges. “I went from a company that was in control of what it was doing [around] compensation and benefits to one at the opposite end of the spectrum. Sun decided it needed to focus on reward.”

IBM’s size and framework had somewhat limited what Dalley could initiate personally, but Sun’s less rigid structure allowed her to have a more strategic influence. As international total rewards manager, she was responsible for co-ordinating all regional activities of the firm’s global reward function. This involved ensuring the globalisation of benefits processes worked for each of the 10 countries within her remit.

Dalley believes employers have slowly come to recognise the impact reward professionals have on business performance. “Some people still have old-fashioned views about how valuable HR is, but the more enlightened fully understand reward has very much got a strategic place around the table and drives employee behaviour,” she says.

It was her desire to have a greater impact on the business that led Dalley to join Fujitsu Services, which was keen to utilise her global reward experience. “The role attracted me because it was much more commercially focused, which brought me closer to the front line in terms of business,” she says.

Now managing a team of 23 staff, Dalley takes great pride in developing those around her. “I absolutely revel in people that work for me displaying new talents,” she says. “That sends me home with a smile on my face.”

She has also invested a lot of time in turning a UK-centric reward function into a far more internationally-oriented one. “Rather than inventing something for the UK and expecting it work everywhere, which is what we used to do, it is now much more about how we can deliver projects that work for Fujitsu as a global organisation,” she says.

Dalley oversees 26 occupational pension schemes, which will rise to 32 when Fujitsu Siemens Computers, a joint venture between Siemens and Fujitsu Services, becomes wholly owned by the latter this month. As the recession has progressed, her responsibility for pensions has risen in importance. “Defined benefit pension liabilities have gone through the roof because the share asset values are going down,” she says.

Dalley recognises the impact the fall in pension values has had on Fujitsu’s staff. “Some people’s funds have gone down unrecognisably,” she says. “The question is, what are we as a company going to do about the fact that people who were due to retire in the next five years now can’t afford to?” Whatever the future holds, Dalley will continue to thrive on tackling such issues. “I love the fact you are provided with a problem and you have to deal with it in the most proactive way that works,” she says.

Curriculum Vitae

December 2006 – present head of reward, Fujitsu Services

2001-2006 various roles at Sun Microsystems, ending up as international compensation and benefits manager

1984-2001 various roles at IBM, joining as industrial trainee and ultimately progressing to become Europe Middle East and Africa sales and distribution compensation and benefits consultant


What is your favourite benefit?

Pensions. From a personal perspective, the value of an occupational pension scheme is not to be sniffed at, and from a management point of view, it is a winner as well. There is a commercial aspect to it, a business aspect and an investment aspect. It ticks lots of boxes for me.

Do you have a role model?

At Sun Microsystems, there was one individual who, unfortunately, died when I was working for him. His name was John McGuire and he had a particularly strong influence over the way I manage my life.

Do you have any advice you would give to others?

The biggest lesson I have learned is that you need to fully understand a problem before you can fix it. Invest time upfront to research an issue and speak to the people who are closest to it. That way, you really understand what the key drivers are.