Interview with Tim Jones: head of organisation performance at Somerfield

Tim Jones, head of organisation performance at Somerfield, believes gaining experience across a number of HR fields is a major advantage to practitioners

During his career, Tim Jones has spent time on both sides of the HR fence, having worked in consultancy and in industry as an HR professional. He believes that his time as a consultant with Hay Group provided him with a wealth of HR experience, which has been valuable in his current role as head of organisation performance at supermarket chain Somerfield.

“Spending time at a management consultancy is useful because of the breadth of the experience you can gain across different industry sectors in a short space of time,” says Jones.

When he moved into a consultancy role at Hay Group from energy company TXU in 2000, Jones set out to broaden his experience, subject to a strict timescale, vowing to move back into industry when this had expired. “I think consulting can be a great learning experience, but not for too long as you need to balance this with working corporate side,” he explains.

It was from this position, that Jones moved back into industry, taking on the role of head of reward at Somerfield, before moving into his current position.

The move reflects his desire to keep his knowledge of HR issues as broad as possible and has also enabled him to put new learnings into practice at the coal face.

“I want to be rounded in terms of my technical knowledge and my experience,” he explains.

At Somerfield, Jones has been able to draw on his reward expertise, a discipline which he gravitated towards at Hay Group due to his natural aptitude for numbers, rather than any specific ambitions to work in the field. “I really fell into compensation and benefits at Hay Group. It wasn’t planned, but I’m naturally commercial and numerate so it was a good fit,” he explains.

Jones has been keen to put benefits in place that reward employees on an individual basis, as opposed to using blanket schemes that take a one-size-fits-all approach. “The best reward is the one that is appropriate to and valued by the colleagues. In the situation I am dealing with, different rewards are appropriate to different people,” says Jones.

He believes, therefore, that variable reward schemes provide the greatest overall return to the business. “I am a strong believer in variable rewards, whether that be recognition, a bonus or a long-term incentive plan (L-tip), that links rewards to performance,” he explains.

Jones has also invested a great deal of effort in working to improve employee engagement at Somerfield. Last year, he implemented a strategy for line managers that linked bonus pay to their employees’ levels of engagement. “The [engagement] programme has successfully focused on creating an engaged climate, which is a key part of every line manager’s job,” he explains.

During his career, Jones has worked with a number of individuals who have had an influence on the path he has taken. His first line manager at his first job with energy firm Eastern Group, however, stands out as a personal favourite. Jones explains that this particular individual was keen to empower young employees at the firm, and it was this influence that helped to turn him on to people developmental issues.

“My first line manager was an inspiration. He set clear goals and expected high standards but trusted me enough to delegate meaningful work, and he also gave me the freedom to find my own solutions,” says Jones.

Curriculum Vitae†

Head of organisation performance at Somerfield.
Head of reward at Somerfield
Senior consultant at Hay Group
Strategy and change management roles at energy firm TXU
Pricing and risk roles at Eastern Group


  • What tips would you pass on to others embarking on a career in compensation and benefits? I would say spend some time within other areas of HR strategy, because to be really good at reward you need to understand areas such as organisational development and talent management.
  • What specific skills do you have that help you carry out your role? I think combining knowledge about my specific area with a commercial and pragmatic approach to creating best-fit solutions that add value. There is also something about being able to look for opportunities and seize them.
  • Which management book would you recommend to other HR professionals? I’m currently reading The HR Value Proposition by Dave Ulrich. It is a good read for anyone interested in HR strategy. Ulrich is a good HR thinker, and his work around the role of HR and its structure gives a good insight into how to build a strong HR function.