Interview with Chris Coyne, group head of reward at City and Guilds

Chris Coyne, group head of reward at City and Guilds, has drawn on his experience in the Royal Navy to develop a sense of purpose in a wide-ranging career in HR and reward

After leaving the Royal Navy in 1999, Chris Coyne, group head of reward at City and Guilds, found a move into HR was a natural progression.

He joined the navy in 1988 as a sponsored university cadet entrant, and his subsequent roles included senior training officer to graduate officer cadets, and personnel selection officer on the Officer Selection Board. He completed officer’s leadership and management training, and obtained a management degree.

When he left the navy, Coyne went to work for an executive recruitment firm, and moved into an HR analyst role at Perot Systems Corporation in 2000. It was his compensation and benefits manager there who persuaded him that a role in benefits would be a good fit for his skills. Coyne says his varied career has taught him valuable lessons, not necessarily technical but more about influencing people and achieving results.

“Fighting a battle you can win is one of the most important lessons,” he says. “When it comes to reward, the biggest lesson I learnt was getting communication right when launching any kind of initiative.”

This dawned on Coyne the first time he was involved in implementing a flexible benefits plan in his role as reward analyst at DTZ Debenham Tie Leung. After spending a lot of time on the technical design, scheme structure and technology, communication was seen as a ‘nice to have’, rather than an essential. But Coyne says he “saw the power communication can have”, which contributed to the plan’s success. “One employee said it was the best thing HR had ever done. I realised it was down to the effort we put into communications.”

Broader role
Coyne says the role of reward is much broader than it used to be. “When I first started working in HR, the term compensation and benefits manager was prevalent. You see a lot less of that now and a lot more of reward.”

Total reward now covers many aspects of HR, he says. “That means we have to think a lot more laterally, but, equally, we will be in a much stronger position to influence wider HR and add value to the business.”

One of the biggest challenges Coyne faces at City and Guilds is driving efficiencies, which means proving return on investment. “It is finding efficiencies without taking away from the overall quality of our reward package or the service we offer,” he says.

“Equally, there is demand for an increasing amount of data, and the analytical skills to interrogate that data and draw insights from it for the business, to help prove we are adding value and that there is a return on every penny we spend.”

Coyne believes the biggest issues the reward industry faces are the pension and tax changes in the year ahead. “It will be challenging for a lot of people but will give a lot of opportunity for innovation,” he says. “It is going to be increasingly difficult to find creative ways to deliver reward that might offer tax savings or competitive value in what employers are offering to benefit an employee’s pocket.”

Curriculum Vitae

2008-present group head of reward, City and Guilds of London Institute
2005-2008 reward manager, DTZ Debenham Tie Leung
2002-2005 reward analyst, DTZ Debenham Tie Leung
2000-2002 business/HR analyst, Perot Systems Corporation
1999-2000 account manager, Campbell Birch Executive Recruitment
1988-1999 commissioned officer, Royal Navy


How would you describe yourself?
I am fairly relaxed but have a clear sense of purpose and direction. I think I am approachable; people can come to me and there is no ‘me time’ when I’m in the office. I am beginning to enjoy my coaching responsibilities.

Who is your role model?
I have taken something from all my bosses over the years, but in terms of one person who has influenced my values and offered me many words of wisdom, I would say my father. The advice he gave me and still gives me about dealing with people and business in general has proved invaluable.

What is your typical working day like?
I work best in the early part of the day, and I have quite a commute. I have a young family, so in the evening I try to get home to read at least one bedtime story. We have a very flexible working culture, so I can work from home a couple of times a month.

What is your career goal?
I want to continue to broaden my experience of HR using reward as the foundation, and ultimately I would like an HR director role. That would give me the chance to pull together all the strands of HR I have been involved in over the years. Pulling those together to help a business achieve its goals would be my aspiration.

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