Consultant’s nous helps to bridge HR commercial gap

Catherine Ward, former group director, people and communications at BMI Healthcare, is adept at taking a commercial approach thanks to the consultancy-based roles she took when starting her career.

Ward was an executive consultant at KPMG and subsequently ran her own consultancy business, as well as taking on a range of HR-based roles, before joining BMI Healthcare in 2006.

This stood her in good stead for dealing with the complexities of recent pay freezes. She says: “Three years ago, and this year, we had a pay freeze, which required sitting as part of the senior team.

“We were looking at the budgeting process and costing out different options around a pay review and actually saying that the consequence of giving a pay review was otentially that we could not afford to do some business initiatives or, worse, that we needed to create some job cuts.”

Ward says the ability to present her business cases in commercial terms is crucial. “It is also about being able to see the implications for what has been discussed in business terms in HR terms without dropping into too much operational detail. It’s about being able to keep at that level and then go off and deliver those things that establish your credibility with the senior team, and being able to contribute to the discussion more widely than just defaulting to some operational piece of HR.”