Career view: Kelly Hector, head of HR at Churchill Retirement Living

February 12, 2018 / Keith Osborne
Career view: Kelly Hector, head of HR at Churchill Retirement Living

We speak exclusively to Kelly Hector of former Housebuilder of the Year Churchill Retirement Living about the company and the career path that has brought her to the senior role she now has.

Hi Kelly, please tell us a little about yourself and your role at Churchill.

I have been with Churchill Retirement Living for two-and-a-half years and as the head of human resources I have a diverse role. One moment I will be talking to the PLC Board about the commercially linked people strategy, the next I could be coaching a senior manager about having a difficult conversation with a member of their team.

Based at the Churchill Head Office in Ringwood, I do try to get out and about visiting our regional offices and site based colleagues whenever I can. With a team of 10 HR and training professionals I enjoy coaching the team and seeing them develop and find best solutions. I’m lucky enough to take part in various forums – and it’s exciting to feel that you have the opportunity to shape the HR agenda at a broader industry level.

In recent years Churchill has consistently ranked in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Companies To Work For, achieving our highest ever position of 13th in 2017, an achievement my team and I are very proud of.

Outside of work, I live in the New Forest in Hampshire, with my partner Robert and our Goldendoodle called Geoffrey. At the weekends, you’ll find us exploring the beautiful area where we live. It’s great to have such amazing scenery right on our doorstep and a lovely switch off after a busy week.

Can you tell us about your career path, from education to training, work experience and previous roles?

It’s a classic tale of falling into HR! When I was at school I don’t think I would’ve known what human resources was – in fact I wanted to be a television researcher. My dad I think hoped for a lawyer! I didn’t end up pursuing either of those things and my first job was as an estate agent. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I am now working for a housebuilder! Realising that sales was not a strength of mine, I refocused and discovered recruitment, this was my first step into the HR world. Since then I have covered a breadth of HR specialisms from coaching and training through to generalist HR, across a range of industry sectors at both national and international businesses.

What is it about your current role that you most enjoy?

That’s easy… the people! Churchill Retirement Living really has a family feel – no-one is a stranger here, and it makes my job so much easier. I think it comes from the fact that we are privately owned, and our chairman and board of directors truly have an open-door policy. They are always approachable and keen to engage with staff when out on site as well as in the offices, so it makes everyone feel that they are part of something. I am also incredibly luckily to have a wonderful, dedicated and professional team of HR business partners, trainers and recruiters. Every day they never cease to amaze me and bring a smile to my face.

Are there any past projects and/or mentors that have been particularly inspiring?

That’s a really difficult question as I have been privileged to have been part of many projects that have had both personal and people benefits. It’s one of the great things about my job!

With regards to a mentor, I worked with a lady called Andrea Nash who had a passion for coaching and over about a seven-year period our paths continually crossed until a time when we eventually worked directly with each other. I loved her positivity and ability to get to the root of a problem with such tact and straightforward approach. She enabled people to unlock their true potential. Now she is a successful non-executive to SME businesses and I count her as one of my greatest friends. She really is unique and one in a million, and it’s great to see how she is inspiring other entrepreneurs and their teams.

Have training, recruitment and HR changed a lot since your first experiences of them?

Absolutely! For me, the world that encompasses training, recruitment and HR has gone from being largely an administrative function to one that is forward thinking and commercially astute in its own right. We’re now in partnership with our colleagues rather than being the department that no one wished to meet! HR has benefited from many changes and departments like ours are now much more focussed on employee engagement, which links to company culture and ultimately the overall business strategy. It’s an exciting time, and I cannot wait to see what the next ten years brings to my profession.

With national new homes targets increasing, what are the career prospects at Churchill?

Everyone who joins Churchill Retirement Living has the benefit of a “buddy”. This person helps support the new colleague in their transition to the company.

This is an informal form of mentoring, but is received positively by those that join as it is an alternative point of contact from their line manager. Churchill Retirement Living is highly invested in employee development and training with us carrying out over 7,000 hours of training last year. We also have a number of apprentices across different areas of the business and will continue to support the development of skills for the next generation.

Does Churchill look for particular personal and skills qualities in applicants?

Every company needs a set of values to support the company vision and culture. The Churchill Retirement Living values are: Trust, Openness, Respect, Communication and Honesty. These values reflect Churchill’s ethos and define how we want to be treated and how we would want to treat others.

As part of the recruitment process we include competency-based interview questions to understand how candidates demonstrate these values.

Part of our interview process involves the completion of psychometric profiling and this helps focus the interview on key behavioural competencies, which are explored to see how these will translate into the work environment.

This demonstrates Churchill Retirement Living’s forward-thinking and holistic approach to recruitment whereby we look not just at skill set but also the behaviours of each individual.

What’s your advice to those considering or applying for a job in UK housebuilding right now?

Go for it! The housebuilding industry has such a diverse range of job opportunities that there is scope for development. The great thing with the housebuilding industry is that there is a job role to suit everyone, so whatever your strength, passion or interest, there will be a career path for you.


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