HR Hotspot: Interview with Justine Kenny

Find Justine Kenny on LinkedIn

Tell us about your current HR leadership role?

I love my current role. As the only member of Staffordshire Police Force Executive team who isn't a police officer, I head up the directorate that provides HR, finance, fleet, ICT and estates across the force.

No two days are ever the same, and there are loads of challenges, both in policing and in providing the services that enable the force to be as efficient and effective as it can be.  One of our five priorities as a force is to modernise policing - so since I joined a couple of years ago one of the things I've been focussed on is developing and then on implementing a strategy to make that happen.

Of course day to day there are lots of other things that come along too.  We have recently embarked on a collaboration with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and so the directorate now provides a shared service to colleagues there, and our HR team is now heavily focussed on delivering our share of the additional 20,000 police officers that the government recently announced, at the same time as implementing the new Police Education Qualification Framework.... so busy times!  Thankfully we have a brilliant HR team, along with the other teams across the directorate.

How would you describe the culture there at Staffordshire Police?

Policing generally has a fascinating culture and Staffordshire Police is no exception.  It is steeped in history and tradition and it's true what they say - policing is like one huge family.  That has it's upsides and it's downsides of course.

The strategy mentioned above is essentially focussed on bringing about a change in the way we lead the force (at all levels) and therefore in it's culture. We need to line up our strategy, structures, people, processes and frameworks to bring about modernisation.  We are making progress and building trust, but these things take time.

Describe the career journey that led you to your current role?

Like lots of people, my career in HR started as a bit of an accident.  I did some temp work in a hospital for a few weeks, working in the pathology laboratory. Then an opportunity arose in HR, so I moved across to working with live people! I moved into recruitment, did a role in L&D, and then moved into a more senior very generalist role in a big acute hospital.

I stayed with the NHS for many years, working in different types of trusts around the Midlands and the South West, leaving having acted up to an HR Director role.  I left for a permanent HR Director role at an organisation whose role was to develop patient and public involvement forums, and then moved over to the Gambling Commission (where I met Nicola).  I then decided to do some interim work, which I also loved for the variety and because as an interim you have a bit more freedom and flexibility, and manage to avoid most of the organisational politics.  It also meant I got to do some really challenging things and broaden my horizons outside HR and although all that made me scratch my head at the time, it really did help me think differently and develop my approach.

Then someone called me about the role at Staffordshire Police....

Are there any career defining moments or people that helped shape your career in HR?

Many people have influenced my career along the way, most notably Veronica Luker who at the time was the HR Director at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and who (along with Sally Fox and Michael Amery) took a bit of a risk in appointing me! There have been many others, including the team in which I currently work, who help shape my role and approach every single day.

This might be one for the next question, but there have also been people who have helped shaped my career by helping me to realise that I needed to work somewhere else.  Not because I didn't have great admiration for them personally, but just because we thought very differently about how to approach leadership and people management.  I am a great believer that you need to get along with the person you work for and the team you are part of, with some shared values, otherwise work becomes a constant battle.

What would your advice be to your younger self?

Oh gosh, lots of advice!  I think that sometimes as HR professionals we sometimes tend to try to change or develop each individual, or at least I think I did in the early stages of my career.  With the benefit of (more than!) a few years experience one of the key things I understand more is that people thrive, or not, depending on the place they find themselves, both professionally and personally.   Make the place better, give them some flexibility and autonomy to combine the different parts of their lives, and they are infinitely more productive and happier.  That's where HR professionals should be focussing their energy.

There's a great quote that sums this up...

When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.

Culture‘s HR ‘Hotspot’ is brought to you by our HR Director, Nicola Morris. For any enquiry, contact Nicola on:  or 0121 272 6494 / 07769 209607

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1st November

Career Advice