The head of HR at UK shopping site Boohoo, Kathy Allison chats about adapting to change and rapid growth.
Tell us about your role at Boohoo.
I manage a small team, including the HR manager and coordinators across our head office and distribution sites as we provide resourcing and learning and development.
We look after all our people and work to support the business with the right people, who have the right skills and are in the right place at the right time.
Our main focus is employee engagement – it’s important to us that people are happy at work and want to stay with us. We have a fantastic culture and pride ourselves on being ‘different’, so it’s something we strive to maintain through our people values.
My role involves a lot of contact with the main board to make sure we have the right HR strategy and plans in place.
What impact has Boohoo’s rapid expansion had on the organisation’s recruitment program?
It’s had a real impact. We now have two people dedicated solely to recruitment. We also have an ATS (applicant-tracking system) that sits behind our careers page.
This is really important to us as the growth of our brand means that we now attract a lot more direct applicants, which is great.
We are also looking for people with international experience, and as we expand language skills will become ever more important.
It’s essential we keep up to pace with the changing demands of the business, and that our selection process helps us identify people who can ‘do’ the job and are also a good match for our values.
Tell us about any challenges this growth has presented, and how you’ve overcome them.
The growth brings with it a demand for great people, and so we have maintained a focus on quality and adapted our recruitment processes to deliver this.
Communication is also increasingly important, and while I would love to say that we have all the answers, it’s really a work in progress.
Now we are a much bigger team, we are constantly working to identify the best methods of ensuring we are all on the same page. We have focus groups to address this and are also exploring new technologies to support this.
What inspired the move from the hospitality industry to fashion?
After many years in the hospitality industry I was ready for a change, and having always loved fashion I thought Boohoo would be a great opportunity.
I was also attracted by the fact that Boohoo didn’t have an HR function when I joined and so the opportunity to work with a blank canvas was exciting.
How has your CIPD membership assisted your career development?
As an HR team we use the CIPD in a number of different ways – the factsheets, research and other resources can be very useful as a starting point, as can being able to interact via social media.
For me, completing my CIPD qualifications was a great way to re-focus the underpinning theory and open my mind to new and different ways of thinking that can be adapted into your workplace and thought processes.
Working in HR is a constant learning process and understanding different approaches is something my CIPD membership and qualification has been really useful for. Making sure theories are properly applied in a way that is right for our specific business can then be the challenge.