HR Star: Bill Cheshire

HR Star: Bill Cheshire

HR Star: Bill Cheshire

Bill Cheshire
Senior Consultant

Hay Group

Main business
HR Consultancy

Number of employees

Years in HR
I have my Personnel Association of Toronto Membership Certificate from 1967!!!

The worst job you ever had
While at Business School I spent a summer at General Motors in the cost accounting department with the red and black double ended pencils checking debits and credits endlessly into the night.

Your first job in HR
At Eaton’s a former Canadian retailer ( but I left 15 years before they went bankrupt, so it’s not my fault). I was responsible for Staff Training in the downtown core

The most outrageous (and best) company perks you’ve experienced
Well I don’t know if this was a perk, but it sure was outrageous. When I was the HR head at Scotts Hospitality we purchased a 50 store KFC chain in Calgary. It was the early 90’s and Alberta folks were feeling pretty cocky. They challenged us to a rodeo. So 25 managers from Ontario and 25 from Alberta met for a day at a ranch near Canmore and had a rodeo. Many on both sides had never been on a horse before. We had not taken out any insurance against accidents, pretty outrageous. Fortunately we only had two people fall off their horses and one pair of busted glasses but no broken bones. And the Easterners won the rodeo!

Your most embarrassing HR incident
Who can ever forget their first termination? Mine was at Eaton’s in London. Our loss prevention folks caught an employee taking an unpaid child’s sleeper. In the retail trade in those days, the discipline was very clear:  if you steal you get fired. So I am in my office with a sobbing man who had 5 children and was barely getting by. And he was a devout Christian who fell to his knees and began to pray in my office. It was truly termination baptism by fire.

The best thing about working in HR
It’s the variety, both in people and in functional activities. I was offered a job at Eaton’s as Store Manager of Yorkdale and turned it down as I knew that the breadth and depth in a store manager role couldn’t compare.

Does HR have a place at the boardroom table
In my day I have been a regular attendee at Board meetings for three Canadian firms. No question  that  it is doable…..but only if you really understand the business you are part of. I had very senior HR peers at Eaton’s who could not explain retail Gross Margin if their life depended on it. You won’t make  it with this approach, because you will be seen as a functional specialist who doesn’t know how to align and  integrate with the problems line managers are facing. Know your business.

What are the biggest challenges facing HR? 
There are many including the one above. I am deeply concerned about HR folks who appear to be abandoning any responsibility for  retirement and pension  planning in their organizations, just when employees need it the most.

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