Ann Pickering

Q&A | Ann Pickering, Telefónica UK (O2)

HR Director and Chief of Staff of O2, Ann leads a team of 150 people who work in a variety of areas such as learning and development, recruitment reward to name but a few. O2 has 6500 employees based in a variety of location across the UK.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I began my career at Marks & Spencer on their HR graduate programme, after completing an English degree. I held HR roles at various companies (financial  services, IT) and  joined O2 in 2004. I was appointed to the UK Board as HR Director in 2008, and last January I was appointed CHRO & Chief of Staff.

Being appointed to the O2 Board was a proud moment and I’m delighted to now be one of five women that makes up a nine person leadership team.

I’m proud of so many of the inclusive schemes we have at O2, but for me there are two stand outs. In March this year we introduced our new Family policy.  14 weeks paid leave to any new parent regardless of gender, sexual orientation, adoption or surrogacy.  ….this was incredibly well received by all our employees.

Secondly, our Career Returners programme which is now in its third year. We offer a 14-week paid programme that allows people to return to work after an extended career break of two or more years. They can then apply for roles in O2; 100% of our returners secured permanent roles in O2 on our last programme, 67% of our returners were from a BAME background.  I get a real kick seeing women who have joined via this scheme being appointed into leadership roles… it’s fantastic to see them achieve their full potential.

Outside O2 I’m Chair of the Advisory Board  and Visiting Professor of HRM at Sheffield University Management School; I’m  a Trustee of ‘Step Up to Serve’ a charity established in 2013 to make social action part of life for 10-20 year olds and I’m also a Trustee of ‘Breast Cancer Now’.

We’re looking forward to the opening HRD panel on 7 November. What do you hope delegates will be able to take away with them and apply the very next day in the office?

There will be lots for people to take away from the discussion between Valerie, Sandy, Tim and myself. It promises to be a rich and frank discussion on what is in store for the people profession and what we all feel we need to be thinking about moving forward.  To see how this could give you something to take away and apply in the office, come along to hear what we discuss and debate and see what really resonates.

You’re also speaking in the session titled ‘The courage of speaking up – increasing your impact, profile and influence’. Can you tell us a bit more on what delegates can expect? What does the ‘courage of speaking up’ mean to you?

This is a massively important subject for the people profession, we need to be able to raise our voices in order to influence our businesses.  I’m really looking forward to sharing my insights and reflecting on some of the key traits and leaderships qualities that can drive positive change across the business.

Do you have any tips or tricks that delegates can take a look at before attending your sessions? (Any blogs or articles that they might find interesting?)

I recently read ‘The Making of Her’ by Clarissa Farr, it poses some interesting challenges; how do we educate girls to become tomorrow’s leaders? What is the role of a school in a modern, virtual world? A thought provoking read.

What is your biggest piece of advice for anyone attending this year’s CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition?

My advice is twofold, and may sound a little contradictory at first. a) make the most of this networking opportunity. There are some fantastic sessions and speakers at the CIPD Annual Conference every year, it really brings together some of the very best from the people profession. But more generally my advice is b) choose your networking events wisely.  There’s definitely a perception that in high profile roles you have to be present at every single networking opportunity going, but the key for me is be selective. You want to come away bursting with new ideas and be inspired in your role – but that can’t happen if you feel obliged to attend an event every night of the week.

Leave a Reply