Hilary Brearley set out on her chosen HR career in Sheffield – the city where she was born and grew up. She joined the NHS, working for the former Sheffield Regional Health Authority quickly moving into a role that covered manpower planning and general personnel.
Twenty five years later, Hilary is back in the NHS as director of HR and organisational development at Barnsley Hospital – a role she’s held since March 2010. Before that, Hilary was HR director at Wakefield Council for seven years.
“It was a good time to get involved at Wakefield,” says Hilary, 49. “There was new management team in place with a big change agenda and the role there gave me a lot of valuable experience.”
Private Sector years
But Hilary’s career hasn’t all been in the public sector. She’s spent a considerable part of her working life in the private sector where she built her experience and knowledge of HR and workforce development.
After a couple of years at the regional health authority, Hilary seized an opportunity to progress her HR career by taking a management role with Sainsbury’s, working in a city centre store in Sheffield. “It was the autonomy that attracted me,” says Hilary. “I’d only been there a few months and I went to do a store opening. That took me on a path of co-ordinating a store opening programme across the North on greenfield sites while still looking after my own store in Sheffield.
“It was a really good time because we were recruiting about 500 staff for each store and some of the stores were really important for the areas where they were being built because of the need for jobs and prospects for people. It was good to be a part of such a positive thing.”
Hilary spent five years with the supermarket giant before switching from retail to distribution. She joined the former Christian Salvesen logistics company – a big operation employing more than 16,000 people at its 40 distribution centres.
Again, she was instrumental in the creation of new jobs through the opening of a distribution centre in Chapeltown, Sheffield. “This was the 1980s when there was a lot of unemployment and we created 400 jobs so there was a lot of work to do around regeneration and working with local job centres,” recalls Hilary who became a regional HR manager for three distribution centres before being promoted to a divisional HR role with responsibility for depots across the country.
Hilary spent 13 years with Christian Salvesen before moving to her post at Wakefield. “I loved it in the private sector – it was very dynamic. Now I’ve come full circle and am back in the public sector.”