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With her background in psychology and sociology, Kathy Bonney was ideally placed for a head of HR role she spotted ...
With her background in psychology and sociology, Kathy Bonney was ideally placed for a head of HR role she spotted advertised in LGC, says Suzanne Simmons-Lewis

Kathy Bonney, Head of human resources and organisational development, Norfolk CC

Advertised July 2005

Started work November 2005

Reports to head of corporate HR and director of adult social services


Degree in social sciences and certificate of qualification in social work

Masters in deviancy and social policy

PhD on women who gamble

Qualified group and organisations analyst


Social worker in mental health (various roles)

Team and management development consultant, Enfield LBC

Head of corporate development and training, Enfield LBC

Best part of the role 'Being able to move from strategic work to facilitating change.'

Biggest challenge 'Balancing my corporate role against the needs of my own department.'

An interest in psychology and sociology has led Kathy Bonney to her job as head of human resources and organisational development at Norfolk CC.

Dr Bonney, who started out as a care assistant and went on to become a social worker in mental health, has a varied background: she completed a Masters in deviancy and social policy and a PhD on women who gamble. She joined Enfield LBC as a team and management development consultant, working her way up to head of corporate development and training. During this time, she also trained as a group and organisations analyst.

She says: 'I used that knowledge and applied it to teams and people at work in organisations. I did a lot of trouble shooting and mediation work at Enfield. I was often involved in disciplinaries, particularly negotiating

re-entry into the workplace, and with grievances. I'd do mediation to see if we could stop problems going to formal grievance. I also got involved quite heavily in writing policy for HR.'

Dr Bonney has two main responsibilities. As one of five heads of HR at Norfolk she is a member of the corporate HR and organisational development leadership team, and has special responsibility for the adult social services department.

She is also working on a 'modern reward strategy', taking the Equal Pay Act 1970 and single status agreement into account, as well as creating a set of core competencies for staff.

Dr Bonney says there is currently a 40-60% split between her corporate strategic planning work and carrying it forward in adult social services.

'I enjoy the strategic role and I get plenty of that, but I can also offer a very robust service to adult social services because I understand the area. When I sit in the senior management meetings I understand what is happening on the frontline, it's a real asset.

'The best part of my role is being able to move from strategic work to facilitating change in the department, and seeing people start to buy in to a changed environment.'

With her varied experience Dr Bonney doesn't describe herself as an 'HR professional'.

'The role is muchbroader because I have responsibilities for health and safety, learning and development, and contributing actively to organisational development.

'It's more about managing performance and thinking about how the council can actively engage staff to behave in ways that are more productive. Creating a picture and asking others to step into it - those are my strengths.'

There are also a number of challenges associated with the role.

She explains: 'The council employs about 30,000 people and I am responsible for 4,220 staff in adult social services. The organisation is vast and engaging staff to improve the overall business of the council is tough.'

She adds: 'Balancing my corporate role against the needs of my own department, which might have particular differences to other council departments, also has its challenges.'

Dr Bonney says a variety of professionals are capable of doing a similar role, and could come from fields

including therapeutic and counselling work, training and development and health and social care. They would, however, need to gain new skills through continuous development.

But her background in social care has not always worked to her advantage. 'When I have applied for some jobs, I have left the fact I am a social worker off the application, because when it has been on I haven't been shortlisted. But in this role I left it on because I knew they wanted me to have a role in adult social services.'

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