HR Director

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Unite Students is seeking to appoint an HR Director to lead the People function and sit on our Operations Board, contributing to wider business decision making. The role will report into our Chief Customer Officer John Blanshard. The successful candidate will be accountable for evolving and delivering our People strategy, with direct reports across Organisational Design & Change, Talent Acquisition, Shared Services, Reward, Engagement, and L&D.

We are looking for a strategic and commercially minded thinker who can translate strategy into operational priorities, and drive delivery - we need someone willing and able to get stuck in and make things happen. You`ll have strong experience as an HR leader within heavily operational businesses. We`re interested in hiring someone who thinks differently about HR, who is agile, flexible and innovative in the way they operate - this is not a role for a policy and process driven HR person. The wellbeing and mental health of our people are incredibly important to us, so it will be important to find someone who shares that philosophy.

The role will be based at our Bristol headquarters, with travel to our London office and regional operations teams nationwide.

About Unite Students

Founded in 1991, Unite Students is the UK`s largest manager and developer of purpose-built student accommodation serving the country`s world-leading higher education sector. In late 2019, we acquired our biggest competitor Liberty Living in a landmark £1.4bn deal that cemented our status as the leading company in our market. As a result, we now provide homes for around 74,000 students in more than 170 properties across 27 leading university towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales. We also have a strong development pipeline, which will deliver a further 8,000 beds in the next three years.

Our 1,900 people are driven by a common purpose: to provide the students who live with us a `Home for Success` and to be the most trusted brand in the sector. We do this through great service, great people and great properties, all designed on the basis of an unrivalled insight into students` needs and preferences. Our customer promises, which underpin everything we do, are Getting You Settled In, Safe and Secure, and There When You Need Us.

We want to continue to be a great place to work, and we are committed to continuing improvement to ensure this. In 2019, we retained our Investors in People Gold accreditation, the hallmark of diverse, people-focused businesses. We are also an accredited Real Living Wage payer.

Our latest annual report, published on 26th February 2020 and covering the financial year January 1st to December 31st 2019, is a clear demonstration of how we continue to go from strength to strength. We delivered an exceptional set of results, with recurring profit before tax of £305.3m, up 24% from £245.8m in 2018.

We are headquartered in central Bristol, close to the main Temple Meads train station. We also have a London office on Stratford Place, just off Oxford Street near Bond Street underground station.

The Role

  • Evolving our current HR strategy and ensuring it is fit for purpose and future proof, then driving its implementation across the business.
  • Meeting the needs of the business from a people perspective, both in terms of current demand and future requirements, ensuring that we are set up correctly to deliver ongoing success. Leading transformational organisational change where required to ensure that our structure, people and ways of working remain correctly set up to deal with our continued growth and evolution as a business.
  • Establishing an agile, forward-thinking and innovative culture where disruptive thinking is encouraged and traditional, policy and process led thinking is phased out.
  • Leading a lean and focused team of c20 people across Organisational Design & Change, Talent Acquisition, Shared Services, Reward, Engagement, and L&D. Managing, mentoring, coaching and developing them to deliver to the peak of their abilities.
  • Driving an open, inclusive, supportive and successful culture business side, ensuring that Unite Students is a brilliant place to work for employees at all levels, and that engagement levels are consistently high.
  • Ensuring that work-life balance, wellbeing and the mental health and resilience of our teams are of paramount importance when implementing changes.
  • Working closely with fellow Directors from across the business as part of the Operations Board, playing a significant role in the overall high level decision making done by the Unite Students senior leadership team.

What we`re looking for

  • Significant experience as an HR leader, ideally within heavily operational, multi-site businesses of a comparable size and scale, though we are open to people with the right skills and approach from different backgrounds.
  • A background of delivering major transformational change in the people space, ideally gained within progressive, disruptor businesses where the pace is relentless and change is a constant theme.
  • The ability to design, evolve and deliver an HR strategy, with a strong mix of strategic and operational skills.
  • A non-conventional, non-traditional approach to HR, and an open mindedness to doing things differently. Able to listen and design solutions based on business need, rather than coming with preconceived ideas of what an HR function should look like and do. We are not looking for a purely policy and process led HR Director but someone genuinely innovative and agile in their mindset, who is willing to break the mould and take a fresh approach to HR.
  • Experience of delivering exceptional employee engagement to ensure a culture of success and recognition. This will come from a deep understanding of what drives engagement at all levels of an organisation, and the actions that can be taken to drive positive engagement.
  • An exceptional leader of people, able to inspire, coach, develop and manage the team within a lean department structure.
  • Strong commercial understanding and the ability to make a significant contribution to the wider business strategy and delivery, outside the confines of HR, working alongside other Directors from across the business as part of the Operations Board, the main decision making engine of the business on a day to day basis.
  • An ability to "live in the grey" and thrive in ambiguity. Comfortable with exploring different ideas and finding the right path when we don`t know exactly what we need, whilst maintaining the ability to function at a high level when doing so.
  • Strong customer focus and the ability to put the internal and external customer`s best interests at the heart of everything you do.
  • A highly engaging and passionate person with exceptional drive and focus who can role model behaviours.
  • Based within easy commuting distance of Bristol or wiling to be here four days per week if based elsewhere.

Benefits of working with uS

  • Executive level basic salary commensurate with the level of the role, dependent on experience.
  • Car allowance worth 10% of salary, to a maximum of £9,000.
  • Bonus opportunity paid annually in February, and dependent on both company and individual performance.
  • Family private medical insurance.
  • Life insurance worth 4x salary.
  • Pension contributions worth 1% above your own contribution, to a maximum of 11% employer, 10% employee.
  • 25 days paid holiday.
  • Enjoy amazing discounts at certain restaurants, retailers and entertainment venues.
  • We`ve earned an Investors in People Gold award, so you`ll be working for an employer who really cares about you and your career.

Unite Students is an equal opportunities employer and we welcome people of all ages, ethnicities, disabilities, religions, gender identities and sexual orientations. Your application will be dealt with in the strictest of confidence.

Coronavirus Update:

Please be assured, we are continuing to recruit for the vacancies advertised on our Jobs page and will be taking every precaution necessary, in line with Government and WHO guidelines, to ensure the health and safety of our candidates, employees and customers during the recruitment process.

While Government restrictions are in effect, all recruitment will take place without any physical contact; we will be using video interviews and telephone interviews to help you to bring your application to life from home!

For jobs based in our student accommodation, start dates will be arranged as soon as possible with precautions in place to keep you safe at work. For Head Office roles, start dates will be arranged once the restrictions have been lifted.


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