- Make Do - 09 Dec 2014

Up Close and Personal with Nicky Costa

The Human Resources department can represent the central nervous system of any company. It’s a complex area of work that requires personal interactions and of course how an entire company or group can run in the most efficient ways to help a business grow.

Nicky Costa is Group Human Resources Director and she kindly took time out from her hectic schedule to share a little about what goes into running international human resources and some great tips about building great teams. Over to her now…

Describe your job in a nutshell

I help the PhotoBox Group find the right talent, into the right roles, doing the right things, and working together in the best way to achieve our aspirations.

What are you working on right now?

All sorts of things – there’s so much on the list.

At the moment I am working with colleagues in the UK, France and Guernsey HR teams to organise ourselves to be better aligned with new structures the business is growing into. This also means partnering with the senior team to make sure we are ready for the next stage in our story.

We’re working on optimising our recruitment practices in the UK to find and hire great people, faster. There are so many routes and sources to link with prospective talent and we aim to be present and active in all of them to make those positive connections.

I work closely with the Moonpig team to give them some HR love and support. The great thing about working as a group is that we can help each other across businesses in many different ways.

How do you think people see HR and what are the common misconceptions about this part of a business?

People’s perceptions are influenced by their own experiences with HR teams. Much of what we do is about helping solve problems and developing clear and fair ways of working. These things are necessary and valuable, but might not seem to be the most inspiring aspects of HR when viewed from the outside.

There are so many positive influences we can bring to the business and our colleagues. We are helping people grow professionally, spotting and nurturing top talent and building high-performing teams.

What frustrates me is when people only experience a tiny part of what we can do and might not benefit from our insight, support and development. However, human resources has certainly evolved from when Personnel was just about pay and rations – thankfully.

You are the first Group HR Director at PhotoBox. What were the company’s reasons for appointing you?

Well that’s one for Stan, but my interpretation is that as the business has grown, it was important to have someone on the Senior Management Team focused on working across the Group to make sure the talent within and around the business is equipped to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s aspirations.

What made you join?

 The dreams the business has – and our cool products.

What was the path that’s led you to where you are now in your career?

I have chosen to move to businesses in different sectors (from cars, to batteries, to personal care, to on-line travel, to B2B Media, and now to personalised cards and gifts).

I have remained open and pragmatic as to how HR can really make a difference in hitting the business targets in each one of those great sectors, at different stages of their development. That’s the fun of it.

What brought you to HR specifically?

The good old university milk round!

HR wasn’t HR when I graduated from Nottingham University – it was still Personnel. If I’m honest, I didn’t really know what it involved, but I was lucky enough to be sponsored by a senior director at Ford Motor Company. I became an Essex Girl, and spent the first 10 years of my career there learning the trade and painting the odd car on a nightshift!

Three words you would use to describe yourself?




Can you sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence?

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

Take every opportunity, throw yourself into it, and learn from it – the good and the bad.

What advice would you give to someone in a leadership role?

Managing your team is the most important aspect of your role. You are only as good as the people who work with you. Listen, seek to really understand, and then create opportunities to have honest conversations about what you, and they, expect and need. Being honest and fair in every decision and every judgement is tough, but that’s the job.

What advice would you give to jobseekers looking to join PhotoBox Group?

Take the job seriously. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Thrive on working at pace and within some grey areas. Ask questions. Love photos. Know how to have fun.

What is the worst thing anyone can do at a job interview?

There are so many interview sins! Not answering the question. Not doing your research. Using anecdotes and generalisations, instead of real examples of what you have achieved – an interviewer is looking to identify and measure the value of what they are investing in if they hire you onto their team, so being vague, bland or text book will not make you stand out from the crowd. In short, what is the ‘you’ effect?

How do you see HR evolving in the next 5 years?

HR can only truly evolve in line with the enterprises it supports. As the macro-economy or specific sectors move through phases of growth, consolidation, internationalisation, or decline, so different aspects of HR evolve. It may be Rewards, Talent Management, Learning and Development, Engagement, or Mobility. Each of these things can change in reaction to a much wider picture of industry and work.

Key influencers in HR are being positively disruptive in breaking away from the classic transactional HR tasks and raising CEOs expectations towards making great things happen with excellent staff.

Have your say

Do you have any questions for Nicky? Just let us know in the comments.