Catherine Haines, head of HR

 22 March 2013

Catherine Haines is the Head of HR for nine cultural institutions in Birmingham. She shares what she does in her job and how to get started in HR.

"See what events your local CIPD branch are running and go visit one." Image: Birmingham Musems and Trusts

What is your home town?

Birmingham, Kings Heath.

What is your job title?

Head of HR for Birmingham Museums and Trusts, originally Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.

What qualifications did you do?

I studied BA French and Portuguese at Leeds University.

Then I worked abroad in Paris as a language trainer for a few years. I loved the culture and working with people there. There was a range of people from the president of the company to teaching English to a car factory worker. I think that's where my love of helping people came from: enjoying the time I spent with different ages and groups.

"I work at finding roles across departments – from the marketing team to getting a cleaner."

While I was there, I also taught people English. For that, I had to do a special course – it's a little old now – the RSA month-long course at the Leeds Met University.

I knew then that I wanted to continue helping people so I retrained at Warwick University part-time to get a MA in Industrial Relations and Managing Human Resources. This included a CIPD qualification and I did the course over 2 years.

What previous roles did you do?

I worked with Warwick University part-time, before getting a job with the Birmingham Museums and Trusts through a temping agency (Katie Bard, part of Angela Mortimer). I started as an envelope-stuffer for two weeks and I built up my knowledge of the company and looked for opportunities.

I was promoted to HR assistant in 2001 and then to the HR manager in 2007. Eventually, I became Head of HR in 2012. I think what helped was having a foot in the door and being there when the company need help. I was enthusiastic and helpful and they saw this in me.

What do you do in your day to day work?

The tasks that I do are varied each day and include:

  • Handling recruitment for everyone in the museum. I work at finding roles across departments – from the marketing team to getting a cleaner.
  • I work with trainees and carry out the induction of new staff.
  • I make sure all the payroll are paid.
  • Getting involved with training and development, and keeping people on track with their own development.
  • Following policies and procedures and complying with employment legal laws. At the moment, the drive is to push towards the ‘real time’ payroll system which is recommended by HMRC for the monthly billing.
  • We also have to make sure everyone is working to the correct updated minimum wage.

What is the best part of the job?

Seeing staff develop and flourish and knowing I played a part in that. Making sure that they’re happy doing what they do here and giving them the tools to give them what they need to continue learning.

"I was enthusiastic and helpful and they saw this in me."

We encourage self-managed careers – where we give the information and opportunity to learn – and training is given in-house from experts in the field of study. This is to try and share knowledge, and change the lives of our employees.

How do I get started in heritage?

I have three tips to help you get started in this career:

1. Do your research

See what events your local CIPD branch are running and go visit one. It's an opportunity to network for contacts, and also to meet people you can talk about ideas with. HR is lonely as you hold so much confidential information – it's nice to speak to someone else about some of the tasks you face.

2. Sign up to industry news

You can get student memberships at a great value to some HR magazines and publications. These are great to see what opportunities are out there. If you want to build or refresh your knowledge, you can read lots of interesting and relevant books at the library, and even take some evening classes or CIPD modules part time.

3. Get some work experience under your belt

The skills that make a great HR person are being able to have some experience of recruitment so placements are encouraged. The job is fun and busy, but due of data privacy laws, it's hard to get placements.

Look for companies that have placements that allow you to work on the process-side of HR (recording information and data collection) so that data-protection is kept safe and you can build up your knowledge in some areas.

Why is heritage important?

It gives you a sense of who you are, and who you were in the past. The Birmingham Museums and Trusts have nine different sites, and they each site covers a different aspect of life and culture that are very relevant for today's society.

For example, the Sarehole Mill is part of the 'Tolkein Trail' and influenced the ‘The Hobbit’ and Aston Hall is a Jacobean mansion near Aston Villa Football club. Brummies’ have something to feel proud about in our institutions.


Catherine is part of our heritage experts panel. Ask Catherine a question about working in heritage.

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