Casandra Rhoomes knew she wanted to be in Human Resources (HR) ever since her university days.
But at that time – around 25 years ago – HR wasn’t a well-known profession. Companies weren’t offering placements or internships; HR was simply too difficult to break into.
That’s when Casandra decided to take a different approach.
One day, while riding the Waterloo & City line to her lectures, she spotted a man holding a bag with the words ‘HR Conference’. Casandra’s eyes lit up and as he left the tube, she ran after him – and their conversation kick-started her HR career.
Casandra’s HR career has since led her through various positions including roles within the NHS, and then on to a number of people-focused roles across the non-profit and public sectors. Today, she’s Head of HR at ellenor: a hospice charity providing care and support to life-limited and end of life patients in Kent and Bexley, along with their families.
She leads a team of six in ellenor’s HR department. Between them, they’re responsible for recruitment and onboarding staff, learning and development, retention, employee relations and off-boarding. They’re the first port of call for any team members who have challenges in their day-to-day roles.
“Our main role,” Casandra explains, “is to act as a conduit between the employee and management. It’s a dual role which in itself is a skill that is often overlooked. I’m passionate about being fair; that, whatever the circumstances, the process is fair. Just as our nurses need to be compassionate with our patients, we – as HR – strive to show the same compassion to our staff.”
That said, Casandra is quick to acknowledge that the public perception of HR might not always be so positive. HR professionals are sometimes viewed as ‘enforcers’, responsible for safeguarding the business’s interests – rather than prioritising the needs of its employees.
The reality, she says with a wry smile, couldn’t be further from the truth.
“My husband often likens HR to the police! I don’t like this term. We’re not here to police people. We don’t create the organisation’s policies and enforce them; we’re simply here to advise on best practice and to ensure those policies are applied fairly and appropriately.
“People often assume that HR is always on the side of managers – but that’s not the case. We are there to make sure both sides understand the process and depending on the situation support either the manager or the employee through the process, we act as intermediaries, bridging the gap between the manager and employee to make sure that both sides understand the process, and that everyone feels that process is being interpreted correctly. Our function is to clarify, facilitate understanding and ensure both the organisation policy and the law is followed.”
This openness and commitment to the right resolution – for all parties – is reflected in Casandra’s warm, welcoming nature. It is not only evident in her words but also in her open-door policy which always stands wide open.
But it’s more than an open door, a smile, and over two decades of HR experience Casandra has brought to her role as Head of HR: it’s a fresh pair of eyes, too.