Focus: People Management - The big appointment - Sight Savers hires Body Shop HR chief

Retaining talented staff at the charity is top of Mark Barrett's agenda, writes Graham Willgoss.

Mark Barrett, former global HR chief at Body Shop, has filled the new post of director of human resources development at Sight Savers International, briefed to retain talented staff.

Barrett worked as a chartered accountant before joining the Body Shop as financial controller in 1989. He moved to HR in 1994 and worked his way up to head of corporate HR, completing a Master's degree in strategic HR management before ending his career there as global HR director.

"My appointment was fortuitous," says Barrett of his new position. "I was interested in the post of HR director at Guide Dogs for the Blind - through that I got in touch with a headhunter who thought I would be better suited to this."

Barrett will be responsible for human resources and internal communications for Sight Savers across all 18 countries in which the charity has paid staff.

"We've set ourselves targets with regards to developing the skills of our employees, retaining them and keeping them engaged," Barrett says.

"At the Body Shop I learned a how to engage employees with the values of the organisation. This will be useful in my new role.

"The danger with a big charity is that we employ people who are good at what they do but who quickly move on because they feel they have a better chance of developing their skills elsewhere."

Barrett says a key part of his role at Sight Savers will be to grow the senior management team from within its own ranks and give employees the chance to develop themselves professionally.

Caroline Harper, chief executive of Sight Savers, says this is crucial to retaining talented employees.

"It can be frustrating for people if there are no career development opportunities in the jobs they have," she says. "So they look elsewhere."

Harper believes Barrett has the ability to develop talented staff as a result of his experience.

"We wanted someone who understood the difficulties presented by an organisation working in a number of different countries," she explains. "We have a strategic plan - Mark's input will keep us informed about how the strategic framework affects our people."

Harper says it was necessary to create the new position to ensure that employees were represented at senior management level.

"I've been at Sight Savers for just under a year now," she says. "When I arrived, our head of HR was not part of the senior management team, which I felt wasn't right. That's why it was important to employ Mark in this role."

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