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Head of HR and Operations

London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

About this role

The Head of HR and Operations is a new position within Sustain and will play a central role in the senior team. You will work closely with the Chief Executive, senior managers and line-managers to provide effective leadership on HR and operational matters. You will lead on creating and improving systems to help us work better; as well as helping Sustain cultivate and embed a positive working culture for the whole staff team. The role will include day-to-day management and ownership of HR matters, processes, recruitment, staff training, skills development and performance management. The role will also lead on the internal people, skills and culture aspects of our diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism work.

Sustain is seeking a highly experienced, professional, authoritative, motivated and committed individual, who is great at working with a team to pursue organisational objectives at a leadership level, whilst developing positive relationships across the whole staff team. We are looking for someone who is experienced, confident and competent to set up and improve systems and approaches. We are also looking for a person with several years of senior experience, relevant qualifications, and an understanding of working with a values-driven team of people in the not-for-profit or charity sector, the majority of whom have permanent contracts but fixed-term project funding.

The person appointed will have an appreciation of the aims and values of the Sustain alliance and be excited by supporting our organisation through the transition to better ways of working. The creation of this role follows a period of significant organisational change associated with hybrid working, unionisation and changes in the senior team. This role will benefit from a confident, professional, diplomatic, values-led, collaborative and solutions-focused approach.

The role will not manage a team directly but will work closely to support senior leaders and colleagues who have previously undertaken key HR and operational duties, including Sustain’s Chief Executive, Head of Finance (who will line manage this role) and Finance and Administration Officer. They will also work closely with others on the management team and report to Trustees.

As with all senior roles at Sustain, we expect the person appointed to this role to commit to working mainly at the Sustain office during their probationary period, and thereafter for half of working hours, whilst still benefiting from the flexibility offered to all colleagues. This is part of senior role-modelling of the creativity, support, engagement and mental health benefits that in-person working cultivates between colleagues. This will be managed in coordination with other senior colleagues to enable good in-person coverage and connectivity across the week and across common holiday periods.

Tasks and responsibilities

With a solid understanding of the organisation’s staffing needs, the Head of HR and Operations will work closely with the Chief Executive, Head of Finance and other senior managers to:

  • Help Sustain offer good employee contractual terms, processes, employment rights and HR support.
  • Implement and develop systems, activities and ways of working that cultivate a positive working culture for the staff team, volunteers and interns, and other people that we work with.
  • Oversee implementation and evolution of Sustain’s HR policies, guidance and procedures.
  • Lead development and implementation of Sustain’s approach to personnel management, on matters such as performance (e.g. objective setting and work planning), personal development, staff progression, skills, training and learning.
  • Review and improve Sustain’s approach to recruitment and induction for staff members, volunteers, student or work placements and paid interns.
  • Leading on Sustain’s diversity, equity, Inclusion and anti-racism work, where this relates to recruitment, induction, probation, workplace culture, operations, people and learning, working with and supported by the Core Diversity Group.
  • Recording and communicating Sustain’s approach, principally through staff meetings; line managers training; HR processes; and editorial input, oversight and development of relevant chapters of the Staff Handbook, Line Managers Handbook, Recruitment Handbook and Management Handbook.
  • Ensuring personal records are handled sensitively, respectfully and with appropriate confidentiality, in line with good organisational culture and data protection rules (GDPR).

In practice this will involve leading on or supporting the following areas of work:

Recruitment, induction and probation

Holding responsibility for overall recruitment and onboarding, induction and probationary approaches, to ensure a warm and inclusive welcome, fairness, consistency and compliance across the organisation. This will include:

  • Leading on Sustain’s recruitment processes, supporting Line Managers in writing and grading job descriptions, managing recruitment in line with the ethos and procedures in our Recruitment Handbook, and supporting cultivation of a pipeline of exceptional and diverse candidates.
  • Developing, refining and implementing Sustain’s approach to recruitment and our Recruitment Handbook, including streamlining and standardising the shortlisting and interviews process.
  • Developing and ensuring high-quality and consistent implementation of welcoming, inclusive and productive induction and probationary period including
  • Setting probationary objectives; review probationary training or other needs; and working with line managers to conduct probation reviews.
  • Developing the concept of ‘foundation skills and knowledge’ to contribute to the way Sustain develops our induction and probation and creates opportunities for new entrants.
  • Helping develop, implement and innovate on recruitment for diversity and overcome barriers to participation, especially for people from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

Support for Line Managers

  • Ensuring a high quality and consistent approach to line management across the organisation, including development and implementation of standards, key tools and training, working with the Line Managers Forum and developing the Line Managers Handbook.
  • Coordinating the quarterly Line Managers Forum a well as participating in this group, to develop a shared approach to strategic matters; organisational culture and staff development; and helping to cultivate Sustain-style leadership at all levels of the organisation.
  • Arranging or providing support, advice, and training for Line Managers, including inducting new Line Managers, and supporting all Line Managers to implement key policies, guidance and support the people they manage in a fair and consistent way compatible with Sustain’s values, organisational needs, good HR practice and open communication.
  • Ensuring that one-to-ones and annual appraisals happen consistently and effectively, that good records are kept and that the organisation learns from these and takes forward actions arising.

Staff development, learning, progression and performance management

  • Working with managers to ensure high-quality objectives and workplans are prepared for all staff members, reviewed and managed effectively.
  • Working with Line Managers to understand and respond to staff skills, needs, progression opportunities and needs or aspirations for personal development.
  • Supporting implementation of Sustain’s approach to progression. Note: This area is currently under development as part of a wider Progression Review, and the outcome may include, for example, the Head of HR and Operations ensuring high-quality and consistent processes such as objective-setting, performance review, job grading, sector benchmarking, appraisals and appeals.
  • Ensuring all staff are benefiting from personal development opportunities (informed by Sustain’s personal development framework and other assets), and regular opportunities with their manager to review progress against objectives, skills and learning, personal development and wellbeing.
  • Leading on the annual appraisal process, ensuring it is consistent and useful and enables staff to develop for themselves, their teams and the wider organisation.
  • Building a culture of learning including helping to manage a (small) learning and development budget and helping staff to take up opportunity for learning including:
  • coordinating the annual staff training programme covering ‘core skills and learning’, alongside other learning opportunities.
  • organising internal and external training and learning opportunities for staff, e.g. webinars, in-person sessions, skills-share sessions, visits, strategy sessions and similar.
  • championing use of Sustain’s Volunteering Days for climate and social justice.

Staff team, culture and IWGB Trade Union group liaison

  • Ensuring Sustain’s staff culture remains vibrant, creative and welcoming, maintaining Sustain’s friendly, collaborative and flexible approach, while ensuring appropriate policies and procedures are implemented to guarantee the continued high quality of our work, ensure accountability and support people to flourish.
  • Leading on staff health and wellbeing projects and ensuring appropriate support for staff relating to physical and mental health.
  • Facilitating and fostering open communication and staff consultation processes throughout the organisation; working with colleagues to ensure regular opportunities for staff to connect, reflect and celebrate success.
  • Running staff consultations, including collating and presenting the findings, examining options, and developing recommendations for senior managers and Trustees, to inform decision-making.
  • Carrying out regular staff satisfaction surveys to monitor employee wellbeing, engagement, safeguarding, satisfaction and to measure effectiveness of line management, and to provide key data to the organisation to inform decision-making, including in relation to Sustain’s diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism commitments.
  • Participating in staff meetings and reporting to colleagues on key developments.
  • Joining senior managers in regular meetings with the Union Liaison Group.

HR and employment contract management

  • Working closely with the Head of Finance and senior managers to issue, track and communicate with staff regarding employment contracts, e.g. funding situation, precarity and contract extensions.
  • Advising and supporting senior management on employment matters; and how to apply the appropriate organisational values and policies within the legal and ethical framework.
  • Working closely with the Head of Finance to support completion of payroll and pension processes.
  • Managing potential redundancy and/or end-of-contract processes in line with employment legislation and internal policies; and ensuring that redeployment opportunities are fully considered throughout.
  • Managing and reviewing staff records on all absences, to include (but not limited to) annual leave, parental leave, compassionate leave and sickness absence leave, and providing up-to-date information to staff, Line Managers, senior managers and Trustees to enable review and decision-making.
  • Helping to manage freelance and consultancy or partnership contracts led by others.
  • Maintaining and developing Sustain’s HR information system to manage (including opportunities for further automation), for example, annual leave, absence, and general HR records.
  • Supporting Line Managers to conduct exit interviews (or conducting them personally) to ensure routine actions are performed, handover is completed effectively, feedback is captured, lessons learned, and changes implemented where appropriate.
  • Helping to manage complaints, grievance and safeguarding processes, working closely with senior managers and the Chief Executive.
  • Working with senior managers and Line Managers to ensure that Sustain’s Dignity and Respect Code of Conduct (anti bullying and harassment; safeguarding) is referenced in key places, processes and training, to ensure that this is well understood and treated as a priority.

Policies, guidance and procedures

  • Ensuring that Sustain policies, guidance and procedures remain up to date, relevant and legally compliant, supportive to members of staff and in line with Sustain’s needs, constraints and values.
  • Ensuring that Sustain’s has organisational statements, policies and guidance that help us to achieve our goals, and to demonstrate, communicate and promote good practice.
  • Implementing and managing an HR calendar for compliance checks, policy reviews on existing and future HR policies and procedures, and how this relates to HR and legal good practice, financial analysis, benchmarking, staff consultation and/or Trade Union negotiation.
  • Supporting review in areas of concern, for example Sustain’s sickness and absence policy, recording information on patterns, impact and costs, to enable well-informed review of options.
  • Carrying out remote working assessments, along with the relevant Line Managers (these are currently based on self-reported information from staff members, not on-site visits).
  • Supporting senior managers in Trade Union consultation and negotiation processes, in line with the Trade Union recognition agreement and agreed protocols for the timely provision and consideration of information, transparency, consultation, negotiation and decision-making.
  • Providing or commissioning sector benchmarking data, analysis and recommendations to inform decision-making, using the methodology agreed with Trustee oversight, on matters such as pay, annual leave, parental leave, sick leave, and other financial and non-financial staff benefits.
  • Communicating and liaising with and consulting the IWGB Trade Union group and wider staff team on key developments in relation to staff development, pay, benefits and working conditions.

Diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism

  • Being an active member of the Diversity Core Group, which meets regularly to oversee implementation of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism work, with particular attention in this role on recruitment for ethnic diversity and a culture of equity, inclusion and anti-racism.
  • Serving on, or taking a lead on, one or more task-and-finish groups to implement relevant initiatives in relation to our DEI and anti-racism commitments.
  • Overseeing data collection and reporting, including submission to relevant bodies either for accountability or recognition (e.g. annual Diversity Progress Report; quarterly reports to Trustees; The RACE Report; Living Wage Accreditation).
  • Development of HR policies, recruitment, induction and staff management culture and processes to help ensure Sustain is fair, accessible, inclusive and anti-racist in its practice.

Volunteers, paid interns and student placements

  • Developing and leading on Sustain’s approach to working with volunteers, student placements, paid internships and similar employment relationships.
  • Ensuring consistency and clear communication across the organisation.
  • Reviewing the experience of volunteers and interns, and helping Sustain to take action to ensure that people have a positive experience and gain experiences and skills that they need.

Personal specification


  • Five years of hands-on professional experience as an HR generalist including some experience of working in a similar size organisation.
  • CIPD qualification level 5 or equivalent.
  • Sound knowledge of UK HR and employment legislation, and implementation of this in good practice.
  • Confidence, experience and authority to take a leadership role on HR and operational matters, working with the Chief Executive, Trustees and senior managers.
  • Experience at a senior level advising and briefing a senior management team and/or board, especially in a charity or other values-led workplace.
  • Proven experience of leading on development and improvement of significant areas of HR and/or operational work, from inception to implementation.
  • Experience of end-to-end management of staff team members and their development: recruitment, skills and training, personal development, performance, wellbeing and HR processes.
  • Experience of developing skills and learning plans and commissioning and/or delivering learning opportunities including training, workshops and/or coaching.
  • Strong problem-solving skills, and negotiation skills and the ability and confidence to provide authoritative, insightful and constructive advice.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills in fluent spoken and written English.
  • Proficiency with computer software and records management.
  • Highly organised and self-motivated, with the ability to work flexibly, independently and meet deadlines, while having the judgment to know when to consult before proceeding.
  • High integrity, with a professional, diplomatic, values-led, solutions-focused and collaborative approach to working with a team.
  • Demonstrable commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and racial justice.
  • Experience or understanding of working in a unionised organisation.


  • Experience of researching, commissioning and/or analysing sector benchmarking data.
  • Experience of managing an external service provider to deliver relevant data and recommendations.
  • Experience of managing employment contracts to improve employee information and job security where funding is short-term and project-based, with insights into good practice.
  • Experience of delivering training and/or guidance to improve HR functions delivered by line managers.
  • Experience of running training, workshops and facilitating meetings and events for staff.
  • Insightful experience of helping an organisation manage HR and/or operational change effectively.
  • Experience of establishing metrics to track performance over time.
  • Experience of working in an organisation funded mainly by project grants.


The person appointed will contribute to the mutually supportive culture of Sustain (including colleagues, partners, participants and audiences) in which equality and diversity are not just respected but promoted. Visit our website here for some useful advice if you are applying for a job at Sustain.

Sustain is recruiting for this role as part of our Ethnicity Confident and Disability Confident schemes. Applicants who meet all the essential criteria, and who let us know voluntarily (via our Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form) that you would like to be considered in this way, will have an enhanced chance of gaining a first-stage interview.

Sustain welcomes applications from everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, class, socio-economic background, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and/or belief. We are happy to discuss and consider flexible working at the point of hire. We particularly encourage applications from people from ethnic minority backgrounds, people with diverse identities related to gender and sexuality, and people with disabilities. This is because these groups are currently underrepresented at Sustain. Where two or more candidates are judged to be of equal merit, priority may be given to a candidate who belongs to a group less represented at Sustain.


£60,945 full-time

CIPD Level 5 Required

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