Head to Head with Malcolm Chew, HR Director at Care UK

Head to Head with Malcolm Chew, HR Director at Care UK


Tell us a little more about yourself and your role

I am an HR director who learnt my trade representing companies at Tribunal then, in the 1990s, working for British Airways negotiating change with Trade Unions and then focusing on driving high employee engagement. During the last decade I have worked for Serco and now Care UK. 

Care UK is one of the leading independent providers of health and social care in the UK. We have a team of nearly 20,000 doctors, nurses, therapists and care and support workers helping deliver a range of high quality social and health care services. Already more than half a million people are benefiting from the treatment, care or support we provide in environments ranging from treatment centres, GP surgeries and mental health facilities to care homes, day clubs and even in many of our customer's own homes.


"Our people bring so much to our business it's only fair we bring the same energy and dedication to developing their careers in return"


The focus has been not only on driving high employee engagement but also developing talent and a challenging performance culture. Interestingly, the similarities between my roles at Serco and now Care UK are pronounced due to the fact that both these two businesses enjoy the added frisson that HR professionals are crucial to the effective bidding, mobilisation and transformation of newly acquired contracts.


Describe your leadership style

I believe that the role of a leader – whatever the discipline – is to engage, agree a compelling goal and then build teams who are enthused to deliver. Of course, that’s easier said than done and I appreciate that making a team functional, cohesive and high performing is a significant challenge and requires levels of courage and discipline that few teams can ever muster. It involves building trust within teams, encouraging them to challenge the status quo and each other, making commitments to action and then helping prepare them to deliver. It’s my job to help our teams across the business to achieve that.


As a strong brand in the third sector, what will your organisation do to create a compelling employee proposition over the next few years?

Our people bring so much to our business it's only fair we bring the same energy and dedication to developing their careers in return. It's all part of our commitment to quality in everything we do.

At Care UK we offer great health and social care with a focus on empowering our employees to put the people we support first. We build teams that trust each other, challenge each other and then go ahead and deliver what they have promised for our customers. We have many employees who have come in to our organisation, grabbed the chance to deliver locally to our customers and, as a result, have built a successful career with us.


Structurally, how will HR meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of your employees?

Our HR model is very much one that is based around the HR Business Partner model. We employ a small number of highly efficient and effective BPs who work closely with the business and keep the HR overhead to a minimum. We fundamentally believe that line managers need to truly manage their people – it’s not just an ‘HR issue,’ it’s a people issue. So our HR focus is on up-skilling the line to manage and support their people – from that foundation, great customer service and business results flow. Our HR BPs work hand in glove with – albeit still challenging - their line management peers, have effective conversations and lead by example. I like to think that they demonstrate true business partnering at its most effective.


What key characteristics do you look for in HR professionals when recruiting for your team?

Integrity and backbone – they need to challenge the business to keep putting people first – and clarity of thought and execution. HR needs to cut through the management speak, be ‘real’ and help us to continue to build a great, caring service.

And finally, I’m a huge believer in the fact that, to be truly effective, HR folks have to demonstrate what I call commercial nous. They need to understand the business and ensure that the way we manage, engage and motivate our people gives us the edge over our competitors.

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