• Role: Human Resources Consultant
  • University: UCL
  • Degree: BA (Hons) Geography
  • Organisation: Willis Towers Watson

Kate Woods

When I finished university I knew that I wanted to enter the corporate world, but not financial services like many of my friends who are now accountants. I wanted to understand what makes people tick in the workplace; if people really are the greatest asset in a company, how do you release that potential? So HR consultancy seemed like a good place to satisfy my curiosity. I have now been here for four and a half years and the penny is beginning to drop!

The crux of the job as a reward consultant, the area I specialise in, is to support clients in finding the optimum way to reward, motivate and engage their workforce. Some clients will ask me to work with them to build a new pay structure, or perhaps to design a bonus scheme for employees, or possibly to design a performance management system which pays a bonus.

Other typical requests for our services include building competency frameworks, running customised surveys to gather pay and benefits information on specific, and possibly rare, roles in the market. We also provide pay information on how an executive should be remunerated based on what competitors are paying.

The work is varied with some projects lasting one to two weeks, whilst others can last one to two years, plus I do not work on just one client at a time, but often support five to six clients simultaneously – some will be private sector clients, others public sector clients. It means that there isn’t really a typical day in consulting as each day brings its surprises, so I’ll recall what I did last week.


I am currently seconded into a government organisation as their interim reward specialist, so I work there two days a week. I’m helping them to complete their pay remit for the year. This entails them asking HM Treasury for permission to spend what they need to in order to recruit, motivate and retain staff via base pay, bonuses, allowances and benefits. It is great exposure to a client environment.

On a daily basis I will work with other HR colleagues to propose how the reward structure needs to change in order to be aligned with civil service guidance and also aligned with the strategy of the organisation. Once the proposals are decided, I work with the finance team to model the cost implications to see whether or not they are feasible.


Work is sponsoring me to do an MSc in Human Resource Management at Kings College London and this was my final study day! I have been doing it for two years part-time and am due to finish very soon! I cannot wait to get my weekends back. It has been incredibly tough working full-time and studying as well – but a great opportunity and has really helped my technical knowledge.

Towers Watson does not require extra qualifications for my role, but I have found it useful to understand the theory behind the practical solutions that we design and implement for clients. It is enabling me to understand the broader suite of HR issues that my clients face and hopefully provide them with better support as a result.


Back to my secondment! We worked more on the remit, especially on the modelling of how certain pay awards could affect the overall pay bill. Someone in their finance department is helping me to model these. We also started a review of their performance management system to understand whether it is still fit for purpose, prompted by employee survey results which suggest this may not be the case.

I will be conducting some employee research which includes focus groups and leadership interviews to work out what employees currently like/dislike about the system and how they would like it to be improved and become more meaningful for them as teams and individuals. Today I drew up the project plan and designed the interview guide and focus group guide.


Finally, a day in the office! I love being out with clients, but sometimes it’s a relief to get back to my desk and take stock of my other client projects as well as the projects that other colleagues are working on. It is important to be aware of new projects so that as I finish working with a client, I have new work to pick up in order to stay busy. The day started at 08.30 with an interview.We are currently recruiting and I was given the opportunity to interview the candidate for half an hour.

I had been checking my emails remotely in the evenings, so luckily I had been able to keep track of my other client projects over the week. I look after the billing for my clients so look at how many hours we have spent on a project that month, ensuring that it is within the estimated fees we quoted and send out the bill. I have five other client projects going on at the moment, so took the time in the office to catch up with the colleagues I am working with – we do a lot of team-based work – and corresponded with clients to ensure the project is on track and we are prepared for upcoming meetings.


I spent the morning in the office designing a training needs analysis tool for a client I have been working with over the past two months, as well as writing a proposal for a project to conduct research on how much lawyers should be paid in the media sector. In the afternoon I went to a different government department to deliver a training session to a group of managers on how to successfully manage the performance of their employees.

Towers Watson research shows that the top factor that influences whether or not an employee is engaged and wants to stay with an organisation and do their best for that organisation is the line manager taking an interest in their well-being. Therefore, managers are critical to a happy and high performing workforce. Once the session finished, I sneakily slipped out the door to head home at 17.00 – a couple of hours earlier than normal!

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