Star Interview

Claire Burns,
Director of
People & Talent at Harrison Spinks

Claire Burns, Director of People & Talent at luxury bed manufacturer Harrison Spinks, speaks to myGrapevine magazine about how the firm is listening to staff when it comes to employee experience...

Words by Sophie Parrott

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Culture Amp defines employee experience as something that “encapsulates what people encounter and observe over the course of their tenure at an organisation”. From the moment that talent is attracted and recruited into the business, to the time that it leaves a business, there are many aspects that can influence an employee’s journey. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that a whopping 92% of HR leaders set employee experience as a top priority in 2021, according to a survey by Isolved.

This might be because many HR professionals realise that the employee experience can have an impact on how happy staff are at work. Joint research from the University of Oxford's Saïd Business School and BT, found that workers are 13% more productive when happy. In addition to this, Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report – cited by Tech Target – found that businesses with engaged staff saw a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity, showcasing further benefits for businesses. If HR can create a good employee experience, then this could help employers reap some of the benefits in this area.

To find out more about employee experience in the workplace – and how one firm is going about this – myGrapevine magazine spoke to Claire Burns, Director of People & Talent at luxury bed manufacturing firm Harrison Spinks, about what a good employee experience means to her, how the firm is listening to colleagues, and her main focus points in the next 12 months.

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CV of
Claire Burns




Director, TCoE

Sept 2021 – Present

Director of People & Talent, Harrison Spinks Ltd,

Jan 2021 – Present

Human Resources Manager, Harrison Spinks Beds Ltd,

Oct 2017 – Present

Group HR Manager, SIL Holdings Ltd,

Jan 2008 – Oct 2017

Group Human Resources Manager, Killgerm Group Ltd,

Feb 2005 – Dec 2007



The University of Huddersfield, CIPD, Human Resources Management and Services,

2005 – 2008

The Open University, Social Sciences, Certificate in Social Sciences,

2002 – 2003



What does a good employee experience mean to you?


Employee experience begins before employment, so concentrate on your onboarding process [because] ‘first impressions count’. This is so important. A good induction is also crucial, this is where your employees will learn about the culture of the business and not just understand your company values, but how they can live and breathe them. Harrison Spinks wants our people to be proud of what they do and what the company does, we want them to be the best they can be, and we can only do this by providing a positive work environment, giving them a voice and keeping them engaged.


“I want to be [a] role model for aspiring leaders by providing guidance and inspiration”


Are there any employee experience-related initiatives that you are currently working on?


Having recently achieved Investors in People, we are working to build on this success by developing how we utilise our company values to better leverage engagement. We want to ensure our values are embedded into all our people approaches.

A bit about Claire


What made you want to explore a career in HR?

When I left school, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. I loved reading, which is why I picked A-Level English Literature, but realistically I had no idea what I could do with this. So, upon leaving school, I signed up with a recruitment agency specially asking them for temp roles where I could try a variety of industries and roles. This led me to a textile manufacturing company which I loved. I moved around this business working in various departments and ‘fell’ into the HR team. After ten years with this company, I was confident I did not want to work in any other industry and that the people development, in particular, was my passion.

What is your guiding philosophy to HR?

I want to be [a] role model for aspiring leaders by providing guidance and inspiration. I want every person that works in the organisation to be proud of what they do and proud of working for Harrison Spinks in line with our company values. I encourage development and constant learning so our most valuable assets can become better, be happy at work and be rewarded accordingly.

How long have you been in your current position?

Four years

What is the best thing about your role?

The people, of course!

What are the challenges with your role?

The challenges are the same as in most businesses – juggling operational needs, whilst delivering the business strategy.

What have been your key goals over the course of your career at Harrison Spinks?

Building upon the company’s success focusing on our best asset: our people. Harrison Spinks is a great brand and a great place to work, which I am extremely proud to be part of. During my four years with the company, we have gone through a period of rapid growth and major transformation, the need to bring our people along this journey and keeping them engaged (especially during a pandemic) has been a priority for me.



When it comes to employee experience, how are you listening to your colleagues?


We have developed a plan following our employee survey results carried out by Investors in People. We also carry out employee surveys in conjunction with key customers, which we openly share with them and discuss any improvements. We have an Employee Consultative Forum which meets every six weeks. This gives the whole workforce a voice to suggest improvements and share their thoughts and ideas. This year, we also created a team of individuals from across the whole business [named the] ‘future’s forum’ which is a unique opportunity and the first phase of a special programme for a select group of employees to provide valuable insights into ensuring Harrison Spinks remains a great place to work.

"I want every person that works in the organisation to be proud of what they do and proud of working for Harrison Spinks..."



Looking back at your time with the company, what are you most proud of?


Developing a people strategy that will enable the business to continually succeed by recruiting, retaining and developing talent using innovative and award-winning people practices, celebrating our company values.


What will be your main focus points in the next 12 months?


We are in the process of moving our recruitment to an in-house model. This is our main focus over the next 12 months as we want to ensure we recruit candidates who will be committed, driven and passionate members of the Harrison Spinks family – or as we say internally humble, hungry and smart.

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