Interview with Michelle Payne - Head of HR, Openmind Networks

Posted in : HR Interview Series on 12 September 2017 Issues covered:

Michelle knew from the start that a career in human resources was for her. She is passionate about working with people and helping them grow and develop in their roles.

In this interview, Michelle explains who she most admires in business, how she believes that respect and value help increase employee motivation and performance and the key skills essential to a role in human resources. 
Michelle Payne Openmind Networks
 Michelle Payne

Position & Organisation: Head of Human Resources for Openmind Networks

Number of Employees: <250 employees

Time in Post: 2 years

Previous Job: HR Manager for Openet

Tell us about your business in a sentence

Openmind Networks is a messaging systems provider to Mobile Operators and Inter Carriers.

Give us an idea about your early life and career

I completed a Commerce degree at the University College Cork and was fortunate to come out of college knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I had loved the Human Resources module I did so continued down this path and subsequently completed a master’s degree in Human Resource Management at the University of Limerick.

I came out of college in the midst of a recession but it gave me the opportunity to go and travel. I returned to Ireland and was offered an HR role in Openet where I stayed for five and half years working my way up to HR Manager. Two years ago, I decided to make the move and take on a new challenge; I was offered a role as Head of Human Resources for an Irish owned telecommunications company, Openmind Networks and have been here since then.

What are the key challenges you face in your role?

A key challenge I think for all companies is ensuring that they attract and retain the right people for the job. Your company has to have something that differs to other companies; for me, I think the differential in my current company is the “family feel”. Everyone openly communicates and pulls together when the need arises.

What keeps you going when things get tough?

HR can be tough at times but I think so long as you do the best you can in the situation, you just have to accept it.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

I’m in HR because I love working with people and helping them to grow in their jobs. I’d love to help develop those people who haven’t been given the opportunities to do so for one reason or another.

Who do you most admire in business locally and/or internationally? Why?

It’s a difficult question to answer without listing a number of people so broadly speaking, I admire people who take risks and set up businesses in an environment where they are up against big companies. I have worked for two companies, which did this. It’s great when you see these companies grow and employees are recognised as a key reason for such growth. Employees are more than just a number in the company and so it gives them a feeling of inclusiveness.

How do you unwind after a tough week?

I like to catch up with friends and family and switch off.

What are the key characteristics of your top performing employees?

Our top performing employees are modest individuals who are always willing to explain things to others. They do their job because they love what they do and they thrive because of this.

What skills are essential for a top career in HR and will these still be the same in 5 years time?

You must be a good listener and you must have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Unless the HR function is automated, which I hope will never happen, these skills will remain the same.

How did you gain an understanding of a more strategic level of HR?

I gained an understanding of strategic HR by working with senior members of the organisation and by having excellent mentors along the way. It’s important that you push yourself into these relationships rather than sit back and see if opportunities come your way.

What piece of advice would you give to a person trying to reach your position?

You have to respect and listen to people; try to understand how people are thinking and regardless of your opinion, hear them out and then explain yours in a calm and professional manner.

What benefits do staff value most in your organisation?

I think our staff value the flat structure; there is only one person who has an office in here and that’s the CEO (other than being in meetings, he has an open door policy).

In your view what is the best thing an organisation can do to motivate staff and drive higher performance?

Showing respect and that you value your employees, helps to motivate and drive higher performance. 

This article is correct at 12/09/2017

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