As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited several HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Giorgio Jones, Group CFO and HR Director at PM Holding Group. Giorgio has been in the pharmaceutical space for almost 30 years, working primarily with Clinical Research Organisations like Quintiles, Profiad and Quanticate.
Can you tell us how you started your career in HR?
‘It’s unusual because I started off as a Management Accountant, and eventually rose up to Finance Director and then CFO. At that point and up until now, I’ve always worked with SMEs or within SMEs, and invariably you’re given either IT or HR to look after as well. I think it was about 2003 when I got my first Finance Director role, I became responsible for HR.’
‘I’ve always had an interest in HR because I’ve worked for companies in the services sector where the people are your asset. What we sell is people’s expertise and time, and they’re knowledge workers. So, I’ve always had an interest and understood the connection between commercial success and how those people operated and how you looked after them.’
‘When I turned 50, I decided to formalise my HR understanding and I did the CIPD. And I found that very interesting, because whilst I had quite a lot of practical experience by then of running HR departments, albeit it in SMEs, it just gave me more insight into the theory.’
‘One of the first things that struck me when I started was the importance of good HR admin. It seems obvious, but when you don’t think about it and you’re always focused on strategy, engagement, retention, and recruitment, you forget the basics. If your HR admin is poor, people will have a poor opinion of HR as a function within the company. From then on, I focused on making sure my team were really good on the admin side before we even started thinking about people development, and so on.’
What core skills do you think are important to be a successful leader in 2019?
“Emotional intelligence is paramount. You can define that in different ways I suppose, but for it’s all about understanding people’s motivations. And I think sometimes it’s far too easy to put how we are as individuals on to others, and think their behaviour is driven by this and that because that’s what I would do. And maybe it’s not even a conscious thing, but rather a subconscious reaction. We need to break that and actually reflect and look at individuals individually, and why they do certain things when their behaviour is not what you expect.’
‘I think it is very hard now to engage people. And, of course, working predominantly with a younger workforce, they’re quite different to myself in their aspirations and how they view work. So, for me, the first thing you’ve got to do is put yourself in other people’s shoes. Why are they coming to work every day? What is it they’re looking for from their job?’
‘And of course, culture plays a key part in it all. I’ve worked with owner managed businesses for a long time now, and the culture of the company absolutely reflects the personality of that one individual. And HR has to be there to try and soften it, change it, or whatever. And they may even be asking you to change it on their behalf. But in the end, it’s very difficult to do because if they themselves don’t live it and set that example as the ultimate leader in the company, you’re fighting a losing battle. You can work hard to get people to a certain level of satisfaction and contentment, and then the leader can say one thing in a meeting and it all goes down the drain.’
What career advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in their HR career?
‘Well, it’s interesting because I’ve got grown up sons and a grown up daughter who are all embarking on their careers now. I think it’s hard because you have to really think about what you want to do longer term, because it is difficult to switch. I was able to do it. But I was still younger than some of my kids are now. And I can see that one of them would like a change, but he perceives it as too late, and it probably is. Unless he’s prepared to take a step back financially, which is difficult to do. So, I was lucky in that sense that I was able to make that change.’
‘So I think my advice would be to do what you enjoy, and perhaps don’t think too much about the financial side because that will come if you really enjoy something. You know, I never thought I would get to the CFO level and be on boards. When I started doing management accounting, that didn’t figure in my thinking at all.
‘I think you just have to get on with things really and not be too concerned what the impact is on you. That will take care of itself at some point in the future. I’ve not ever pushed for pay rises, but they’ve come my way quite naturally over time.’
Giorgio has been with PM Holding Group since May 2016.
If you would like to have a confidential conversation about your career or would like to understand how Human can support you in growing your team, please get in touch today.