“…Have the self-awareness to find what motivates and enlightens you, and then play into those strengths.” Craig Morgans, Director of Talent Acquisition, Emerging Talent & Employee Experience at The AA speaks to us about developing a career in HR Leadership.
As part of our commitment to supporting candidates to develop fulfilling careers, we’ve invited some HR Leaders to share the secrets of their success.
This week, we had a great conversation with Craig Morgans, who began his career as a Personnel Clerk at the Yellow Pages. He assumed subsequent HR Advisor and National Resourcing Consultant roles with the company before moving on to work in various Resourcing roles for GMAC-RFC, Cadbury PLC, LV=, Care UK, Willis, and Vodafone Global Enterprise via Futurestep, ahead of joining the AA in 2015 as Head of Talent Acquisition, Learning and Development. After also taking on responsibility for HR Shared Services, he assumed his current role as Director of Talent Acquisition, Emerging Talent & Employee Experience in 2019.
Can you tell us how you got into HR and why?
I studied GNVQ Advanced Business Studies at Windsor College after I finished school, and alongside that, I worked part-time at King Edward Hospital in the Personnel Department. I liked my job there, and I really enjoyed the Personnel/HR module on my GNVQ, so I decided to follow it as a career.
I was lucky enough to secure a job with Yellow Pages as a Personnel Clerk, and I stayed with them for nine years, working my way up through the ranks to HR Advisor. That was a generalist role, and I found that Recruitment was what really floated my boat—I loved getting people into a business and helping them find the right role to grow in. When they set up the national resourcing team, I was approached and it was a no-brainer. I then spent three years supporting high-volume recruitment up and down the UK in that function. It was a great place to cut my teeth and take up lots of different opportunities.
After that, I was approached to work at GMAC as a Resourcing Specialist and overhaul their recruitment function, which was too good an opportunity to turn down. I spent two years there; it had a great culture, high volume recruitment, and we became a high functioning direct sourcing team, but after the recession, the recruitment dropped, and I had to move on.
I then took a managerial role at Cadbury, setting up a new recruitment function for them. I had a team under me who supported graduate Sales and Marketing recruitment, and I retained global vacancies and supported senior hires from Corporate Head Office.
I was then headhunted by LV, who again had a recruitment function that needed some fundamental overhauling. That was an amazing opportunity—it was a step up into my first ‘Head of’ Role, it allowed me to create a team, and there was plenty of opportunity to change and improve things, which is what has really motivated me throughout my career. I think I’m quite creative / innovative & I like pushing boundaries.
After two years, I moved to Care UK to look at their recruitment functions and processing, starting out with the Community Services division and then moving into Head Office to work on their niche hiring for GPs and other specialists through direct sourcing.
I then moved to Head of Resourcing at Willis, where I created a start-up recruitment function based in Central London, but I ultimately needed to return home to my young family, so I got in contact with Futurestep. The opportunity they offered me ticked all the boxes for me – it was closer to home, and something I hadn’t done before, so a bit of a challenge. It was very enjoyable.
When I was headhunted by The AA, the L&D aspect was another new challenge for me, and the resourcing team needed improvement—we ended up rebuilding it from scratch. Again, that was a great opportunity to come in and work on big projects and build new functions, which I love. I’ve been here almost four years now, and it’s just been one new challenge after another—going in and taking control of Shared Services, and then moving into a Director role. It’s allowed me to grow, given me the freedom to be creative and innovative, and taken me out of my comfort zone.
Can you tell me about the challenges that you’re seeing across the HR sector?
From an industry perspective, I would say that technological advances are fundamentally changing the way we operate. We need to innovate and clearly differentiate ourselves from our competitors, and be looking at things very differently to sell a different proposition from other companies.
From a talent acquisition perspective, getting talent into the automotive market is a bit of a challenge. Trainee numbers are dwindling year on year, and it’s a very male-dominated industry. At AA, we’ve trailblazed and set up our own apprenticeship programme to try and give something back to the industry by sending apprentices out to our garage network to learn their trade. Following that, they come back into the business on either a three- or five-year programme to train in our vans. That was a big project for us, and it’s very different to what’s been done before.
What career advice would you offer to someone either working towards a career like yours, or someone just getting started in their HR career?
I think choosing your manager is just as important as choosing an organisation to work for. I’ve had some great managers who have given me full autonomy and allowed me to make mistakes, but then also supported and guided me, as well as mentoring me and allowing me to develop. I’ve taken those skills on in my own leadership—about 30% of my team are apprentices who’ve never worked in Recruitment before, and I enjoy seeing them develop and come on the journey with us. I would also say don’t be afraid to fail—if you’re not trying new things, you’re not going to learn or develop.
Have fun as well! You’ve got to enjoy who you work with and what you do, and it’s really important that you have the self-awareness to find what motivates and enlightens you, and then play into those strengths.
Craig has been working in his current role as Director of Talent Acquisition, Emerging Talent & Employee Experience since earlier this year, and leads Talent Acquisition while also being responsible for the design and implementation of AA’s Emerging Talent & Employee Experience strategy.
If you are interested in having a confidential conversation about your career or would like support growing your team, please get in touch today.