My brilliant career – Martin Bowen

by 27 Nov 2007

What is your current role?

I am the human resources manager for Konica Minolta Business Solutions. Our Australian business has about 400 employees comprising sales, service, operations, administration and management. My team provides the full range of HR services, including development, rewards, employee relations, health, safety and welfare, recruitment and payroll, and I am responsible for the HR strategy piece.

What qualifications do you hold?

I am a certified professional with AHRI and am completing a Bachelor of Business (Human Resources) at CharlesSturtUniversity, following an initial diploma in payroll operations.

How did you get into HR?

I was offered a role with the Australian public service when I left school and my options were the recruitment section or the payroll section for the Department of Defence – it must have been fate. Anyway, I chose payroll and my first six months comprised an intensive in-house diploma in payroll operations. And so I began.

Why did you get into HR?

HR didn’t exist when I commenced in the workforce – it was personnel operations. My genesis was in a manual payroll processing area with no HRIS to be seen. I had to administer pay and conditions for a group of employees in the Department of Defence. Over time, my role evolved and as I moved around the departments, I came to understand that the HR area acted as a confidante for the business leaders and I really enjoyed the responsibility and access it gave.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I have a challenging role in a growth business and I foresee a great opportunity to build the capability and systems, as our reputation develops. With that in mind, I can see myself being here for a good while yet. I also have a desire to work overseas at some stage though perhaps that might be beyond the five-year window.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Effective listening and influencing skills are fundamental. Getting to know the business by spending time ‘with them, out there’ builds serious credibility and allows you to add real value back. I think being able to provide actionable outcomes is imperative as well.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

I work with them one-on-one as much as possible and don’t ambush them, ever. I really related to Patrick Lencioni’s simple story in Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and wherever possible, I try to build collaborative, open relationships with my senior colleagues. I think being honest but constructive is the ideal way to keep these relationships effective.

Who is your biggest professional inspiration?

I have worked for some tyrants in my time, even in HR, and they have certainly inspired in me a real drive not to be like that. Likewise, I have worked with a couple of senior managers who had fabulous work ethics and sharp, enquiring minds, and they undoubtedly pushed me to higher levels. Personally, my father has always been a role model for me and his balanced outlook is something I have aspired to bring to my life. In addition, my wife keeps me sane when everything else is going awry.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

Knowing the haste with which grads want to get on these days, I would say to be patient and try to get experience with the people-side of the business from every perspective. It takes time to become the trusted adviser.

I benefited from being a real HR generalist and, like a number of great HR people, spending time on the ground gives real perspective. I worked in sales and IT professional services where I was under pressure to deliver but also able to enjoy the successes as well.

Describe yourself in three words

Articulate, compassionate and meticulous.