Three of my biggest career moves have transpired because of the CEO
Rosemary McGinness, chief people officer at The Weir Group, understands the meaning behind a compelling C-Suite vision. HRD caught up with McGinness to hear how inclusion operates in a male-dominated sector and what inspired her into HR in the first place.
HRD: How did your career in HR begin?
RM: My career began with a hotel group called Trusthouse Forte, where I started in line management. Through this, I ended up moving into a project management role, which centered on improving the technology we used within the organization. As part of that role, I took responsibility for staff training – which my first taste of working in HR. I loved it! From there, I moved into a general management and training position. After that I chose to specialize in human resources. As it was a global company, they had a lot of specialist functions which offered me the opportunity to sample various aspects of human resources. Although the company was based in the UK, I was able to work on lots of worldwide assignments too – and as I became more senior, I moved into more generalist roles.
HRD: Tell us about a difficult challenge you’ve faced – and how you overcame it.
RM: My first head of HR role was with a company called Williams Lea – where I worked for five years. We had a joint venture partner in the US, and I was seconded over there. And whilst this was an amazing opportunity, the first year was tough. I was working too hard and I forgot to find that all-important work-life balance. I should have acknowledged that I was in a new role, with a new company, in a whole new city – New York – and it was pretty intense. Obviously, being in the US, I had a lot of friends who wanted to come over and visit – which meant that I was working long hours all week and then my weekends were full too. It was exiting, and I got a real buzz from the role, but it was incredibly exhausting. Eventually, I contracted a virus – which I actually put own to pure exhaustion. From this experience, I became much more conscious of the importance of self-care. It’s important to work hard, but don’t forget to look after yourself whilst doing it.
HRD: Do you have a career inspiration?
RM: I think of this more of a composite of many different people. Three of my biggest career moves have transpired because the CEO had a really compelling vision – they wanted to transform the whole business. A leader who has a great vision, and can articulate that vision well, inspires me. I’ve seen some great HR colleagues who’ve had the courage to challenge convention – who’ve tested the boundaries, stepped up and explained the need to do things differently. Leaders who’re conscious of their positional power, and the positive impact that power can have on other people – that’s a rare quality. When I was interviewed by the CEO of The Weir Group, Jon Stanton, he made it clear he wanted to enhance the organizational culture and employee proposition. Jon saw HR as an instigator of that. In my interview, he explained how he wanted to create a place where people can do the best work of their lives. Hearing that was like a Jerry Maguire moment – ‘you had me at hello!’. I thought wow, if the CEO is striving for this transformational excellence it’s a godsend from an HR perspective.
HRD: How do you find working in a male dominated sector like engineering? How do you recommend enhancing diversity in these industries?
RM: I came from outsourcing and the spirits industry which are both male-dominated industries, so honestly, I don’t think engineering is any different. I’m used to being the minority on the executive teams I’ve been a part of. However, at Weir we have three women on the board and a female chief technology officer who sits on the executive team with me, which is progress and we are determined to do more. We intend to make sure at least a third of board and executive members and their direct reports are female by the end of 2020. Following employee feedback, we are also looking beyond diversity. We’ve recently shifted the focus to inclusion. Our recent inclusion strategy looks at creating an inclusive environment for everyone – and that allows us to think much more broadly than the traditional dimensions of diversity. Let me give you an example of something I think is really important. We have also just launched Weir ShareBuilder which is a comprehensive share ownership scheme that will give all our 15,000 employees the chance to become owners of the business. We have gone to great effort to ensure that every employee across the globe can participate and believe this will fully support our aim to be an inclusive employer.
HRD: What’s your life motto?
RM: I left my last HRD role after 12 years in the organization and I started to consider what my legacy would be. It’s all about making a difference – it’s that simple. Find a way to make a difference whilst simultaneously lifting people up as you go. When I left William Grant & Sons, people came to wish me well. However, the things they spoke to me about were not the things I had originally anticipated. No one was talking about the new talent management system for example – they were discussing the conversations we had that helped them make important career choices. Or the times when I had more confidence in them than they had in themselves. Feeling like you’ve really made an impact on individuals’ lives is energizing. Enjoy what you do – for me, if I’m not making a difference, I have to move on.