We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Niamh Graham.
Niamh is VP of global HR at Workhuman. During her 10-plus years with the company, Niamh has also held several leadership roles in operations, setting up a global operational infrastructure as the company scaled on a global basis. Prior to Workhuman, she worked with large multinational music companies and focused on international marketing and intellectual property. Niamh holds a Bachelor of Business Studies in International Marketing (Innovation & French) from Trinity College Dublin.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
My pleasure! I actually landed in HR in a roundabout way and I couldn’t be more pleased with where it has taken me. Early in my career, I was passionate about international marketing and business. My first role at Workhuman® was focused on sales and marketing strategy and developing our business opportunities in Europe and the U.S. My background in those fields led me to take on a global operations role at Workhuman, scaling the infrastructure of our company for success. My career then took another turn as our employee base grew and I became responsible for our people and culture, which I’ve been doing for the last number of years. I truly enjoy this role, as it resonates with me as a business person, as a human, and as a leader.
Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?
I’ll share a funny story. One of my first trips to the U.S. involved visiting a new customer in Arizona in the middle of the summer. Being Irish and accustomed to a cold and wet climate, I arrived in a black woolen suit. Unbeknownst to me, it was a sweltering hot 120 degrees in Arizona. It certainly made for a great icebreaker with our new customer. Lesson learned: Always check the weather before you pack your suitcase!
Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?
We launched an internal program called “Be the Spark,” which is all about bringing values and behaviors to life within our organization. We’ve married that with our workforce hiring campaign called [email protected]
This includes six value pillars: imagination/determination/innovation; respect for all; respect for teamwork; respect for urgency; respect for quality; and respect for customers (internal/external). We matched behaviors to these values to give clarity and transparency and to create an authentic and successful way of identifying talent for our company. For example, we look for people who embody courage, a strategic mindset, the ability to build effective teams, drive engagement, instill trust, are action-orientated, and are effective communicators. We look at all of this from a contributor and leadership lens — and always with a human lens! We also conduct peer interviews using scenario-based questions, which is very insightful and collaborative.
With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top 3 ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?
We are co-headquartered in Boston and Dublin, and there is definitely tough competition for talent in these cities. There are a couple of different approaches to attracting talent that has worked well for us.
First and foremost, we are regarded as thought leaders in recognition and gratitude, and that is how we position ourselves to attract and engage the best talent. Our uniqueness as a company and our focus on recognition and gratitude are appealing to candidates. They are inspired and excited by what we do as a company and how our human-centric technology transforms workplace culture.
Candidates want to work for a company where they feel like they can make a difference and have a sense of belonging. In fact, according to a recent Workhuman Analytics & Research Institute survey, workers across all age groups rank meaningful work as most important — beating out all other options, including positive company culture, compensation and perks, a supportive manager, and a fun team. That’s how we position ourselves against different companies: a place where you can do your best work and be happy.
Our employer brand is critically important to us and we use our employer brand proposition to engage talent via social media and other recruitment channels. Ultimately, we are all recruiters and each employee is an ambassador for the company.
Third, we work with many associations and institutions globally in the HR space and we invest time and resources in creating a great place to work. In fact, Workhuman has named the number one best place to work in Ireland in 2019. We are also an accredited workplace in the U.S. and we’ve been on the Boston Globe’s Top Workplaces list for a number of years. This has positively impacted our brand, talent acquisition, and retention strategies.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement we’ve inspired by Workhuman Live is bringing humanity to the workplace. We want to pass it forward and inspire others around us. Imagination and innovation and determination are part of our DNA as a company, starting from the top with our CEO Eric Mosley. He instills that thinking in our company, always looking to the future and elevating everything we do. Bringing people together in a different way and moving an industry forward is part of our mission statement. We want to inspire leaders around the world to be agents of change and make work more human.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?
One life lesson quote that resonates with me through life, work, marriage, and being a parent is a quote from President John F. Kennedy’s address at Rice University on the Nation’s Space effort: ‘We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’
This quote reminds me of my upbringing and my parents instilling positive, strong work ethic and ambition in me — the same work ethic and ambition I’ve instilled in my children. I’ve always liked a challenge and I’ve adopted this approach to my career, influencing others around me and always giving more than 100%. That quote resonates with me because it is about boldly going where others have not gone before, which is what we are doing as a company. We are making a difference to millions of people worldwide. It fills me with gratitude and pride to be part of Workhuman.
We are very blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?
I’ve been fortunate to meet some inspiring people in my career at Workhuman. I met former first lady Michelle Obama when she spoke at Workhuman Live in 2018. She was one of the people on my list. She’s so inspirational and has done so much from a charity perspective and from leadership and women at work perspective.
I would love to meet Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group, and learn more about his success in entrepreneurship and his evolution personally and professionally. He is going boldly where no one has gone in launching Virgin Galactic and striving to be the first business to provide commercial passenger flights in space.
I admire people who are thoughtful, kind, caring, authentic, and genuine, who have made a difference in their lives and the lives of others through entrepreneurship, charity, business, sports, etc. Those that are aligned to my personal and professional values of respect, imagination, innovation, and determination are the types of people I like to meet and enjoy spending time with. I am sure I will receive lots of lunch invitations as a result!
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!