From Education to Employee Relations…Q&A and the Final Instalment
Read our Q&A with Annemarie…
Describe your typical day:
“I don’t have a typical day which is what I like the most about my job. There are lots of planning and strategic aspects but there are also still lots of unplanned, unexpected elements to the role. Every day is varied and there is always something new. There are loads of opportunities to learn, I don’t think I’ll ever have the feeling I’ve seen it all because it’s people-work and people can always surprise you.” The thing that Annemarie loves most about her job is the unexpected. Unexpected events test your flexibility and you can be innovative in finding solutions. She doesn’t mind conflict; she feels these are very specific situations and issues where she can add value. Annrmarie sees one of HR’s tasks to be the voice of reason, to keep a cool head and to resolve situations. If there is conflict, she doesn’t see perceive it in a personal way, instead acknowledges different viewpoints which provide everyone the opportunity to learn from each other and to understand what the other party is trying to achieve. She sees no reason to think you cannot solve a problem, sometimes you need to agree to disagree but then that’s still a solution of sorts. The thing that Annemarie likes the least about her job is the admin and the amount of reporting. She tries to look at tasks in a very smart manner because she believes that HR professionals perform best when they’re working with managers and employees not sitting behind a computer. “If you don’t know the people you are responsible for; if you think of them as numbers in a spreadsheet, that really worries me. I really want to understand what’s going on, what drives people.”
What is your career highlight?
“The highlight for me has to be the expat assignment in Germany; living somewhere else and working in a different culture. The reality is that expat assignments are not cheap for the business, so there is a lot of pressure on you to come up with a clear plan and goals which you have to deliver. It was definitely my biggest challenge.”
What specific challenges do you have in your current role?
“One of the difficult aspects is always managing multi-located teams: when travel budgets are limited, how do you make sure you can be there for the team when you can’t physically be present? How do you pick up on the signs when you can’t physically see them?” To tackle this, Annemarie said that when she travels she makes sure she is really present; connects with the team, learns about what is really important to them and tries to understand what the local challenges are.
What are you most looking forward to when you take on your next Cummins position as Labour Relations Manager for Europe? What challenges do you expect to face and how do you plan to overcome them?
“I think I will be able to apply the skills I have learnt from my Post-Graduate Law training, maybe taking it further as I love law (next to knitting)! I’m looking forward to being in a corporate role again where I’m able to work across business units and to rekindle some contacts from the past. There will be quite a bit of travel but I like change, I thrive on change.”
the Final Instalment
What challenges exist for women working in a typically male dominated industry?
“Speaking personally, I have never ever remotely felt like I have been treated differently than my male colleagues. Creating flexibility for your entire work force is important, not only for women.” Annemarie has been fortunate to be able to influence the policies and procedures around flexible working practices for the entire workforce not just women: “Flexibility is required for all sorts of reasons, not just women and childcare but actually male colleagues should be able to work flexibly as well. I think it’s starting to happen. I have male and female direct reports who work part-time. I ask them to tell me what they need, be honest and we can see if we can make it work. My goal is for happy and engaged employees who feel well and have a good work/life balance.”
What kind of support do you get from your leaders?
“I have always had very inspirational leaders in Cummins and elsewhere. I have always built strong relationships with my managers based on communication and honest feedback about the things I do well and not so well. Which is great because then you have an opportunity to develop. I’ve also been given good career advice; people who know you well spot things that you may not have considered yourself“.
How has international work affected your career?
“I think I am able now to see the bigger picture. It’s easier now to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and recognise the differences. Some people have the impression that Europe is one culture, and there are some similarities but also some very significant differences“.
Do you feel there are differences between the UK and Germany (and any other countries you may have worked in) in the culture/attitudes towards women?
“In Cummins? No. Cummins has very strong, globally accepted core values. Yes there will always be specifics locally but overall there is a certain culture that is recognisable.
What would be your top tips to other women looking to progress in engineering/manufacturing companies?
“Stay true to yourself, don’t think you should be acting like somebody else and accept that everyone is unique. For women trying to progress in HR within engineering/manufacturing I would say that you will likely be collaborating with very technical specialists who may have a different skillset – something that shouldn’t worry you. You may be able to bring a different perspective to the table and that is why you can make a difference. If you bring a very different skillset into engineering/manufacturing then that’s where you add your value. Don’t be phased by a male dominated environment – I think the ideal environment is as diverse as possible – gender, ethnicity, background. I never see a man or a woman, I deal with people.”
We wish Annemarie all the best in her new role and look forward to catching up with her later in the year to see how life has changed as she takes on the role of Labour Relations Manager for Europe in July.