Executive Search Firms Dublin

Irish Executive Search Firm, Principal Connections announce Jim O’Brien as HR Leader of the Month for July 2021


Subscribe

Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Jim O’Brien the person?

The Person
I’m married to Dee for 17 years and we have 3 kids – Ben, Rachel and Sarah (who sadly for her lacks a US passport as she was the one born back in Ireland). My 12 year old daughter Rachel was born with significant intellectual and physical disabilities so creating a society where we enable people with special needs to achieve their fullest potential is profoundly important to me. Boardmatch connected me to the Muiriosa Foundation and I have been on the board there since January 2015. As much as we all believe our organisations do important things, the work that the team at Muiriosa do transforms people’s quality of life and nothing is more important than that.

The Career
I moved into HR running UK graduate recruitment scarily 24 years ago this month! I was lucky enough to work in a company which backed its young talent to move in to new areas without prior experience so then I did a mixture of Reward and HR Generalist. I got involved in our global merger HR project team and ran a mega busy Global Mobility programme after the merger which was a terrific experience in your 20’s.

I then spent 11 years with Diageo initially in Dublin in Reward and then Head of HR for a division, moved to California as VP HR for Wine (where we acquired two dual citizenship kids!) and finally took on a global Reward Director role.

I decided to move industry in 2012 and joined Bank of Ireland as HR Director for the Corporate & Treasury division and central functions. It was a fascinating time to work in banking and with cross sectoral moves you learn a lot.

I recently did 2 years with DAA addressing the challenges of rapid growth at Dublin Airport. Hopefully, we will see that again in the not too distant future. Dublin Airport is vital to this country’s economy and aviation has been decimated by Covid.

I then joined Aramark in June 2019 and this role in many ways is the culmination of all that mix of Centre of Expertise and HR Generalist experience at home and abroad as I have HR Shared Services, Centres of Expertise and HR Business Partner teams as part of my remit across the region. I would strongly recommend any aspiring CHRO to experience a mix of HR Generalist and CoE roles across their career as it gives you breadth and a wider range of perspectives.

Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current organisation?

Aramark Northern Europe has over 15,000 employees across the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Our breadth extends across food services, facilities management, retail and property management. We service clients in Healthcare, Government, Education, Offshore Oil and Gas, all sectors of Business and Industry and large Sports and Leisure venues. We also own the iconic Avoca business in Ireland. We are part of a truly global leader with over 250,000 employees worldwide.

Q. THE CHALLENGES What do you see as the most important challenges facing HR Leaders today?

(1) We will see a significant change in most business models post pandemic so rethinking the workforce required to meet those challenges as they evolve.

(2) Aligning business needs and the needs of employees to attract and retain talent including addressing systemic talent deficits across several key sectors as employees have exited those sectors badly impacted.

(3) Re-establishing a more vibrant post pandemic culture which motivates employees. Work has become more transactional for many and we need to reinvigorate the quality of work experiences and reestablish the joy of in person connections for many of us.

Q. THE ADVANCES What do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?

I’m hopeful that the advance in technology will finally reduce the volume of diverse administration the HR function spends too much time managing in a piecemeal manner. More fundamentally, it will accelerate the move to a more analytics led and thus insight led function. That will be transformative for HR, and one of the interesting challenges will be having sufficient HR talent leveraging the analysis, as HR does not attract enough people with such skillsets. We will need to reach out to other functions and attract talent in.

Q. THE ADVICE What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

“You’re never fully ready for the next opportunity but take the opportunity. You will learn how to learn fast, fail fast at times and recover.”

Q. THE MOTIVATION What keeps you motivated day to day?

There is such a wide variety of key challenges and I work with some great people including a terrific HR team.

Q. THE ACHIEVEMENT What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

I’m going to pick a job rather than a specific project. When I moved to California, it was a big cultural change and the business was acquiring smaller companies and trying to create a winning culture for the division. 3 years later, we had successfully integrated two companies and created a distinctive culture which was enabling our success. As a Leadership Team, the employee survey feedback had gone from neutral to overwhelmingly positive and there was an energy and cut-through pace to make things happen. That was a great journey to be part of and I love being part of a winning team.

Q. THE INSPIRATION Who inspires you professionally?

The public figure who has been a huge inspiration to me in the last few years is Jacinda Ardern and not just because of Covid. Her handling of the Christchurch mosque shootings and taking tough action that works rather than meaningless warm words was an early indicator that she is a leader who can make difficult things happen. She influences through strength of conviction and resilience rather than being aggressive and that leadership impact is inspiring to me.

Q. THE STAYING CURRENT How do you stay up to date?

I’m part of a couple of good external bodies that help me stay current and look ahead. I also take part in webinars and read articles. There is a wealth of great information out there so it’s partly being clear on what topics you are most interested in.

Q. THE PANDEMIC Describe how you have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic personally and professionally?

Personally, what has served us well is to practice the sensible public health safety precautions to protect the two medically vulnerable people in my house and not to become obsessed with the latest data and theories, a lot of which have proved wrong anyway.

Professionally, being on top of the latest safety regulations and support programmes (both of which are very impactful in our business), maintaining good communications, supporting employee wellbeing and responding to change in as agile a manner as possible.

Q. THE DOWNTIME Tell us about your interests and how you relax?

I’m a big rugby fan so not being able to attend Leinster and Ireland games for the last 17 months has been painful. Hopefully, September will see a return to the RDS and then onto the Aviva for (hopefully) the All Blacks in November.

CLOSING COMMENT:

Congratulations to Jim O’Brien on being named Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month’ for July 2021.

ABOUT ARAMARK NORTHERN EUROPE

Aramark Northern Europe has over 15,000 employees across the UK, Ireland and EMEA. Our breadth extends across food services, facilities management, retail and property management. We service clients in Healthcare, Government, Education, Offshore Oil and Gas, all sectors of Business and Industry and large Sports and Leisure venues. We also own the iconic Avoca business in Ireland. We are part of a truly global leader with over 250,000 employees worldwide.

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections is a Dublin based executive search firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group. We offer five interrelated senior recruitment and advisory services to private, public and not-for-profit organisations across Ireland which include:

  • Executive Search
  • Board Search
  • Advertised Selection
  • Interim Management
  • Leadership Consulting & Assessment

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with all our latest news.

//www.principalconnections.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/principal-connections-white.png

Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search Firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

Senior, Executive and Board Appointments Newsletter

Sign me up for the newsletter!