Joe ffrench, Microsoft, HR Leader for March

Executive Recruitment Firm Principal Connections announce Joe ffrench as HR Leader of the Month for March 2021

Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Joe ffrench the person?

The Career
I’ve been lucky to have a diverse set of HR roles spanning different industries and a variety of Irish-based, regional and global roles. The constant thread has been the opportunity to have business impact and gain personal learning along the way.

I started my career at IBEC on the graduate training programme and then worked as a Consultant mainly with manufacturing and engineering companies. This involved providing HR advice, representing companies in union negotiations and in third party institutions. It was tremendous responsibility to gain so early on in my career.

Subsequently, I moved to Bank of Ireland and enjoyed several HR Manager and Learning and Development roles in different business units. There I secured my first opportunity to be a HR Leader for a business unit which gave me great leadership experience in a part of the business that was driving significant transformation.

I then moved to Microsoft and held a number of local HR roles with different businesses before becoming the Country HR Lead and Chair of our Site Leadership Team. As a team we focused on creating a One Microsoft culture across our businesses and bringing increased investment to Ireland. We were successful in doing this and in creating the seeds for the continued investment that is happening today. I moved to an EMEA Regional role for two of our businesses and then was asked to lead the Talent Management function for them. My current role is Talent Management Lead for our Marketing and Consumer Sales businesses.

The Person
My career and life choices are based on three core values – family, impact and learning – and these have served me well in navigating the journey of life so far. I’m married to Deirdre and we have three great children and a dog (who is really a fourth child!). I enjoy sports, movies, keeping fit and experiencing different cultures.

Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current organisation?

Microsoft is a global technology company with the mission of empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. We work hard to ensure the technology we build benefits everyone in society and that that we play a leadership role in protecting the planet. Our aspire to culture is based on the concept of growth mindset thinking where everyone has potential to be nurtured and where we commit to continuous learning and personal growth. We embarked on a strategic and associated cultural transformation a few years ago and it has made the company a truly inspiring learning environment to do great HR work.

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

Covid-19 has accelerated work and societal trends that have been building over the last number of years, so I strongly believe this new hybrid world of work is here to stay. Navigating the change to this new world of work is the most critical challenge HR Leaders face. Alongside the challenge it also presents opportunities: opportunities to reimagine the nature of work, work environments and cultures, and the role our organisations can play in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges we face.

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

The digital transformation of our own function and wider organisations through the use of technology like Data and Artificial Intelligence. Delivering this successfully depends on a strong change management approach with a particular emphasis on the cultural transformation required.

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

“Put yourself in the other persons shoes”. This was said to me early on in my career when representing companies involved in union negotiations and it’s stuck with me all along. Making the effort to truly understand what’s driving the person you are dealing with helps gain appreciation for their perspective and helps identify wider options to make progress.

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

I'm motivated by the opportunity to positively contribute to business performance.

I enjoy when there is a difficult challenge to address, requiring complex strategic planning and problem resolution.

Working with colleagues and my own team, is very rewarding for me. I really enjoy the interaction and the partnership, the collective effort.

I'm lucky that my roles over the years and certainly my current role, have given me so much opportunity to work with great people – this certainly spurs me on and keeps me fresh and challenged.

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

Seeing the results of the work I undertook with the Microsoft Ireland Leadership Team to bring increased investment to Ireland and the impact of our development programmes on people’s growth and career development.

Q. THE INSPIRATION Who inspires you professionally?

I’ve been inspired by the work of many thought leaders in the area of positive psychology, high performance and wellbeing like Martin Seligman and Tony Schwartz.

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

I subscribe to a number of online sources for reading material and I'm a member of two HR networks which help provide perspectives from a variety of industries. I’ve also been able to listen to some wider business programmes since my children’s sport has been on hold with Covid-19 and have found that really valuable.

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

I spend as much time as possible with my family. I love watching movies and sports, coach one of my children’s Gaelic football team and have resumed playing tennis recently, although that is now back on hold with Covid-19. I also use yoga and meditation to try and keep myself in balance – some weeks are better than others!


Congratulations to Joe ffrench on being named Principal Connections' HR Leader of the Month' for March 2021.


At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Our mission is grounded in both the world in which we live and the future we strive to create. Today, we live in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, and the transformation we are driving across our businesses is designed to enable Microsoft and our customers to thrive in this world.

We do business in 170 countries and are made up of 144,000 passionate employees dedicated to fulfilling our mission of helping you and your organisation achieve more.


Principal Connections is Ireland’s premier retained executive recruitment firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group. We offer five interrelated talent acquisition 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

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