Ger Mitchell, Chief Human Resources Officer, Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for April 2019
Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Ger Mitchell the person?
I grew up in County Galway and owing to my family background in Agribusiness, I was working from an early age. In college, I studied ‘Personnel Management’ as part of a Management Finance & International Marketing elective and after a period in the UK and New York; I joined the Branch Banking Division of Dublin Savings Bank in 1993. Although always in financial services, my career has been wide-reaching throughout as I have been part of multiple evolutions of Permanent TSB Bank.
Over the last 20 years I have been afforded great professional and development opportunities and variety as part of, an enlarged TSB Bank; a merger with Irish Permanent creating Irish Life & Permanent PLC, the acquisitions of Northern Rock and INBS and since 2011, Permanent TSB Group Holdings PLC as a standalone business.
I have held a variety of roles in Branch Banking, Intermediary Development, Regional General Management and was appointed to the Group Executive Committee (ExCo) in 2012 as Group Lending & Insurance Director. In 2015, I was appointed by the Board to lead the Group through the Industry Examination of Tracker Mortgages and in 2017, I was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer.
Along with the day job, I also Chair a number of Group Committees, CSR, Crisis Management and the Group Organisational Culture Programme.
Along the way, I completed a MSc in SHRM and Strategy & Innovation, qualified as a Certified Bank Director along with completing a number of General Management (Cranfield and IMI) & Finance (ACCA) programmes.
Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current company?
Permanent TSB is one of Ireland’s oldest financial institutions and has been in business, in one form or another, for more than 200 years. Since the beginning, our focus has always been on providing a personal service to our customers, whether Retail or SME.
There’s no doubt business has evolved over the last decade, but the principles of providing a personal, quality and efficient service still apply. We have spent many years supporting our personal customers and businesses across the local communities of Ireland, helping them with what they need to be successful.
We offer a range of financial services to business owners through 78 branches nationwide, including lending, savings, investment, financial planning and current accounts.
Our commitment to all our stakeholders is to build a valuable and sustainable business, underpinned by a culture where the highest standards of integrity, accountability, fairness and compliance are lived.
Q. THE CHALLENGES What do you see as the most important challenges facing HR Leaders today?
The world of work is ever changing – ensuring that our organisation design is fit for the future, retaining and attracting the right talent, while mobilising the organisation to work in a more open, inclusive and agile way are all fundamental for our future success.
The growth of AI, Robotics, Automation and Augmentation in all our businesses will have a profound impact on organisational cultures, organisation design, workforce planning and the delivery of learning & development. These advances have already started to alter our ‘ways of working’ and this will develop exponentially over the next few years. HR leaders must step-up and lead our Businesses through this change.
Continuing to drive cultural change for the bank, while connecting with our leaders in a consistent and meaningful way are also top priorities for our team as-well as the wider management team at Permanent TSB.
Q. HIGH PERFORMANCE What in your opinion are the key characteristics of your top performing people?
In my view, the fundamental trait above all else is ‘Good Character’ – passionate, courageous, ‘can-do’ people that are high on integrity. Our best people have a collaborative and a ‘building’ mind-set, they are self-starters and highly adaptive people who view success as WE rather than I.
Q. THE ADVANCES
What do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?
Digitalisation has raised consumers’ expectations for a personal, multi-channel and instant experience. In a similar vein, our colleagues expect a much more personal and varied offering from us as an employer. It is critical therefore that HR Strategy starts to think of colleagues as customers and embraces the importance of colleague experience across their personal and professional career moments.
However, with the need to acquire IT, Cyber, Data Science and other technical skill sets, we can’t afford to lose sight of the soft skills needed to optimise innovation initiatives, agile team working, EI and problem solving. These skills will be ever more important to enable colleagues to provide additional value through their work in more networked and team based structures.
Finally, I think further sophistication in data utilisation will maximise opportunities to improve decisions making, optimise processes and drive employee engagement.
Q. HEALTH & WELLBEING How important are health and wellbeing initiatives in your employment strategy?
The pace of life today means that wellbeing, as an organisational strategic area of focus is no longer a nice to have, but a must have. Put simply, where the focus is not there, it comes through in your employer brand and impacts your ability to attract and retain talent. At the same time, the understanding of wellbeing has expanded and goes as far as an organisations culture and the provision of a workplace where employees feel valued, included and psychologically safe. As such, we need to take a much broader view of the workplace and colleague life stages as, in my view, it’s much less about stand-alone initiatives and more about caring about your colleagues in the first instance and ensuring that your company culture and ways of working protect the well-being of all.
Q. TOP CAREER
In your opinion what is required to have a top career as a Human Resources Director?
Without integrity in any senior leadership position, one’s credibility is weakened considerably and the ability to influence positively is often lost.
A CHRO or HRD has to have a genuine and authentic belief in the potential of people, the power of the collective, as well as a clear and compelling vision for the role of HR within their business. Having a strong Commercial acumen is also critical in order to really make a mark in the Board room and the wider business.
Finally, the importance of meaningful visibility and connection at all levels across the organisation cannot be underestimated. It helps bring the voices of colleagues to life in a way surveys and town halls never will, both culturally and commercially, it really helps HR gain a much sharper edge.
Q. THE MOTIVATION
What keeps you motivated day to day?
For me, it’s about making a real difference in people’s lives, both colleagues and customers. Being a leader is a privilege and I am privileged to be in a position to help colleagues to be the very best they can be and I am motivated by that opportunity every day.
On a personal level, it’s my family.
Q. THE ACHIEVEMENT
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
Being appointed to the ExCo in late 2012 was a significant highlight and, since that time, leading 3 different ExCo functions, culminating in my appointment as HR Director in 2017, has been a tremendous journey.
Being part of the leadership team that led the IPO in 2015 stands out as a key milestone, as well as leading the team that spearheaded the lending recovery in 2013 & 2014 from <1% market share to c.12% was significant as it helped enable so much that followed thereafter.
Leading the development of the banks first CSR Strategy was also a key highlight, along with the creation of the Bank’s first ever Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and wider Organisation Culture Programme.
Q. THE INSPIRATION
Who inspires you professionally?
Some years ago I had the privilege of spending some time in the company of the late Lieutenant-General Dermot Earley and something he said back then stuck with me and has been a beacon of inspiration ever since; “Your Attitude is more important than your ability; Your Motivation is more important than your method; Your Courage is more important than cleverness and, above all else, have your heart in the right place”.
I’m also inspired by the brilliant social entrepreneurs we work with through our partnership with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI), organisations such as Food Cloud; Cybersafe Ireland and Mansheds to name but a few.
Q. THE STAYING CURRENT
How do you stay up to date?
For me it’s all about staying connected to Colleagues and Customers to understand what’s happening in peoples’ lives and to learn how best we can relate to and adapt quickly considering the dynamic of Commercial and Workplace life. In order to achieve this, I try to split my time 60:40 between the Strategic HR agenda and our commercial business, functional townhalls, colleague resource groups and customer engagements.
I make a conscious effort to carve out time for continuous professional development, whether that be reading, attending masterclasses and conferences, or networking events. I am a firm believer that continuous learning, regardless of level, is a requirement for success in any industry.
Thank you to Ger Mitchell or his participation in our HR Leaders Series.
ABOUT THE PERMANENT TSB GROUP HOLDINGS p.l.c
permanent tsb Group Holdings p.l.c., whose shares are listed on the main market of the Irish and London Stock Exchanges is the holding company for permanent tsb p.l.c., a credit institution licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS
Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading retained executive recruitment firm. We are also part of Agilium Worldwide Executive Recruitment Group, one the world’s largest, oldest and premier global executive recruitment and headhunting firms. Together with our colleagues across 55 Offices in 30 Countries, each year we complete in excess of 1300 Assignments within most Major Industries and Functional Areas.
For many years, Principal Connections has advised on the most influential assignments that have emerged within Irish business. Organisations of all shapes and sizes from all over Ireland (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Belfast etc.) refer to us when it matters most, to solve their most important executive recruitment and leadership consulting and assessment challenges.