Principal Connections HR Leader for February Mike Dawson HR Director

Mike Dawson, Group HR & Corporate Services Director, Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for February 2019

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

Like many others, I fell into Human Resources. I studied Law at University and thought that was the path I would follow. A chance encounter while I was back in the US led to an opportunity to do some work in Human Resources. I found that I had both an interest and an affinity with it. I haven’t looked back since. I completed my Masters and became CIPD Accredited‎ in quick succession. I was then fortunate to work in several jobs that provided me with opportunities that enabled me to grow and enhance my Human Resources and general business skills.

Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current company?

Dale Farm is a leading dairy company, selling into the United Kingdom, Irish, and International markets. As a Cooperative owned by over 1300 farmers across the United Kingdom , it is our mission to ensure long-term sustainability for our members through our people, products and processes. I lead the Human Resources, Information Technology and Safety teams for the Dale Farm Group. I also fulfil the role of Company Secretary and deal with Group legal matters.

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

Human Resources is in a very interesting place right now. The requirements for data to effectively run businesses are very real. Few companies have fully grasped its potential – particularly in Human Resources. There is a significant opportunity for Human Resources to further embed itself in the business at a strategic level. Human Resources is ultimately about the business – not about Human Resources. The STEP and VUCA challenges that every business faces provide a real context in which Human Resources can come into its own. Data, commercial awareness, relationship building and enabling technology for collaboration and engagement will all be key skills.

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

It has been clear for a period now that automation, data and systems are key areas for Human Resources. These advances offer fantastic opportunities to reduce the time on the transactional and instead focus on the areas that truly add value to business performance.

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

Early in my career I was advised that no one will manage your career but you. I believe that it is even more true today than it was then.

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

I try to maintain a sense of purpose and mission. I find this keeps me motivated to continue to strive to deliver great results. It is easy to be distracted by the day to day firefighting that can take up too much of our limited time. Being part of a strong and enthusiastic team that is committed to a shared purpose makes the hard yards worth the effort.

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

The general transformation of the people strategy in Dale Farm has been my proudest moment. Although it is an ongoing journey, there is little doubt that the efforts made over the last five years have been pivotal in helping the business to evolve and to deliver its most successful financial performances in its history.

Q. THE INSPIRATION Who inspires you professionally?

I have been inspired by a range of people throughout my career. Sometimes though managerial relationships (I’ve been fortunate to work with a couple of world class CEO’s) other times it has come from observing work colleagues in moments of incredible creativity. The people I am most inspired by have provided inspirational leadership, grace under pressure and have a trust in letting people get on with their job.

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

I read widely and watch videos and talks that cover areas that I am interested in. There is a plethora of information available at our fingertips today – a curse and a blessing. I have found over time that there are authors and presenters that I continue to go back to for inspiration and enlightenment. These include Dan Pink, Eric Barker, Susan David and David Ulrich. I also take the time to listen to a range of podcasts from the likes of HBR and HR Leaders.

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

I usually spend the weekends with my family and friends which helps to put work in perspective. I exercise regularly which I find helps me get some headspace. I have always loved music and reading and I give time to both every week.


Thank you to Mike Dawson for his participation in our HR Leaders Series.


Dale Farm is Northern Ireland’s leading dairy company owned by a cooperative of 1,300 dairy farmers and employing more than 1,000 people. Dale Farm is proud of its heritage and extensive range of products including milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and spreads, available worldwide.


Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading retained executive search with locations in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Athlone. We are also part of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group, one the world’s largest, oldest and premier global executive search 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.

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