With more than 25 years of experience in international business and marketing, operations and HR, Niamh Graham knows the importance of leading with humanity. Here she shares more about her daily routine and the award-winning culture of appreciation, celebration and human connection that Human Experience has built over the years.
Did you always want to be a HR Professional?
No I fell into HR by accident really… my background is sales and marketing. I love working with lots of people, so HR is perfect for me!
In college, I studied… international business and French at Trinity College Dublin.
My most formative work experience was… when I worked in Boston on my student visa abroad. It was my first time working in a corporate environment – and I really liked it!
My first real job was… working at my father’s company in the music publishing business. I learnt so much from him about international business, negotiations, contracts, licensing, people and the power of music.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… working hard and fast with lots of attention to detail. And building strong relationships. Those learnings are still invaluable to me now.
A common misconception about what I do is… that I am more passionate about people and leading change for good vs policy (although guidelines for clarity, consistency and fairness are important).
My main responsibility in work is… to ensure we provide an exceptional employee experience for all our employees – from before they start working with us, right throughout their careers with us. That is why we call ourselves Human Experience rather than Human Resources.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
Our CEO is an inspirational entrepreneur. He always provides clarity and leadership on absolutely everything.
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… jumping from sales and marketing to operations to HR – I like challenges and change and have uncovered new talents that I would not have discovered otherwise.
I wake at… 7am (and multiple times during the night if I have lots on!)
The first thing I do every morning is… have a cup of tea. My husband usually brings one up for me as he gets up before me.
My morning routine is… get the children ready for school, check my emails in case anything has cropped up overnight and get ready to head into the office.
I can’t go to work without… being prepared and excited about the day ahead.
I travel to work by… car now that I am back working at our offices in Parkwest.
On an average workday I… have back-to-back meetings all day usually. Irish meetings in the mornings and my US meetings in the afternoons. I like structure to my day for it to be most effective, although there are ‘surprises’ daily that need my attention. You need to be agile in HR.
I start my working day at… we have flexible schedules for work/life balance so I start 8:30am if working at home or 9:30am if at the office. I work onsite 3-4 days per week which I thoroughly enjoy.
The first thing I do at work is… say hello to everyone.
I usually spend the first portion of the day… making any urgent changes/decisions that need to happen.
I break for lunch at… I usually work through lunch as I’m either in meetings or catching up on emails or my to-do list.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… Zoom and Outlook, and of course our own Workhuman technology for recognition and check-ins with my global team.
I save time by… having more efficient meetings; they don’t have to be an hour-long when they can be 30 or 45 mins. Also empowering my team to run with things is important as I can’t be involved in everything nor should I be with great talent around me.
I rarely get through my working day without… starting something new. I always try to elevate everything that we do, continuously.
The best part of my day is… spending time with my team and colleagues and scaling our business for success.
The most challenging part of my day is… trying to finish it, there are never enough hours in the day!
I know it’s been a good day if… I can relax with lots of accomplishments progressed/delivered. I am results driven.
I usually end my day at… 7-8pm (although I often respond to US emails later on also).
I switch off from work by… bedtime. I am always thinking about our people and my team and always trying to be a better leader for them so it’s hard to switch off from that.
Before I go to bed, I… check my schedule for the next day.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… jotting down essential things I need to get done. I use multi-colour post-its which are effective for me for urgent next-morning things.
After a long work week, I destress by… going for a walk, having a nice meal or takeaway, and relaxing in front of a good film.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… building a Tech Unicorn. Workhuman is one of Ireland’s few Irish-founded private companies valued at over $1billion last year.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… be passionate about people and culture. I have found that leading with humanity is important in HR, after all, it’s all about the humans in your organisation.
At the moment I’m working on… planning for 2023. I’m in the middle of revisiting that plan now… it never ends! I look forward to 2023 for many reasons; new beginnings, new opportunities, new challenges. It’s what motivates me and makes me stronger and better at what I do!