“I swore blind I wouldn’t end up doing what my father did and, 34 years later, I am,” laughs Michael Doolin, HR director at DHL’s Tradeteam.
His father had been a shop steward before moving into industrial relations, which meant that there had been lots of very dull-looking manuals hanging around at home that had put him right off anything to do with HR.
The contrast between the two environments could not have been more stark, however. Doolin’s first two years were spent tackling issues such as drink, drugs, violence and race relations, while the second two were focused on organisational development and design.
While he enjoyed his time at the organisation, personal circumstances subsequently lured him from Bristol to London. “She told me she just wanted to be good friends, but we got married!” he laughs.
Doolin had always been fascinated by the City and high finance and so moving to London gave him the opportunity to work in the Square Mile. Reality didn’t meet expectations, however, and he found large City bonuses a fairly crude way to incentivise and engage people.
So when an opportunity came up to work for parcel delivery service, Parceline (now owned by GeoPost), he jumped at the chance. It was a growing business and, more importantly: “It was the first opportunity I’d had to have a fair degree of autonomy,” Doolin says.
He is proud that the company managed to join the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list, even if it did take a long time to get there. “That involved a huge cultural shift, from being a hire-and-fire company,” he remembers.
So he made the move to PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dublin, his home town. “I joined PwC just as the Celtic Tiger left town,” he notes wryly, which meant that a tremendous amount of organisational change needed to be introduced.
As a result, Doolin joined Tradeteam, a drinks distributor owned by logistics company DHL, in 2011, with the aim of helping it continue to grow. “My main role is supporting the business in managing change and we have big organisational change issues,” he says.
Although he believes that his role is to support the business, Doolin is frustrated by the obsession among HR professionals to question their place in the business world.
Rather than ‘navel gazing’, Doolin’s key focus is instead ‘doing’ which, in his book, means helping to create a productive work environment in which employees can thrive.
What’s your most hated buzzword?
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
Count to ten.
How do you relax?
Squash and reading. And I have been given a box set of The Sopranos by Santa Claus.