Although she recently departed IAG to return to New Zealand, Fiona Michel has left an indelible mark on the insurance company.
How does it feel to win the award?
Honestly – pretty jolly exciting! Many people who win awards such as this attribute their success to the team they’ve worked with and I am no exception. This recognition belongs to the wonderful leaders and teams at IAG in HR and in the broader business, all of whom have courageously stepped in to the discomfort of trying new things and have succeeded in making a difference for our people and customers.
How do you see the function of HR at IAG?
IAG people sell and make good on promises. That’s what insurance is all about. We don’t have a product in a box that you can take home with you – you pay your money on the faith that we’ll be there for you when things turn pear-shaped.
So it’s incredibly important that IAG people have deep integrity and the skills to support each other and our customers at their time of need. HR’s mission is to lay the groundwork so our people can be their best every day. In effect, HR sells and makes good on promises too: the promise to help our people fulfill their potential.
What have you changed since working as executive general manager, people community and alliances at IAG?
I have been part of a team that has reset IAG’s core philosophy on what it means to work at IAG. For the first time in a long while, all IAG-ers could see the “family resemblance” between our brands – which laid a strong foundation for better teamwork and talent mobility to ensure IAG can deliver on our promises to our customers and people.
How important is your team’s contribution to help you achieve the goals of the business?
It’s incredibly important that HR remains focused on what makes the most difference. Our business was about sourcing powerful ideas, and delivering them simply so they were embedded with the least possible time and effort.
That means regularly rejecting “best practice” as being academically sound, but not always pragmatic for that moment in time. We reset success from being “HR delivering the tool” to HR delivering whatever it takes to ensure we make a difference to our people and our customers. IAG’s HR teams had real skin in the game and pride in contributing to our business objectives.
What do you plan to do next?
After completing the Harvard Business School General Management Program in 2012, I was inspired to return to study this year to complete an MBA at the University of Auckland’s Graduate School of Management.
In the future, I will be seeking non-executive directorships and intend to work closely with boards and executive teams to make the “people lever” create a sustained competitive advantage.