Michael Rosmarin FAHRI examines what it has taken and what he has taken with him in making the career move from a leadership role in HR to chief operating officer.
Q. How did you transition from HR director to chief operating officer at the property development and management group Stockland?
The COO role evolved when our new CEO joined about 18 months ago. One of the first things he did was to review our strategy. An outcome of the review was to take significant costs out of the business.
In looking at how we could do this in a sustainable way, we decided to restructure the organisation to be far more integrated and collaborative.
We also saw a range of synergies that could be achieved through the better connection of a number of corporate functions, and through that came the idea of a COO role that would bring this group together.
Q. What career opportunities do you see opening up for HR in the future?
There are many opportunities for commercially focused HR people. I think the HR role is very strategic and if you’re doing it correctly, you are looking two to three years ahead. This provides a good foundation to take on different roles.
Where it’s different, for example in a COO role, is that it is more multifaceted and multifunctional. HR people can transition into these roles if they take the approach that they are a business person with an HR background – not just an HR person.
Q. How do you think HR can move seamlessly into these more strategic roles?
As mentioned, I think it’s critical to consider yourself as a business person because it allows you to think differently about how you operate and add value to the organisation.
If you’re contributing to the business and are involved in discussions that help to drive and deliver outcomes, those strategic roles are a more natural transition than if you’re operating as just an advisor.
The key is to make sure that you deliver outcomes, are commercial and can contribute on the basis that you truly understand the business, how it operates, what the products and services are, and how you can add value.
Q. What lessons have you taken from your HR career into your COO role?
I don’t think you can work effectively at a senior level in an organisation without being part of the business and helping to drive its profitability and sustainability.
You also have to be able to think strategically and plan ahead. I think HR provides a good grounding for this. Driving the delivery of initiatives and achieving commercial outcomes is critical as well. Finally, always remember to do the right thing and uphold your values.
Q. Do you think HR practitioners should all be aiming for COO and CEO roles?
Throughout my career I’ve seen HR people who have a commercial focus move into business roles very successfully. It’s great for them because that’s what they want to do. But I always say to people that you need to do what you love.
I think the HR profession is fantastic, and if people love their role and are adding value, that’s where they should stay. I don’t think they should feel they have to move into a COO or CEO role because they’re doing well in HR. They are very different roles and have different skillsets. It’s for people to figure out what they want to do and where they will excel.
There are a number of people who go through HR and get very excited about the broader roles and getting more involved in the day-to-day running of the business, and those people should absolutely move into those C-level roles. Then there are others who don’t. It’s not what they’re excited about, and they should continue to add value in an HR role.
Q. What do you consider your career highlight?
That’s a tough one, but I think the few years I spent working in Asia, based in Hong Kong, is a highlight for a few reasons.
I was working with completely different cultures and environments across a number of Asian countries. And I was dealing with the complexity of working in a global organisation that was headquartered in New York.
It was also when the market was going through a significant downturn, so I had to work through the downsizing issues associated with that. There was also the experience of moving a young family to a new country and making everything work while being on a plane every second week.
When I think of my career highlights, they have all been significant challenges that, when I started them, I was not sure were going to succeed. But they always include seeing people achieve things they never thought they could, and helping to shape organisations to perform better than they had been before.
You’ve got to go through some pretty difficult and challenging times to succeed, but the sense of achievement is very rewarding.