Human resources

Q&A – Jonathan Wiles, managing director, Michael Page Human Resources

Jonathan Wiles, managing director of Michael Page Human Resources, started with the company as a consultant in 1991, working between the Marketing and Sales divisions. He moved to Australia in 2006 where he managed Michael Page Human Resources, Legal, Marketing, Retail and Technology businesses. Jonathan returned to the UK in January 2011.
Here Jonathan discusses what he sees as the challenges and priorities facing the HR and recruitment industry today. He also lets us know about his life outside the office... read more below.

When and where did you start working for Michael Page?

I’ve been with Michael Page all my working life. I joined back in the day when Michael Page was a privately owned £30m turnover company. I’m with the business 20 years this year and it’s been an awesome journey growing up and seeing it evolve to a global FTSE 250 plc.

If you weren’t MD of Michael Page’s successful Human Resources business, what do you think you would be doing now?

Over the years I’ve had a lot of exposure to a lot of different industries and through it all I don’t think there’s a lot I’d enjoy as much as what I do today – apart from being a world renowned rock star of course.

What are the main changes you’ve seen in the HR recruitment market in recent years?

The HR world has changed immensely over the years and it continues to evolve. It has grown from a typical personnel role back in the day to a much more strategic function which can enhance a business’s performance through effective hiring, the diversification of its people and their development. The industry has become a lot more sophisticated and the demands from clients and candidates have become greater. Recruitment today is seen a lot more as an added value area of support to an organisation rather than a necessary evil.

What are the current and future business priorities for Michael Page Human Resources?

Even though Michael Page is a market leader, we’re constantly challenging our market to increase our visibility and share. For us it’s about being best in class from a service perspective for both our clients and candidates. We’ll continue to invest in our own people to ensure we can fulfil our own ambitions with and through them. We currently face similar issues to our own clients by way of hiring and retaining the best people in the market to ensure we have a robust and effective business into the future.

What are the challenges in the market at present?

While we’re seeing a more positive environment, there is continued pressure within a lot of organisations to find high calibre talent. Over the last three years the candidate population hasn’t been as transient as in previous years. Candidates are much more hesitant to move due to uncertainty, while clients haven’t been able to invest in sophisticated recruitment processes unless there are people ready and available on the market. Organisations face the further challenge of continually improving and investing in HR to ensure best practice and effective policies with limited available funds.

What’s on the agenda for the HR industry in the next two years?

There will be a lot of change in the market place. The key agenda for most HR directors will be driving added value initiatives within their organisations as conditions continue to improve and funds become available. Projects such as diversity, CSR, employee engagement, L&D to name just a few will come back to the top of the agenda over the next couple of years. There’s also the issue of globalisation which will continue to increase in its profile as organisations apply global strategies across markets with different growth rates and cultural practices.

How is the HR industry reacting post financial downturn?

There are continued efforts to drive down costs, and headcount and structure still represents a way to achieve this which tends to fall to the HR team. However we expect most business to come full circle as the market continues to improve and the pressure to deliver results in line with a recovering economy will demand investment in headcount. Increasing efficiency and productivity is also key on most organisations’ agenda and the HR function plays a key role in ensuring a company gets the best out of its employees through investment and engagement. 

What do you look for when you recruit someone?

I look for people with relevant industry experience or knowledge, people who are passionate about what they do and motivated by success including delivering an exceptional service to our candidates and clients. Good people need to have resilience and emotional intelligence and be able to communicate effectively across a pretty diverse audience. They also need strong commercial acumen to be a successful recruiter.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Not getting caught!

Who is or has been a role model to you?

My father, who from an early age taught me the value of hard work and determination. He’s still working in his own business and still has the same work ethic I remember from growing up. I would also cite Winston Churchill who has always been an inspiration to me through his leadership skills and charisma.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in a career in HR?

HR is an exciting and evolving function and anyone starting their career should look to an organisation which appreciates HR as a value add function and one that will be committed to your development. Don’t be afraid to start off in a specialist area if you have a passion for it.

What five things would you put in Room 101?

- The X Factor – I’ve got three teenage daughters so I can’t escape it.
- Door-to-door salespeople who try to get me to change my utilities’ providers every other
- Hoodies
- Jazz music
- Reduced lanes on motorways where there is no one doing any work

How do you relax?

I lead a busy life so I like to relax with my family or with friends over a decent meal.

Where is your favourite place?

I’ve been lucky to travel to many interesting places around the world but one I will always come back to is the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Wine or beer? Tea or coffee?

I’m addicted to coffee as a morning kickstart and wine, providing it isn't the sort that Stephen Fry wrote about when he said: "Very nice... I wonder how they got the cat to sit on the bottle".

What film, book, play or album has impressed you recently?

I really enjoyed the King’s Speech as a great movie illustrating triumph over adversity however I don’t think you can beat the Godfather as an all time favourite.

What sports, if any, are you interested in?

I’m a big fan of rugby union. There’s nothing better than watching a home game at Twickenham with some mates and a few beers. I also love Aussie rules which I got into during my time in Australia. It takes a while to get into but it’s a great spectator sport, really competitive and followed by absolute fanatics.

Tell us something that may surprise the readers?

I hate flying with a passion, even though I flew back and forth from Australia for five years.

What’s your motto in life?

Hope for the best, expect the worst and take what comes.