The Big Interview with Melissa Boyd

Melissa Boyd is HR Director at Victoria Beckham and she recently spoke with Rosie Jenkins about her career and what diversity and inclusion means to her.

How did you get into HR?

It was a bit of a happy accident really. 

I had dropped out of my teaching degree at uni and took myself on a gap year to London where I worked as a nanny. 

I made friends with someone who worked in HR and I thought her role sounded fascinating. 

I loved her stories and her passion for her job, so I moved back to Australia and enrolled in my business degree. I worked full-time as a nanny in Melbourne to support myself and studied part-time and the family I worked for gave me my first ever HR role in their communications company. I have never looked back.

I have been truly blessed to work with and for some amazing people throughout my career.

Do you specialise in any particular area of HR?

I used to think about this often in the early days. 

I felt a pressure to be an ‘expert’ at something, but I could never quite decide what as I loved the broad nature of being an HR generalist. 

I am still very much a generalist and I am pleased I never deviated.

What are some of the recent challenges you have faced?

In the past year, HR has really been thrown into the deep end across all industries with all of the challenges Covid has presented to businesses. 

Everyone turned to HR and we had to quickly find the answers that nobody was equipped with in those early days.

I feel like HR has really earned its voice in the past year, but I also know that it has come at a price. 

While we were trying to educate ourselves on the impacts of Covid itself, we were also decoding furlough, going through headcount reductions, working to close down different markets each with their own complexities, trying to boost employee morale with a sudden remote workforce and many of us were also juggling family commitments or children at home. 

I think we are only starting to see the burnout from that now.

What are you most passionate about?

I love working closely with people and seeing them accomplish something that they may not have thought was possible. 

That’s an amazing feeling.

What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?

This should be on the top of all HR agendas, but I often feel that diversity and inclusion strategies become fixed on race and ethnicity alone. 

Of course, these issues are hugely relevant and more important than ever but the power of D&I in businesses has a much broader meaning and significance for me.

We need to embrace all facets of diversity; racial, cultural, religious, age, sex/gender, sexual orientation, disability, social class and working parents. 

I am really lucky to be part of a business that embraces D&I on so many levels, but like most organisations, we are on a journey and there is work to be done.  

What are some of the key trends you are seeing at the moment?

One of the key trends and challenges ahead will be the shape of the future workforce. 

The axis of work-life has shifted and so have people’s value systems and businesses will need to adapt in some way or they will be left behind. 

We are already seeing a pattern of candidates taking lower salaries for greater flexibility. 

It will no longer be acceptable for companies to simply pay lip service to the work-life balance discussion.

Wellness is now part of the tapestry of good HR practice and again, employees expect this to be delivered in a meaningful way.

How has Covid changed your HR delivery?

I have certainly tapped into a deeper professional resilience over the past year and into reserves I did not know I had. 

While there were some terrifying moments in those early days fuelled by pure adrenaline, it has been nice to come out on the other side, dust myself off and feel good about what I have achieved.

I was lucky to have such wonderful teams in both the brands I have worked with during the last 18 months. 

I do feel these experiences have changed me both personally and professionally and given me a greater perspective which is a gift in itself really.

Is there anything you’d change with the benefit of hindsight?

There are so many things I would like to go back and edit or rewrite but that is not life. 

I have made mistakes and done things I am not proud of or would do so differently given the chance. 

I am a huge believer in self-reflection, in learning from the less glossy experiences, taking feedback on board, not stewing on things and reminding myself that storms do pass. 

I have never stayed in a job that didn’t make me happy and I think that is incredibly important; especially in HR.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to be less self-critical, to be braver, to trust my instincts and I would tell myself not to worry so much about everything.

That is the wonderful thing about getting older; I have learnt to let things wash over me and I really feel good to just be me.