The Big Interview with Alison McGuinness

Alison McGuinness is an Executive HR Director at Teledyne Technologies Inc, a world-leading sensor company providing enabling technologies to sense, transmit and analyse data for industrial growth markets.

Alison leads the EMEA & APAC HR organisation and heads up the newly formed global Talent, Pay & Performance COE, supporting Teledyne’s ~15,000 employees.  

Alison has spent twenty-five years in the profession working in multiple sectors including FMCG, Retail, Financial Services and Hi-Tech Engineering/Manufacturing for HR Heads‘ latest Big Interview spoke with Rosie Jenkins.

How did you get into HR?

Relatively easily, I would say. 

It all started for me at university. 

I was studying for a business management degree in France and one of the modules was HR.  

I really enjoyed the breadth of the topic and was intrigued so when I came back to the UK, I decided to specialise in Human Resource Management.  

At the same time, I realised having practical experience would complement my studies.  

I was fortunate to get a Personnel & Training Co-ordinator role at my local Sainsbury’s. 

My manager was a fantastic mentor who believed in my potential, and she encouraged me to apply for the Personnel & Training Manager Graduate Training scheme, which I did.  

From then on, I was hooked!

Have you got a specialism?

Yes, I think it’s good to experience the specialist functions.  

In one of my roles, I had responsibility for pension schemes.  

This led me to learn more about compensation and benefits and this became my first specialism.  

I headed up reward in EMEA for a financial services company.  

I really enjoyed the more technical/hard-edged topics like job evaluation, benchmarking and sales compensation plans.  

A lot of HR topics can be more judgement or experience-based, with something like comp and ben you really need to rely on technical knowledge, there’s more often a right or wrong approach and I found this satisfying.

I also have a natural interest in systems and processes, and I got involved with HR technology.  

I transitioned from comp and ben into an HR transformation role where I was involved in deploying new HRIS software across the organisation. 

I would say HRIS/HR transformation and HR Operating models is my other specialism. 

So far in my career I’ve worked on three major software implementations. 

They’ve all been challenging for different reasons, and this has been very rewarding.

What sort of impact has the fourth industrial revolution, tech, had on HR recently?

It’s made a huge impact. 

When I first started in HR, I remember we didn’t have an internal email system, company website or any internet-based tools.  

HR records were manual and in filing cabinets. 

HR tasks like recruitment and onboarding were all manual processes.  

The profession has come a long way since then.  

In having better technology, we have really automated a lot of core HR processes.  

So, things like performance management, onboarding, compensation planning, succession planning, learning and development, we now have technology that drives a lot of that for us.

I believe the impact of technology has allowed us to spend less time on administration and more time on the quality of the business process.  

Technology and systems are not a replacement for business processes and conversations that should take place.  

What are the challenges currently sitting on your desk?

Attraction and retention of talent – the economy continues to slow down, and the focus is on efficiency, productivity and trying to make the most of our resources.  

At the same time, talent is scarce and the job market is so competitive.  

Our challenge is how do you help the business achieve its objectives while creating/maintaining a rewarding employee experience.  

We are looking at how we improve our Employer Value Proposition.

Development of our employees – we need to do more to understand their aspirations, what are their career goals and expectations, and how can we upskill our managers to be better people managers. 

That is really the focus for myself and the team – how do we make our leaders better leaders and our managers better managers so we know our employees so much more intimately?

Is there anything you have rolled out in terms of retention at Teledyne or anything you plan to do differently this year?

We have made a more active effort to listen to our employees. 

We have introduced coffee mornings and roundtables with employees and senior leaders.  

We are taking opportunities to celebrate ED&I-related events that are happening throughout the year.  

This year we will focus more on upskilling employees.

What are you most passionate about in the HR field?

Leadership and development, talent and performance management, organisation design.  

It’s all about the right people – the right place – the right time.  

I am passionate that HR is an enabler.  

Strategic HR enables businesses to meet their objectives and ensure employees get the most out of their time at work.  

How we become that enabler is about the quality of the conversations we have, and the quality of the coaching we have with line managers. 

The discussions we have at a strategic level with our businesses around what are our business goals. I am passionate about aligning business and HR vision.

There is no right or wrong way to do HR. 

A talented HR professional has a broad HR toolkit, they are able to assess an organisation’s context, goals and readiness; then they size the tools appropriately to meet the organisation where it’s at.

What is Teledyne doing in the ED&I space?

We are doing more than we used to but it’s still not enough.  

We have a structured approach which is calendar driven.  

For example, March is Women’s History Month in the US and we celebrate by highlighting employees on our corporate website and promoting local conversations around career growth and opportunities.  

Today is International Women’s Day. 

In the UK, we partner with the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and we do a number of events around this time to really focus on our female engineers.  

As an engineering and manufacturing organisation, we are predominantly male, we are predominantly white, and we are predominantly ageing. 

So we have challenges in all of those areas.  

At Teledyne, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is really about getting to know the communities where we operate.  

We do outreach programs where we are under-represented, and we are working on attracting people who wouldn’t normally come and work for us.  

In the UK, we have a women’s network which is recently new which I am very proud to be a sponsor of.