Top job: Bill Mitchell, HR director, Dundas & Wilson

Bill Mitchell has been appointed HR director at law firm Dundas & Wilson. He joins from asset management firm BlackRock where he was head of their global HR team, based in New York.

What will be the duties in your new role?

I’ll be responsible for providing the strategic HR direction to the firm and for leading the HR team, which currently has seven members.

How many hours do you work a week on average?

I’ve become used to being at my desk around 7.30am. Though it’s always difficult to predict when I’ll finish I typically aim to leave around 6.30pm in the evening. I will work at home when necessary as I’m a firm believer in work-life balance.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

While I want to provide Dundas & Wilson with an HR strategy that supports the culture of excellence that has underpinned the company’s success to date, it is also important for the HR team to be proactive, and put policies in place that will help drive the business forward rather than simply responding to events as they happen.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Being in the HR department of my company in New York on September 11. There is nothing in the HR manual that prepares you for something like that.

Who is your ultimate guru?

I am an absolute believer in the importance of leadership and in my mind the greatest leader in my lifetime has been Nelson Mandela. Every business and political leader should be forced to read his biography.

What are the challenges HR faces in the next five years?

I’ve been in HR for nearly 30 years and the core challenges have remained the same – recruiting, retaining, rewarding, developing and motivating talent. Clearly the regulatory environment in which we work will evolve and we have to be able to adapt to that as well.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

‘Downsizing’ is an offensive euphemism. We must always maintain our human perspective, especially in HR, and ‘downsizing’ ignores the fact that it is peoples’ lives that are being adversely affected by a business decision.

What is the worst thing about HR?

There are still too many people who view HR professionals as the ‘corporate police’. I also get very frustrated when HR isn’t considered as having any strategic input to the business. This is changing slowly, but the fact remains that, for too many companies, HR remains a peripheral discipline.

Who would you most dislike to work with?

No question – Donald Trump.

How do you fill your spare time?

I’m a rugby bore. I’ve been a member of Biggar RFC for many years where I played, coached, and was treasurer for a number of years. I’m also a member of New York RFC and coached at Fordham University in the Bronx.

What song gets you on the dancefloor?

The song hasn’t been written that would get me on the dance floor voluntarily.

Mitchell’s CV

2005 HR director, Dundas & Wilson

2002 Global director HR, BlackRock Inc

2001 Vice president HR, BlackRock International

1998 HR operations manager, William M Mercer

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