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Career profile: Steve Wilkins, HR manager, FedEx Express

Posted on from Changeboard

Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Steve Wilkins, HR manager at FedEx Express on his favourite holiday spot, how he got into HR, and why he believes we should make our own career luck.

Basic details

Name: Steve Wilkins

Job: HR Manager

Current employer: FedEx Express

CV in brief:

  • FedEx Express, HR Manager, August 2009 – Present
  • Senior HR Representative, FedEx Express, July 2001 – August 2009
  • Recruitment Specialist, FedEx Express, 1997 – 2001
  • Warehouse Co-ordinator, FedEx Express, 1993 – 1995

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

As the HR manager for FedEx Express in the UK and Ireland, a company with 5,000 team members, I have eight direct reports. The role requires me to lead and develop a group of HR professionals to deliver a range of HR services which support our business objectives. My other responsibilities include developing and upholding the people culture within FedEx as well as managing and developing trade union relationships and employee forums.

Who do you report into?

My line manager is Kevin Dunkeld, HR managing director, for FedEx Northern Europe.

Tell us about your team

My team looks after employee relations including people management, introducing new legislation and any other management related topics. The team also supports change management on a local and UK level.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

It’s most rewarding when you notice people’s progress and development within the company, especially when I was involved in the recruitment process. We have a 70-80% internal progression rate to FedEx management roles, so have lots of examples of seeing couriers progress to managers.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

In my view, every challenge has a solution. Having a fantastic team certainly helps!

What does a typical day look like for you?

Supporting a network of over 62 locations means I’m always on the move so every day is different. I work with the senior management team to support the company’s progression by examining the business strategy. I then ensure that my team is aligned to successfully implement the FedEx business objectives.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

My first opportunity at FedEx opened up while I was still in further education. Since then, new opportunities have always come along, so that I was always growing and developing professionally.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

It’s essential to be able to engage with a range of people on different levels, as well as being able to recognise people’s needs, from front line employees to senior management. Data analysis and evaluation is also critical.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

When I first joined FedEx, I worked in operations and was based in one of the warehouses. While working as a warehouse co-ordinator, I was offered an opportunity to become a recruitment specialist, recruiting peers for frontline roles. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and so completed my CIPD with the help of the FedEx Tuition Assistance funding. With my CIPD I was able to enter the world of HR.

What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?

Science was my favourite subject and I still have a keen interest in the field of astrophysics.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

Someone who worked at FedEx asked me whether I had considered working for FedEx. While I was still at school I was offered the opportunity to work for the company part-time in operations and have never looked backed.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

In my case, I didn’t envisage a specific career path at school. In my view, career paths are often built as new opportunities present themselves.

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Every challenge has a solution, and by using the right people these can be resolved. Build positive relationships with your employers and managers, and ensure you are helping them as well as showing them that you are competent.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

My role requires me to support people’s career progress and development within FedEx, so I’m always especially proud of team members I’ve recruited or have helped to grow within the company.

Do you have any career regrets?

No regrets – as long as you look forward and learn from your mistakes, you should be able to go from strength to strength.

What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

Everyone, not just HR professionals, should always embrace opportunities and challenges. If no opportunities present themselves, create your own and carve your own niche.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?

Be patient and create your own chances. Never take rejection personally, and remember other opportunities will always be just around the corner.

Either/or

  • Coffee or tea? I don’t really drink either – I don’t need the caffeine boost!
  • Jam or marmalade? Jam, as there are more flavours on offer
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Beatles, you just can’t beat them
  • BBC or ITV? I watch the programme rather than the channel so it depends what’s on TV
  • Morning or night? I’m definitely more of an evening person
  • Rain or snow? Snow, because you can’t make a rain ball
  • Sweet or savoury? Tough decision! I’d go with savoury.

Favourites

  • TV show: I don’t really watch much TV, but my favourites are motoring related
  • Band: I have rather an eclectic taste in music, and like everything from Elvis Presley to Guns & Roses to Oasis.
  • Song: My favourite song has got to be Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis, as I believe you should always focus on the future
  • Book: A colleague of mine once referred me to a book called Maverick! by Ricardo Semler, who gave power to his workers by letting them run his company.  It’s a thought-provoking story which challenges traditional structures and the value of employees
  • Sports team: As a proud Brit, I always support England and Team GB
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: I like to switch off on the weekends, and enjoy going to the theatre or cinema. I love the escapism and inspiration films can provide, and can really get engrossed in any film – no matter how bad
  • Place to eat: I really love cooking at home with my children.
  • Holiday spot: France or Italy. If I had to choose one, it would be Italy. I find places like Rome amazing, full of surprises around every corner – and the food is fantastic!
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: It’s not about the mistakes you make, it’s how you recover from them and retain your credibility with the people around you

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