Tell me about yourself
As part of a pitch for a piece of business, I was asked to ‘tell me about yourself’:
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Ben Young, grew up in the Shetland Isles where his first job was a cub reporter on The Shetland Times. Moving steadily south (to Aberdeen, Glasgow and then to London), he continued a career as a reporter, a sub editor and a designer on national newspapers before moving into advertising, creating commercial content. In 2009 he was asked to swap his role as creative director for that of HR Director at Time Inc. He lives in a small village in north Bedfordshire with his wife, four children, three cats and a dog.
What is your favourite drink?
A triple-shot, tall, black Americano in the morning; tea in the afternoon; a well-mixed, dry vodka martini in the evening; and an 18-year-old Highland Park before bed.
What would your super power be?
To be able to speak and understand every language.
Why are you in HR?
People are at the heart of any successful business and their level of motivation and engagement are crucial to the bottom line. We spend around 80% of our life at work, 10% at home and the rest dreaming. That means where you work should be a place you love and HR can play a major part in ensuring that happens. Helping people to achieve autonomy, mastery and is key to that.
What can you bring to the party?
The headlines would be passion, commercial acumen, humour, pragmatism and experience.
Underpinning these is my work in:
- Leadership development – I was instrumental I creating a bespoke leadership training programme for senior managers across EMEA at Interbrand. I have also introduced coaching and reverse mentoring programmes.
- Talent development – I rolled out and embedded talent recognition programmes at Interbrand and Ogilvy.
- Coaching and mentoring – Perhaps the most powerful tool and used on a daily basis at all levels of the business.
- Managing teams (from 1 to 15) – I have managed diverse teams for the best part of 20 years.
- Recruitment – whether leading a recruitment team or actively recruiting staff myself, this is a fundamental part of my role. It is often the first touch-point of a brand so vital to get right. Meeting, building and nurturing talent for future potential roles is crucial.
- Employee Relations – while a great deal of my skills are strategic, these are fuelled by a strong focus on day-to-day interaction with staff – from the water cooler to capability issues.
- Navigating through a rage of cultures and locations – Heading up HR for EMEA and LatAm provided legal, cultural and geographical challenges on which I thrived.
- Organisational change – I have worked on a variety of restructures, outsourcing, TUPE, revenue generation and modernisation projects.
When were you happiest?
Lying on a near-deserted beach in northern Portugal, basking in the afternoon sun watching the kids jumping waves.
What is your earliest memory?
My dad’s white Volkswagen Beetle.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience. Despite a love of storytelling, I prefer a concise summary first.
Have you ever been engaged?
My whole career has been about engagement – engaging audiences through words as a journalist, by design as a creative, and via social media, print, TV, mobile and events as a creator of cross-platform content. And even more than salary, I consider a role for its likelihood to motivate and engage me..
Where would you rather live: Gotham City or Metropolis?
Corporate giant or feisty start-up?
Both have their value and while I am confident in navigating the corporate world, I much prefer an agile and entrepreneurial culture.
What is your favourite word?
Empowerment! Not really. It changes – I think my favourite now is Aftermath. It has a very precise meaning that wasn’t anything like I thought.
What is your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator?
Is it better to give or to receive?
What do you owe your parents?
Which living person do you most despise, and why?
There is nothing to be gained by that.
How do you relax?
Books or movies – often French (the movies, not the books).
Who would you invite for a dream dinner party?
Tallyrand, John Berger, David Sedaris, Romy Schneider, Ian Banks, The Clintons, The Blairs, Douglas Coupland, Jean Moreau, François Truffaut, Courtney Love, Bette Davis, Isabelle Huppert – it would be catered.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
What keeps you awake at night?
Only the cat at 4.30am asking to go out.