MEET THE HR INFLUENCERS:
Mike Harwood, CHRE
STAYING TRUE TO YOURSELF TO LEAD A SUCCESSFUL TEAM
By Kristy Rydz
While Mike Harwood knew early in life he wanted to work in HR, he describes the rest of
his career as a series of left turns.
From using his bachelor of arts degree in social organization and human behaviour
from the University of Western Ontario in the financial services field, to a brief stint
in retail to the motorcycle industry, and finally arriving as general manager, Operations for ole Rights
Management, a music rights management company, earlier this year, Harwood’s job history shows how
universal the practice can be.
“To me, that’s one of the great things about HR. Your skills are transferrable; they’re not necessarily
industry-specific. I can do what I do in terms of managing people, strategy implementation, performance
management – those apply in any organization in any industry,” he said.
Harwood spent 13 years honing those abilities in a “soup-to-nuts” position as the director of human
resources for Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada, before the Motor Company acquired them in 2015.
The move to ole Rights Management in April gave him the opportunity to broaden his career and
responsibilities beyond solely HR.
Harwood shared his thoughts with HR Professional on seeing your employees as clients, paying your
dues and earning your seat at the table.
What was your first HR job?
Mike Harwood: I went to work for a small boutique recruitment and consulting firm that specialized
in IT in the mid-’80s. It was half recruitment and half performance management consulting. I
learned the strengths of the recruitment function but also was working on performance management
programs for an IT department at a bank, and that literally evolved into a full-time position with that
client. I was the first “personnel officer” for the newly formed Consumer Services Group of Citibank
Canada at the time.
Tell me about your current job. What are your main areas of responsibility?
MH: I’m the general manager of operations for a Canadian music rights management and publishing
company called ole. We are the fastest growing music rights management company – certainly in
Canada, if not North America.
I have an opportunity to combine both strategy and human capital management and play a fairly significant
role in the strategic direction and execution of our business plan.
What do you love about your job?
MH: I love the variety. I lead the business operations team, which means we have offices in the UK, in
multiple places in the U.S. and our corporate office here in Toronto. I’m involved in everything from
facilities and leasing issues, business systems and IT – it really is a general operations role with the
added responsibility of being the chief HR officer. We’re not a very large organization but we have a
fairly broad scope. It’s an organization of about 150 people but likely to double over the next two years.
What are the challenges you experience in your job?
MH: Certainly talent acquisition and retention. Making sure that as we grow, we’re putting the right
kinds of programs in place to further develop the careers of our people. We want to attract the best
and retain the best, and making sure that we’ve got the right programs and processes in place to do
that in a growing, acquisition-minded organization is definitely a challenge. Especially taking on new
44 ❚ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL