Humans of HR: The story behind the leading lights – their career, motivation and achievements.
"The world seems to have gone crazy right now and there is a lot of pressure on the HR community to have all the answers.”
05 April 2023
Simon Kent, Head of Content – The HR World
Founder of business coaching company MindAbility, Sam Eaton is now on her fifth business. By her own admission she’s “made a lot of mistakes, so my clients don’t have to.” It’s a reassuring approach from someone who was working in Wall Street at the age of 21, worked at Goldman Sachs and was part of the administrative team who led the BSB Sky merger.
“I’ve launched interactive television into the UK, taken a giant sofa on tour around the country for three months, re-engineered a flooring product from the States and introduced and sold it to the UK, founded and run an online PR, SEO company and taken a shareholding in a growing HR consultancy,” says Eaton, picking highlights from her career.
Rather than setting out to be a specialist in the HR arena, Eaton says HR found her: “My edge over other business coaches in this space is that I am first and foremost a commercial beast who is self-taught in the HR space,” she says. “I have self-funded my qualifications in gender diversity, studied neuroscience and psychometrics.”
Eaton’s company now helps HR and people related businesses and consultants scale their operations on their own terms. The business supports clients in the UK and USA primarily, as well as Canada, South Africa and the Far East.
Giving HR its Worth
Her career has also, unsurprisingly, given her a wealth of experience. As a shareholder in a growing consultancy, she has seen the impact HR can have on an organisation. She also believes the function is under-valued in a lot of instances and her business, with others, is determined to make this change. Some of her partnerships in America are helping to grow the profile of the function while she believes changes in the positioning of the function are also having a beneficial impact: “We need to get rid of the old labels and reputation of HR,” she says. “It’s not helping the community and thank goodness we are seeing working titles change.”
Eaton gains satisfaction both from the way the function impacts on the day-to-day workforce and in considering the possible future of work. She’s intrigued by the emergence of the metaverse alongside hybrid working arrangements and even wonders how technology such as holographic imaging may change the landscape.
Naturally she also gets a huge kick out of the successes she’s able to inspire in other businesses. “Our biggest successes are around changing mindsets to impact growth,” she says.
“We have the processes, systems and in fact, our own business model that we have developed to help build consultancies in today’s world but it’s the mindset that can make the difference.”
She gives an example of a this from a recent presentation delivered by Steve Cadigan, LinkedIn’s first CHRO and author of Workquake. Cadigan was discussing the median tenure of the workforce and noted that while Toyota’s is 6.7 years and has a market cap of $253bn, Tesla’s median tenure is 2.3 years with a market cap of $1,000bn. “Employees moving around is now being seen as a good thing,” Eaton says, “with the rise of personal branding, leadership want their teams to come with a network – it benefits everyone.”
Ideas such as this enable Eaton’s clients to think differently about the work they are doing, to adapt and succeed in their particular circumstances. “People leaders are at the forefront of seismic changes and it’s exciting helping them to think differently to embrace future thinking to explore possibilities,” she says.
Eaton’s book has also proved a career highlight. The Trouble with Pink Wheelbarrows is an Amazon best seller, a guide for entrepreneurs and best described as what happened when ‘a tell-all memoir had a baby with a Stanford MBA’. Eaton also enjoys the growing audience for her company’s Future Speak Podcast – a channel through which business owners and leaders can share their personal journeys on their roles in the evolution of the workplace.
Eaton is focussed on helping her clients achieve their goals, but while this can mean hitting the right numbers, there are other goals in life. Last year, she helped a female founder earn enough money as part of her goals to take all her family to Disneyworld, “That was priceless,” says Eaton. “Getting those WhatsApp messages is worth its weight in gold.”
Eaton quotes an Accenture report which states that 90% of C-Suite don’t believe they can keep up with the pace of change. “I fundamentally believe that in order to help my clients grow, they need to stay relevant, and we are all about being part of these conversations to benefit all,” she says. “Let’s face it. The world seems to have gone crazy right now and there is a lot of pressure on the HR community to have all the answers.”
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