Interview by Brooke Lazar
Michelle Prince, global head of learning and development at Randstad, is a strategic human resources executive with expertise in leadership development, employee engagement, organizational design and effectiveness, career development, and innovative learning techniques.
She shares with us her passion and what it took to get where she is today.
Brooke Lazar (BL): What sparked your interest in the role you serve, and how did your background lend itself to this position?
Michelle Prince (MP):
For the past 30 years, I was an HR business partner, and I also worked in compensation, benefits, and talent acquisition. Those positions were great, but in the last 10 years, I've found that talent management space is most rewarding. Being able to develop great leaders and manage teams effectively directly impacts the organizational productivity, engagement, and employer branding.
BL: As the senior vice president of global head learning and development at Randstad, what does a normal day look like for you?
I don't have a normal day, which is exciting. I am responsible for running our global leadership development team and collaborating with others to create programs that enhance employee performance and engagement across Randstad. I work closely with many learning and development professionals who are in Randstad locations around the world. I bring best practices, consultation, and advisement to them. I am the liaison between evaluating and realigning our global learning and development programs with business priorities, which frequently change.
We also look for new techniques, new technologies, and creative ways to bring e-learning, facilitated webinars, or on-demand training to people around the world. We're a fast-paced organization, so we have to keep up with that no matter where we are in the world.
BL: How did your career path lead you to work for Randstad?
I heard about the job through informal networking. Three and a half years ago, I met someone who worked at Randstad, and she talked about a great opportunity that became available in the company.
Before that, I had been a Randstad client at a previous company. Randstad is about putting people to work and helping people propel their careers, and that's what interested me. Their mission aligned with mine.
I'm passionate about what I do, and I'm passionate about the company. I can't believe I've been working for them three and a half years already. It's been a fun and engaging place.
BL: Who are your professional role models?
I consider myself fortunate because I've had the opportunity to work not only for terrific HR leaders who pushed me personally and professionally but also business leaders who have taken the time to help me understand the business's language and priorities. These mentors ultimately led to my passion for leadership development and organizational effectiveness.
At Randstad, we work with smart, future-focused leaders who think boldly and are unafraid to give something a try. It doesn't take long to make decisions at our company, and that allows thought leaders to come in and share their ideas. That open-mindedness to try new things is a value I want my team to model themselves after. If something doesn't work, we shift our mindset and try again.
BL: Did parts of your job ever discourage you solely due to your gender?
No. I'm lucky to have never felt that being a woman has held me back from anything. I don't feel that I ever lost a job opportunity because a man got it.
I was raised around strong, successful women, so I've had great role models. My dad also made sure that I understood business because he knew that I wanted to get into the business facet of a career. Success starts at a young age with guidance from role models and other women who also don't allow gender to hold them back.
In our United States organization, women hold over half our leadership positions, and more than 60% of the company is women. These facts led me to join Randstad because it means that I can achieve what I want because there are strong women leaders who are role models within the organization.
BL: What does Randstad do to assist each employee's professional development?
When Randstad hires people, we don't always look for staffing experience. In a lot of cases, our new associates aren't familiar with staffing, so we teach them about the industry.
We start from day one with a rigorous, three-month onboarding program for the professional development of new hires. We also have a goal of promoting from within 75-80% of the time, so we help people prepare for their next career step.
Let's say you are a recruiter or an account manager, and you want to move into a management position. You can do that within three to five years of being with the company. Depending on your aspirations and the experience you come in with, you can move into a management role.
We have multiple layers of leaders, especially within the United States. Because we have many lines of businesses supporting different staffing industries, you can stay within the staffing industry at Randstad and move from discipline to discipline. We have learning programs that align with career movement, too.
We focus on communication about your career with management. With recommendations, you can use self-paced learning to change roles. We make it so that someone can individualize their professional development but also have clear paths. We believe in the 70-20-10 of professional development, whereas formal learning is only 10%. 70% is on-the-job learning, so we encourage people to take stretch assignments, like volunteering for projects where they'll get exposure to other parts of the business. The 20% is around coaching, mentoring, and feedback from employees and managers. We have formal and informal mentoring programs scattered throughout our learning programs.
BL: What steps can women and companies take to ensure equal pay in the tech field?
There are three steps. Step one is knowing your worth, especially in the tech field. There are ways to do that, like with Randstad Salary Guides
or other websites that can give you an idea of what people in your field with your experience level are making.
The second step is not to undersell yourself. Some people might say the average salary for someone with their experience is $95,000, but I'm willing to take $80,000 and work my way up. That's underselling your abilities. If the average is $95,000, get $95,000. You're at least average, if not above average. As women, we tend to underplay our value and settle for less.
The third step is to negotiate. Don't be afraid to hold out and ask for what you want because that's what men do. Women tend not to negotiate with the same level of grit that men do. If someone wants to hire you, and they offer you a much lower salary than you know you're worth, keep looking because the right job and the right salary are out there. Don't settle for less than you are worth.
BL: How do you think being part of a network like WITI is beneficial?
I'd like to get more involved with WITI. I'm a member of some professional and technology organizations here in Atlanta, like Women in Technology and Healthcare Business Women's Association
, because of my years working at healthcare-related companies. I'm a believer in professional networking.
As women, networking is something that we do naturally—almost like a cohort. Women like to be part of something bigger. Even the introverts I know, who don't enjoy the networking component as much, do enjoy being a part of a professional organization.
When I was told about the professional relationship and the corporate partnership that Randstad started with WITI, I was excited. It's an opportunity for our women to have further networking reach and more opportunities. WITI has global networking opportunities, which are great for Randstad because we're geographically dispersed throughout the world. We look for ways that we can optimize that partnership on an international scale. It's difficult to find networking groups that are truly international.
The other thing we look for is how we can give service to the WITI people. Randstad is all mission-driven. It's about us servicing our clients and helping our consultants. WITI offers us a terrific reach and a partnership opportunity where we can help members open new doors for companies that we work with and possibly even obtain new positions that align with their career aspirations. I love helping people find jobs, especially those who didn't even think about making a move to find a career opportunity.
Michelle Prince provides strategic human capital leadership in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement, organizational design, organizational effectiveness, career development and mobility, HR analytics, and innovative learning techniques. Michelle has over 25 years of national and international experience in HR solutions, technology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and financial services, working for market leaders Randstad, First Data, Novartis, and Siemens.
Brooke Lazar is WITI's content manager and digital editor. She has a BA in professional and technical writing from Youngstown State University.