Dionne Niven is the Global Head of People at SiteMinder, the global hotel industry’s leading guest acquisition platform, where she leads a team in attracting top talent and creating great employee experiences.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve been in the HR profession for almost 17 years and really lucky to have worked around the world in a diverse range of industries and roles.
I joined SiteMinder four years ago when I moved to Australia and the journey since has been very exciting. We’ve more than doubled in size to about 800 people globally, opened two new offices overseas (in Dallas and Galway), and now service more than 35,000 hotel customers in 160 countries.
As the Global Head of People at SiteMinder, I lead a team with an active presence in each of our global offices and has evolved from generalists to business partners and centres of excellence.
We’re all focused on enabling SiteMinder’s continued high growth by finding new ways to attract top talent and create a great employee experience so our people can do their best work.
2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a typical day in HR! Is there? It’s actually one of the things I love about my job – it covers so many different disciplines and projects, and I get the opportunity to interact with all of our teams. Plus, SiteMinder is such an exciting, fast-paced, global business, my inbox is never empty!
My diary is different everyday, but to give you a flavour, I normally use my commute to organise myself, catch up on what’s happened overnight and respond to anything that’s urgent. I suppose that’s the norm when you’re working for a company that operates 24/7 and always has people awake in at least one part of the world!
Once I’m in the office, most days start with project updates with my HR Leadership team. I’ll then have a variety of meetings around our growth plans and talent needs, organisational challenges and blockers, and development and succession programs for our leaders.
Somewhere in between, I’ll spend time reviewing employee feedback from our monthly engagement survey and employee forums, and make sure I share those with our senior leaders so we can move the dial in a meaningful way.
I look forward to the days we host SiteMinder Live, a monthly initiative designed to improve communication across the company.
We stream the presentation across all of our offices so everyone has the chance to hear directly from our CEO, learn about the latest exciting things happening in our tech space, and ask any question they like.
There is, of course, pizza and drinks, which we find is a sure way to get attendance.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
It does. Managing a global team means I often have to take calls outside of business hours and so flexibility is really important to my work/life balance.
For me, it works really well. I’m a morning person, so I try to have most of my international calls early but if I have to take calls during my evening, I have the flexibility to take those calls from home.
For those, I will usually leave the office early so I can have dinner with my partner before going back online. That’s important to me.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?
Use your commute to prepare for the day ahead.
Have a task list and project plan! This is my way of flagging and resolving conflicting priorities and making sure that I/my team don’t miss any key deadlines.
File/delete emails as you go and try not to let your inbox go over one page. This is something that I learnt at the start of my career and have religiously committed to.
5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me, it’s all about making time for the things that make you happy in life, including work. The reality is there isn’t always a balance, as there are times we need to prioritise one over the other, so I prefer to think of it as work/life blend.
I make a conscious effort to switch off from work and focus on myself and my family. I turn off email notifications in the evenings and weekends, and work flexibly around my out-of-hours calls.
Working out is an important part of my physical and mental wellbeing, so I arrange my schedule around my morning routine and rarely cancel for anything or anyone.
6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
Being organised and staying ahead of deadlines, in both my personal and professional life. When you work in an agile business like SiteMinder, you need to be able to identify and solve blockers ahead of time.
Recognising the triggers when my balance isn’t where it should be and taking active steps to address it quickly.
7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is one of my favourites, particularly in relation to work/life balance.
It taught me about the importance of focussing on four interconnected dimensions of our lives: physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional, and refers to ‘sharpening the blade’ (a metaphor for taking care) of all of these dimensions in order to be effective in life.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
Go to the gym in the morning. I find it incredibly energising and it’s my way of ‘sharpening the blade’. It makes me feel good, which means I eat better, sleep better, think clearer, have more energy, and have better control over my emotions. It means I’m more focused and productive at work, and also able to blend work and life better.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Work is a big part of most of our lives. We spend a large portion of our days working, so it’s important to enjoy it and have the right balance.
To me, this means being part of a great team, feeling like I belong and can be myself, and working in an environment where I can be successful. I’m really fortunate that I have this at SiteMinder.
Physical and mental wellbeing isn’t just a buzzword. It’s an increasing focus at SiteMinder and should be in every company. We’ve introduced simple initiatives such as mental wellbeing workshops, yoga and fitness classes, to encourage people to sharpen their blade and find a better balance.
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