HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Caroline Henshaw, Head of People & Culture at Mantel Group

Caroline Henshaw is the Head of People & Culture at Mantel Group, a group of companies focused on building technology capability and solutions.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Sure. I spent the first 5 minutes of my career in accounting before moving into HR related roles. I spent early time in recruitment and outplacement before moving into generalist and strategic HR roles.

My experience in outplacement (supporting people and organisations through and after redundancies) had a big impact on my view of redundancies and the negative impact they have on individuals, their families and the people they leave behind at their old employer.

As a result I am a big believer that they should always be a last resort for any organisation. I spent 10 years in a global consulting organisation before going to a large public institution to manage their transformation and cultural change.

It was a huge job, driving change, building teams and creating a new way of working in a unionised workforce with an enterprise agreement that left little ability for managers or team members to make decisions themselves.

I left that to do something completely different – create and run the people and culture strategy for a startup. The opportunity to create the culture from scratch and create an organisation that could scale up whilst retaining the feel of a startup was too good to refuse.

Mantel Group is now 300 people and 3 years old. My big passion is looking at People and Culture in a different way and creating a work environment that truly supports people to flourish in both their personal and professional life.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Some days I will be doing some deep thinking and creating – for example most recently I have been working through Mantel’s approach to future workplaces.

I’m looking at how we grasp the opportunities for our current and future team members to take something positive out of COVID by creating destination offices in Magnetic Island and Queenstown.

On other days I could be doing something completely different like yesterday which was a full day packing the handwritten cards and Christmas gifts for our team of 300 to be delivered to their homes.

Most days are a mix of meetings with various team members, or my own People and Culture team or our leadership team across areas like our culture, talent attraction or remuneration.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

It does. It is very simple for me – I merge my work and home life in that I use one calendar and prioritise the important things – my children’s school activities or medical appointments or important work meetings.

I like flexibility and often do personal activities during the day and work in evenings. For example, today I will collect my daughter from school and spend a couple of hours with her and then jump back online for two meetings this evening.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you, and how do you work to achieve that goal?

For me it means not feeling guilty – either to my children or my work. In the early years of having children and working in a different organisation I always felt guilty.

It is really common for working mothers in particular – feeling guilty for not focusing either on my children or on work enough. Work-life balance means having a job that I truly love and being able to succeed in it in the 4 days I work each week and not sacrificing my time with my children.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

COVID and the ensuing restrictions were obviously extremely tough for many people and was certainly an extremely stressful time.

However the silver lining for me was having my children at home and having a break from driving them to activities and school and all the logistics that come with children! Now that we are moving out of it, I will definitely continue to work from home regularly. It really helps with logistically managing my family life!

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Powerful by Patty McCord, HBR, articles by Marcus Buckingham and Josh Berson and Culture Summit conference sessions and articles. And of course, AI Australia podcast by James Wilson, CEO of Mantel’s Eliiza brand.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

My earpods. I try to walk everywhere and listening to music helps me switch off plus it makes me walk faster.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Anyone outside of my network who has a different perspective and different priorities. I always learn a lot from people who have significant personal responsibilities, as well as professional ones, and who manage their diaries really well.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.