Interview with Michael Newstead, head of reward and HR information at Ceridian

Michael Newstead, head of reward and HR information at Ceridian, says the advantages of building reward packages to suit workforce profiles are now understood.

During a career that has spanned more than 30 years and several continents Michael Newstead, head of reward and HR information at Ceridian, has seen the HR industry evolve almost beyond recognition. When he began his career with French oil company Total, Newstead says HR was not regarded as an integral part of a business, a state of affairs that is in sharp contrast to the way that many organisations now treat the function as a key partner.

“I have seen HR go from being a department that was called upon only when managers believed they had to call upon it, to being one [where] calling HR [is] the first thing they do because [managers] want its input and experience,” he says.

He has witnessed similar changes in both employers’ and employees’ perceptions of reward. “There is both an awareness on the part of companies that they can use reward much more as an engagement tool than was ever the case in the past, and a realisation on behalf of employees that [employers] are investing in them in a total reward sense, be that what they physically receive or on a personal development level.”

Newstead says this has come about due to a greater understanding by employers of the advantages of building their reward packages to suit their workforce profiles.

He has seen further changes around the role of reward in attracting, engaging and motivating high-quality staff, which he believes has become more of a challenge.

As the role of reward has developed in the workplace, so has Newstead’s expertise in this area. Having started his career at Total as a recruitment officer, Newstead moved into generalist HR and then “over the years gravitated more towards the reward side”.

“I have always had a very strong interest in linking pay and performance. So for me, it was natural to move from HR and then link things such as performance management systems to pay and benefits,” he says.

Newstead’s knowledge of HR practice is not limited to the UK. While working for Total he had his first taste of working overseas, with stints in Sudan and Iran. Subsequent roles have also resulted in travel throughout Europe and the United States.

He is more than happy to have now left his overseas posts behind him and to concentrate on the operation and development of reward and HR information at Ceridian.

“I have done a lot of travelling but it is nice to be doing what I am doing now. This is one of the best times I’ve had. It is challenging, no two days are the same, there is plenty of variety and there are lots of [opportunities] to use whatever brainpower I have and apply it to problems,” he says.

As well as tackling everyday reward issues, Newstead works on benefits projects such as the annual launch of the enrolment period for the firm’s flexible benefits scheme and the design of its sales incentive plan for next year.

The other aspect of his role is linked to the production of HR information and the development of a human capital management model that will be applied across the business.

Newstead explains his role is made easier by the attitude of his present manager who sets goals and then leaves him to apply his expertise to these as he sees fit. “When you know you are trusted to get on, when you know you are managed on results and you are not micro-managed, it is a pleasure to go to work,” he says.

He applies similar principles when it comes to his own management style. “Set objectives and let people get on with it. Trusting people is hard to do, but you [establish] a much better relationship if trust is built up.”

Curriculum Vitae
2007-present Ceridian – head of reward and HR information
2004-2007 Independent consultant
1994-2004 PeopleSoft – HR manager, UK product division and project implementation manager, EMEA
1988-1994 Zenith – data systems director, Europe
1981-1988 Prime Computer – HR manager, UK CAD/CAM software division
1971-1981 Total Oil – HR manager, North Sea operations; HR manager, Iran operations; HR manager, Sudan operations


What is your favourite benefit?
I am a great believer in planning for the future and think organisations could do a lot more to encourage people to join pension schemes. It might sound boring but it is an essential benefit. [Linked to this is life assurance], as you have to help people take care of their families if anything should happen to them. I strongly believe that is a social responsibility we have got.

Who has inspired you throughout your career?
A number of individuals have been inspiring to me – some of them in HR, some not. [Several] have been business managers. You just try to learn from such people because it is such an opportunity to be working with them, and you want to take that opportunity and grab it with both hands.

What is your ambition?
To be in a job I enjoy, which I am, and to balance that with a happy home life.