Brian Newman, international HR director at Live Nation Entertainment, says HR and reward professionals must keep themselves current to maintain a high profile in the business
Madonna and the world of HR might not seem to have a great deal in common, but Brian Newman, international HR director at entertainment firm Live Nation Entertainment, believes the queen of pop (his favourite music artist) could teach HR professionals a thing or two.
“In terms of role models, for 30 years Madonna has managed to tune into what is current,” he says. “If it is possible to do that and you are one person, as a department you have to do that or look outdated. I want to be a current global sensation, not a struggling 70s artist. She knows how to push the boundaries, which is something more people should do, I think.”
This is just one of the lessons Newman has learnt during his career. One of his top tips for reward professionals is to ensure they fully understand the detail involved in whatever they do – and be willing to communicate it. “It frustrates the life out of me when questions are asked and no detail is given in the answers,” he says. “I have driven this [the need to provide detail] through my team and I absolutely stand by that.”
When communicating with employees, Newman is also passionate about ensuring the messages given are appropriate for the audience. “Tune into the people you are trying to address,” he says. “It is having that ability to be quite dynamic in getting the messaging appropriately positioned.”
As someone with a big personality, it is perhaps not surprising that Newman believes it is vital for HR and reward departments to avoid being overlooked. “If HR does not have a personality in a business that does, it can get left behind,” he says. “I want the business to know who HR is.”
Newman’s first foray into benefits came during his time with his second employer. After joining dotcom start-up World Markets Research Centre as a senior HR adviser with the remit to set up the company’s HR function, Newman was tasked with looking at growing its reward package rather than simply paying big salaries, as was then the norm in that sector. “We put in a pension plan, which was quite revolutionary at the time,” says Newman.
It was after a later career move, when he became HR director at Live Nation in 2007, that benefits once again came into the spotlight for Newman. This resulted in the launch of a number of initiatives, including an online reward portal and total reward statements.
“That was the moment when benefits became something that I really wanted to talk about,” he says. “In a business that has not focused on benefits in the past, employees are automatically cynical. When I moved into the HR director job, I took a decision that I wanted to strive towards an online platform. It has been a great opportunity to drive information through the business. I have been driven by the detail surrounding the schemes available.”
Overall, Newman believes that benefits are central to the success of some of an organisation’s wider objectives and activities. “Nothing in HR can happen without the benefits and payroll being correct at the heart of it,” he says. “If benefits are done well, they can be really rewarding. But if they are done badly, it can be really demotivating for staff.”
Curriculum vitae: Brian Newman
February 2010-present international HR director, Live Nation Entertainment
December 2007-February 2010 HR director, Live Nation
February 2003-December 2007 HR manager, Live Nation
November 2001-February 2003 senior HR adviser, Carlton Television (now ITV)
October 2000-October 2001 HR adviser, World Markets Research Centre
January 1999-October 2000 HR adviser, The Woolwich
What is your ideal employee benefit?
More annual leave. If I could sit on a beach on the other side of the globe, as long as I have my iPhone with me, I would be happy.
What are your positive attributes?
I am very passionate, which is driven by my competitive nature. I want us to be the best. I can think on my feet if I need to get someone’s attention.
What is your ambition?
I would like to remain a senior-level HR player. I want to push the boundaries and be driving an agenda.