One of our own in the top 100


We’re proud of our Director Capability and Engagement, Michelle Banfield, who has been named in the Human Resources Director’s (HRD’s) Global 100.

The HRD’s Global 100 is described as the definitive list of the best and brightest people practitioners of 2020. It features leaders from a variety of sectors, specialities and regions and celebrates the dedicated and passionate individuals who champion HR every day.

To celebrate Michelle’s achievement and share her HR expertise, we asked her some questions about her career, HR, and what she thinks the future has in store.

How did you get into HR?

"I started out my career as an employment lawyer for commercial law firms in NZ and London. After ten or so years I wanted to try life on the client side so went to Fonterra in the Employment Relations (ER) team as an employment lawyer, where I loved resolving issues and working with unions. During this time, I also had three stints as an HR generalist, so I got a taste for HR. But it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my daughter that I decided I wanted to move away from ER and try something new."

I was always passionate about the experience people had at work, so I moved into Fonterra’s employee engagement team. From there, I started in the role I’m in now, which covers leadership, learning, recruitment, talent, D&I and engagement.

Michelle Banfield, Fonterra Director of Capability and Engagement

Do you have a moment in your career that you look back at as a turning point or highlight?

“When Fonterra took a gamble on me moving from employment relations to employee engagement. They are quite different disciplines, and I’m grateful that Fonterra took that chance as it meant I found my passion.”


What’s something you’ve learned from your roles in HR that you can apply in everyday life?

“Conversations are the smallest unit of change – so never underestimate the power of meaningful connection with someone else, at work or otherwise.

And whilst I’m throwing my favourite clichés around, I do think it’s true that people forget what you said but they remember how you made them feel – I try to remember this inside and outside work.”


What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into HR?

“I’ve benefited from working for a large global employer, as there are so many opportunities to learn and reinvent yourself. So, I would start with a big organisation who has nailed their basic practices – then you learn quickly how to add value. You can’t underestimate the power of a great boss though, regardless of where you work, so I recommend people choose who they want to work with, rather than where.”


What do you think will be the most pressing challenges for HR in the future?

“Changing mindsets so that people are hungry to learn continuously, and they see the value in refining those skills that machines can’t. Humans are going to need to differentiate themselves from machines, so seeing the value in upskilling in areas like emotional intelligence, change adaptability, evidence-based problem solving, learning agility, external orientation, and entrepreneurship will be crucial.”