By the time he was 17 years old, Alan Winters had lived in five countries and traveled to at least 50. His father was a Hollywood stuntman and continually moved with his family to new locations around the world.
As an adolescent, Winters says, making new friends was challenging. But it taught him to be open-minded about people, to see things from different perspectives and to appreciate different ways of life. Those lessons helped pave the way for his success as chief people officer at Teleperformance, a Paris-based global organization that offers digital integrated business services, ranging from solutions design and business optimization strategies to customer support and back-office services.
HRE spoke with Winters about his personal and career experiences, the HR profession and the responsibilities of managing a workforce of 420,000 employees in 87 countries.
HRE: What impact did your childhood experiences have on you?
Winters: I didn’t go to the same school for more than a year until 11th grade in high school. I lived in England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand … That’s why today I can go anywhere. I think it has made me more open to new ideas, adventures and cultures.
HRE: Early on, you had many career interests, ranging from being a chiropractor to a minister. Why did you choose HR?
Winters: I’m a people person. Whether you’re dealing with patients or are ordained as a minister, it is people-focused and service-related work. That’s what motivates me and gets me excited. That’s basically what I do today as CPO—provide service to the 420,000 people I’m responsible for.
HRE: As the HR leader of a global organization, how do you build camaraderie among employees with conflicting cultures or ideas?
Winters: Teleperformance is a collaborative organization by nature. It’s a balance of keeping that people focus [by being] strategic and tactical. As a manager, there are times when you need to get your team together and collaborate on decisions, and there are times (rare) when as a boss, you need to make decisions. That’s how I approach it.
HRE: Your company employed hundreds of people in Ukraine before the war began. Have you been able to stay in touch or help care for them?
Winters: We are a people-based company, which means taking care of our people is our number one priority, in any geography where there is a problem—whether that’s a war in Ukraine today or an earthquake in the Philippines. We spend a lot of time making sure our people are in a safe environment and can support themselves and their families. That’s part of the Teleperformance DNA and what we do.
As best we can, we’re in constant contact and provide support. The company has donated more than $2 million (U.S.) to UNICEF and Red Cross and have pledged even more through internal campaigns, aid and ongoing fundraising from our employees all over the world.
HRE: Considering how much the pandemic has influenced the world of work, what skills are now needed for senior HR roles?
Winters: I’m not looking for somebody who’s been taught or managed a people function in the past in the “old way of managing.” That’s no longer relevant. The pandemic has really emphasized that. You have to think about, how does whatever you’re working on influence [employees] or need to be communicated? How are the people you’re serving receiving whatever your new process is? [That] requires ingenuity, creativity and use of digital transformation and technology to really [drive] change.
HRE: While you’ve worked for Teleperformance for nine years, you’ve been in this position for just two years. What has it taught you about HR?
Winters: My role with Teleperformance has always been, at the heart, about our employees—our people (it is how I approach all jobs.) My title, role and responsibilities have just evolved slightly over time. What I’ve learned most is the impact your decisions can have on a large group of people. We interact with so many different cultures around the world that it’s important to be cognizant of how people interpret communication, policies or initiatives through the lens of those different cultures.
HRE: What activities do you engage in to refresh or boost your energy or creativity?
Winters: I am a passionate cook. When I travel for work and get free time or spend the weekend in a new city, I usually enroll myself in a cooking school for one to two days to understand the food and culture in those countries or cities. I love preparing and eating pasta and sauce from scratch. I really love taking a recipe, following it to the letter the first time, and then looking at it again and adapting it or doing my own thing. I also spend lots of time with my four grandchildren and have competed in triathlons, both of which help me rethink and process [ideas].
HRE: What would you like people to know about you as a person?
Winters: Not everyone knows I’m a gay man. That certainly helps me understand different points of view a lot better and makes me more aware of different perspectives—whether it involves LGBTQ+ or gender or ethnicities—than I might otherwise. This is probably why I love working with Teleperformance as much as I do. We are what I like to think of as the most diverse and multicultural team in our industry … we are The United Cultures of TP where people can freely be their authentic true self.