‘Over to you’: Siobhán Griffin on ARI’s people strategy

By Luke Barras-hill |

Siobhán Griffin, Chief People Officer, ARI: “We now have over 40 mentoring partnerships from across our business working together. At ARI, our tag line is, ‘You are welcome’. That’s our fundamental.”

Like many travel retailers, Aer Rianta International (ARI) continues to grapple with the uncertainty posed by shifting travel restrictions and health regimes in different countries and territories and what that means for operational scenarios across its multi-location estate.

Tasked with supporting and re-engaging employees amid the resumption of air travel is Siobhán Griffin, Chief People Officer, who assumed the post in 2020 having been with the company since 2018.

In an ‘Over to you’ Q&A, she reflects on her time in the role to date and discusses how the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated a sharpened focus on employee health and wellbeing.

She also outlines the mechanics behind ARI’s people strategy, the importance of fostering cultural inclusivity in the workplace, and touches on the strides being made in the global mentoring programme.

TRBusiness: Siobhán, much has happened in the past two years. How would you assess the last 12 months in your new role as Chief People Officer at ARI?

SG: The past year has brought many challenges. The ongoing changing nature of the pandemic meant we had to be able to adapt, assess situations quickly and make necessary changes which I think we have done extremely well. Overall, as a business, we have positioned ourselves very well for recovery.

I am very proud of how our team throughout the estate has really stepped up and delivered an exceptional customer experience for travellers. It is very rewarding to see people thrive and progress even against all the uncertainty the pandemic brings. 

You joined ARI in 2018 having worked across financial services and other sectors. In what ways have you leaned on that experience to inform decisions in your new posting?

From my previous experience I have been able to easily adapt to my role at ARI as most of the companies I have worked with were global companies, with shared diversity and cultural dimensions and all with complex commercial blueprints. I have been lucky enough to work in fast-paced organisations that challenged me to be agile and to make decisions quickly, which lends itself well to the travel retail industry.

Pandemic-enforced lockdowns, quarantines and changes in social conventions (working from home, mask wearing, social distancing etc) has placed pressure on individuals’ psychological health and wellbeing. How is ARI ensuring this is addressed on a daily, weekly, monthly basis?

Over the past two years, we have put particular focus on wellbeing programmes, building resilience and putting support systems in place for our teams. Our programmes range from two-day mental health first aid training as well as shorter masterclasses on dealing with anxiety and stress, to changes in ways of working, including implementation of hybrid working models.

We also have an online health and wellbeing resource – Focus on You – which is designed to help our people learn about wellness services and events at ARI.  Many ARI locations also have an ‘Engagement Team’ that drive employee initiatives such as social and wellbeing events. These teams lead on corporate-social activities such as team building, fundraising and community engagement. 

How has your role as Chief People Officer evolved to reflect what is clearly more attention around mental health and wellbeing in addition to diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

The wellbeing and mental health of our people is at the forefront of everything we do. Regular, open, two-way communication and listening to our colleagues is critical. ARI conducts an annual employee engagement survey to understand how colleagues feel about the company – what we are doing well and what we can improve on. We achieve excellent response rates to our online surveys and utilise the results to inform tailored action plans for each participating location and at a group level.

Members of the executive team also hold regular feedback sessions with our colleagues at all levels throughout the organisation, where we hear directly from them and engage in two-way dialogue about ideas that matter to them, and our customers.

Of course, diversity and inclusion has been a strong focus that we are advancing day by day. We have an executive sponsor in place and a dedicated committee across our estate that promotes and harnesses an inclusive culture. As part of this, we launched a new global mentoring programme in 2021. We now have over 40 mentoring partnerships from across our business working together. At ARI, our tag line is, ‘You are welcome’. That’s our fundamental.

ARI’s workforce branches multiple geographies, cultures and languages. What sort of challenges does that bring when formulating a ‘People’ strategy?

In 2021, we asked ourselves how do we re-inspire and re-energise our team? From this, we have five key objectives of our people strategy which is at the core of our business. We want to develop effective structures and ways of working, build a collaborative and inclusive culture, ensure a safe and secure workplace, offer talent and development opportunities, and build trust in leadership.

Like any global organisation there will always be challenges in trying to understand the different operations at a local level, however, the commonality throughout our talent, culture, values and drive to deliver ARI’s vision more than outweighs this.

Finally, What are your professional and personal goals for the coming 12 months?

As we emerge from the pandemic, I want to continue to build an environment that attracts the best people that ultimately deliver the best experience for our customers. I want to help the team at Aer Rianta International grow exceptional careers and reach their full potential with us.

From a business perspective, we are well positioned to really seize new and interesting opportunities as the industry recovers. Personally, I am really looking forward to being able to travel more and visit our different locations and get to spend time with the local teams and see what amazing work they are doing. Visiting places with a little more sunshine would be great too.


In its 25th anniversary year and as part of a broadened corporate focus and commitment to ‘Helping the industry grow’, TRBusiness will host two special webinars in June concentrated on the topics of diversity and inclusion and mental health and wellbeing, with other projects in the pipeline.

For more from ARI, click here to read the Annual Global Industry Survey containing commentary from ARI Chief Executive Ray Hernan, who shares his thoughts on 2021 and where the ARI business – and the industry – is headed into 2022.

For more ‘Over to you’ articles, click the respective links below.

Leanne Nutter, Brand and Retail Director, Blackjack Promotions

Martin James, Founder, Martin James London

Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys

Kate Holsgrove, Chief Commercial Officer, Perth Airport

Leanne Nutter, Head of Travel Retail, Blackjack Promotions

Diego Baeza, Global Travel Retail & Duty Free Director, Viña Concha y Toro 

Richard Gray, Chief Executive Officer, Aer Rianta International Middle East 

Olivier Dancette Founder, HiDutyFree

Dr Patrick Bohl, Chairman, CEETRA

Laurent Safar, CEO, Adaptive Channel 

Tim Jobber, International Management Consultant, JES Travel Retail

John Pearce, Head of Retail & Commercial — Terminal, Adelaide Airport Limited

Alain Maingreaud, President, TFWA Part Two

Andrew Brodie, CEO, Sunshine Coast Airport

Trevor Lee, Managing Director, TravConsult

James Prescott, Managing Director, Harding Retail

Tullia Ialongo, Business Development Partner, Wand Technology

One Red Kite Limited, Founder and Managing Director Kevin Brocklebank

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