‘The pandemic is an opportunity to improve diversity with remote working’

25 Aug 2020

Adam Coleman. Image: HRLocker

HRLocker’s Adam Coleman discusses the shift to remote working, the increased flexibility employers may have in the future, and building a business from his home in Lahinch.

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Adam Coleman is the CEO of HRLocker – a HR technology company that develops software for SMEs to help with recruitment and onboarding, managing on-site staff and facilitating remote working. Coleman has a background in HR and recruitment, but moved into the tech space around a decade ago when his HR consultancy purchased the technology behind HR Locker.

Although he is based in Lahinch, Co Clare, Coleman’s team is dispersed around the country. HRLocker is now helping other companies change the way they operate and deal with the recent shift to remote working.

‘I took the advice of my mother and I decided to move to where I wanted to live and build my life around the location’

Describe your role and what you do.

I am CEO and founder of HRLocker. As a company, we automate the administration of managing and recruiting people for companies, making life easier for both employees and employers. Our software is broken into modules and is used by companies with as little as five employees to companies with multiple thousands of employees.

I outline the strategy of the company and work with my team in  developing new strategies, and developing and enhancing features to make sure we remain relevant to an ever-changing working environment.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

As we are a completely dispersed team, our meetings are hard scheduled. Monday and Tuesday morning are mostly kept for internal meetings and there is a quick 9am meeting every morning.

The main hub of the company is my home office, but we do have a facility to meet others and for others to work there if they so wish.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

As a technology business, we’re all too aware of the challenges of finding skilled IT developers. Ireland has become a European hub for technology businesses, thanks in no small part to the hard work of the IDA and a highly educated population. But, the demand for IT talent is outstripping supply.

As a company that championed remote working long before Covid-19, we’ve had the benefit of not restricting our talent searches to Lahinch and the surrounding area, but sourcing amazing individuals from around the country and further afield who want to be part of a business that’s making a difference to the way we work.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

With everything that’s happened in the past six months, organisations have had to make major changes to the way they operate. With limited opportunities for face-to-face interaction, a growing number of organisations have turned to digital HR solutions. As a company that makes the management of people easier for organisations, we found ourselves in a very fortunate position.

To meet the needs of our clients, we’ve developed a number of additional features to the HRLocker platform, from remote and dual-working functionalities to time-on and time-off management, along with real-time reviews to enable the continuance of performance management for businesses and their workers.

 What set you on the road to where you are now?

I worked as a tech recruiter for six years. I then worked as an internal HR manager for Esat Digifone, which grew from five to 500 employees in just over three years and was sold to BT.

After the takeover, I moved to the UK. But my mother got sick and as she was carer for my father who had Alzheimer’s and my sister with Down syndrome, I decided to move home to Ireland.

I took the advice of my mother and I decided to move to where I wanted to live and build my life around the location. So I moved to Lahinch and started a HR consulting company, which is now a SaaS HR system called HRLocker.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

It’s realising that all people do not speak the truth and most people bring two selves to work – the one that does their job and another person that hides or masks their vulnerabilities. I learned if we want people to be the best they can and develop, you need to provide a safe place to fail. You need to provide a place where it is a badge of honour to say ‘I don’t know how to do that!’

If people know their development is going to be supported, they are more likely to speak the truth, be open about their vulnerabilities and be happier. 

How do you get the best out of your team?

Despite having a dispersed team, we’ve built a strong culture and empowered our team to take charge of their specific roles. I genuinely believe purpose, ownership and transparency are the keys to creating an engaged team.

We’ve a strong set of behaviours and principles, created by the entire team, and everyone, including myself, is held accountable to them. There is no ambiguity and everyone knows what is expected of them.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

There’s no shortage of research showing there are definitely diversity issues in the tech sector. While I do think things are improving, there is no simple fix to the problem. In the long term, change needs to happen at a societal level, in our schools and communities.

Interestingly, however, I see the pandemic as an opportunity to improve diversity. As businesses wake up to the benefits of remote and dual working, they will hopefully also expand their search criteria and flexibility, opening the door to back-to-workers and overseas talent that previously might have been overlooked.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

I have had several mentors in my career. I always think it is important to have a mentor that you can call but also a mentor that you can follow.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I use Audible and listen rather than read as I am dyslexic, and I learn and retain more by listening. I would recommend different books for different things:

  • If you are starting a business or own a business, I would recommend The Founder’s Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman
  • If you want to improve your business, I would recommend An Everyone Culture By Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
  • If you are starting or want to know how to scale, there’s Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
  • If you just want to read to understand the fundamentals of people and business, I would read The Entrepreneur Revolution By Daniel Priestley
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
  • HRLocker for all of my people management and recruitment (obviously)
  • Microsoft Teams for all internal communication and online meetings
  • HubSpot and Intercom for sales marketing and support
  • Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office
  • LinkedIn
  • My MacBook Pro and my iPhone

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