A blonde woman in business attire smiles at the camera in front of a window in an office building.
Laura Flynn. Image: EY

How this consultant works to transform the employee experience

9 Nov 2021

From redesigning the IT function of a bank to designing a new Irish utility, Laura Flynn’s work at EY has varied enormously.

With digital transformation taking over virtually every area of businesses, it’s important to remember how it affects the employees and the human resources side of a business.

That’s where EY’s Laura Flynn comes in. As head of people consulting in Ireland, Flynn works with companies and Government departments to harness their people agenda as part of an integrated business strategy, helping them to reframe their organisation for the future.

She took up the role last year in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the need to change was more important than ever. Here, she discusses some of those changes and what her a day in her shoes is like.

‘The most important skill in my job and that of my team is the ability to problem solve’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in your job?

In EY’s consulting practice, it’s fair to say that every day and every client is different. However, all of my days involve a balance between external client delivery, running our team of more than 80 people and fostering relationships across our business.

When you are deeply engrained in client work, I believe you have a personal commitment to that client, so their work always comes first and this typically involves client and programme meetings, as well as design and development of solutions such as organisation structures, communications, implementation plans, etc.

However, my diary on any given day will include internal business meetings on strategy or operations, and team (group or individual) meetings too.

What type of projects do you work on?

I personally thrive on driving large-scale transformation and change and have always gravitated to this type of work. My work in EY has varied enormously from redesigning the IT function of a bank, designing a new Irish utility and helping a Government department to transform, to working with clients through their Covid-19 response.

Our work as a team has ranged from operating model and organisation design, to change management and business readiness, training, recruitment, strategic workforce planning and technology implementation.

More recently, I’ve supported clients with their future of work and hybrid working strategies and planning, and we’re also working with clients to transformation and digitise their HR functions.

We’re increasingly working with our alliance partners, including SAP, Microsoft and ServiceNow, to leverage technology to drive a differentiated employee experience and develop modern employer propositions.

Ultimately, the projects I work on involve putting humans at the centre of transformation, or helping clients with their people agenda, so that they can cultivate impactful people, HR and organisational alignment at the critical business crossroads of transactions, transformation and mobile talent.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

At the simplest level, the most important skill in my job and that of my team is the ability to problem solve. I work with our business, my team and our clients to identify their needs and continuously look for ways to better meet those needs.

Sometimes these solutions are straightforward, and I can bring tailored experience to support. In other cases, it’s about working through complex and multifaceted challenges to get to the heart of the issue and start on the road to develop and implement innovative and creative solutions.

This has to be done in partnership with our clients so the ability to build relationships and effectively manage stakeholders are key as well.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

The easier part of my job is bringing clients services and solutions that they know they need, such as organisation design, workforce planning, learning or HR technology.

The harder part is where the solution is less tangible, but no less beneficial. In particular, getting engagement, buy-in and adoption from people for a change – be that new technology, new ways of working or improved processes – is a journey, and sometimes the benefits take time to materialise.

On a transformation programme, ensuring that change management is mobilised early enough, and gets the right focus and attention can be challenging.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

I have the pleasure of working with a team of very talented individuals, both within EY and its various service lines, but also in our clients. I find that getting the right people into the room solves the problem far quicker and gets to a better solution than doing it alone.

For me, ensuring there are opportunities to work with others and build on their ideas not only saves time but also gives me a lot of energy, which helps with productivity.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

When I moved from industry into consulting, I fully expected client delivery to be a core part of my role. While that is central to my role, the surprising element was for me was that I also need to be an ‘intrapreneur’.

I am tasked with strategically and sustainably building the area of people consulting within EY while ensuring its smooth day-to-day operations.

Because of this, a comprehensive understanding of what is involved in running a business and being able to navigate between commercials, legal and risk management, strategy and practice development, people management, sales and client delivery is critical to being successful.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

The breadth of our work as a consulting practice has changed the most. At the start, people consulting was part of large transformation programmes, with a focus on restructuring, organisation design and change management. While we still have a large focus on these areas, we’ve grown and matured, our services stand on their own and there is much greater demand in the market.

The innovation that is happening at scale in people consulting translates into organisations taking a much closer look at how to deliver a superior employee experience, derive better insights from people analytics, strategically plan their workforces, transform HR and modernise and digitise learning.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I genuinely love the challenge that comes from working with our clients to solve some of their most complex problems. I’m a ‘sleeves rolled up’ type of person and happiest when I’m working alongside our clients to plan, design and implement solutions. It gives you a deep understanding of what they are facing and where the biggest opportunities are for them.

I also really like that my role isn’t sector specific. Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in the private sector, financial services, utilities, Government and health to name a few.

Each provides new insights into how organisations work, where the consistencies are and where the unique challenges for each are. It means that I get to learn something new with each client I work with and continue to develop myself too, which I think is hugely important.

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