Woodview HRM owner and Network Ireland president Louisa Meehan reflects on her experiences in the HR industry.
Louisa Meehan is the owner of Woodview HRM, an agency offering tailored HR and workplace mediation services to SMEs. She is also a part-time lecturer in UCD and the Smurfit Graduate Business School and a trainer with Ibec, and has recently taken on yet another mantle as president of Network Ireland.
In advance of Network Ireland’s International Women’s Day event – described as a celebration of women in business – on 28 February, we caught up with Meehan to learn more about her career and what she envisions for the future of people management.
‘We will always need to harness the imagination and relationship skills to collaborate’
– LOUISA MEEHAN
Tell us a bit about your career background.
I started out on my HR journey by doing a MBA in HR and IR [industrial relations] in Smurfit. Following that, I went to work as a personnel officer in the NHS, which was an excellent start to my career as it taught me the basics of HR but also the importance of perspective.
I then moved to Bank of Ireland where I held several HR roles – both working directly with business and in larger group HR projects. When I left the bank, I moved into lecturing, which I do on a part-time basis with UCD, Smurfit and Ibec.
I also set up my own HR consultancy – Woodview HRM – where I work with business owners across a range of industries, offering HR, dispute resolution, investigations and mediation services.
What are the biggest HR challenges facing your company right now? How are you tackling these challenges?
My company provides HR solutions and mediation to organisations who either don’t have an internal HR department, or those that require additional external support for a particular issue or project.
One of the biggest challenges I face is increasing awareness of the benefits of mediation in terms of dispute resolution. I have seen first-hand the benefits to individuals and organisations who use mediation for interpersonal dispute resolution, however as it’s a voluntary process, people don’t talk about their experiences with it. So, increasing awareness of its benefits is challenging.
In order to address this, I have worked with the MII [Mediators’ Institute of Ireland] on increasing awareness and have delivered several talks to various groups of business leaders and the legal, HR and accountancy professions around the mediation process and benefits as I have experienced them.
What are some of the main responsibilities in your own role?
The main areas I support businesses with are around setting up and, when necessary, reviewing contracts and HR polices, which are the bedrock for providing employees with the essential HR supports.
In addition, I provide coaching for business owners and senior managers to enable them to create the culture they want in their business.
I also step in when things go astray. I use workplace mediation whenever possible as it is often the best solution to interpersonal disputes. When that is not appropriate, I carry out workplace investigations and apply the grievance or disciplinary processes when necessary.
What HR technology trends and opportunities are you capitalising on?
The obvious ones are around recruitment. It is now possible to advertise in a more versatile manner. I love some of the adverts which use social media platforms – for roles and organisations where that works.
In the SME sector, there has also been an increase in the number of HR platforms for managing employee data – my personal preference is for HR Locker, which is an Irish-owned company and it offers a very user-friendly platform for both managing employee data – such as recording leave – and also delivering effective performance management.
What has been the biggest culture change within your industry in the last five years?
As a consultant, I work with lots of companies across different industries. The biggest change I have seen over the last five years has been an increase in the focus on effective performance management and retention of key staff members.
In one way, it’s the issue organisations have been looking at for all time. The change is that staff – especially younger staff – are now demanding positive performance management and feedback. They are looking for job security in terms of employability, rather than it necessarily being with their current employer.
What key strategies are you using to prepare for the future of work?
When I look to my children and the skills I think they will need, the focus for me is on relationship skills, researching, the ability to interact with and use data efficiently, creativity and finding different solutions to problems.
I think companies need to look at the diversity of their workforce to ensure diversity of thinking and finding solutions to future problems. Technology will continue to remove some routine tasks and to change how others are being done, but we will always need to harness the imagination and relationship skills to collaborate.
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— Network Ireland (@Network_Ireland) February 16, 2020
What is the one thing you think HR teams should stop doing, or start doing differently?
I think the one area where HR teams add the most value is by being a trusted advisor to the head of the company and management teams. In order to do this, you need to take time to get to know what the real issues are for staff and how you can best represent that, while also listening to the needs of management.
It’s about working together to find the best solution for both the company and the individuals within it. But to do this, HR needs to take time to build strong relationships of trust throughout the company. That takes time and connection.
What resources can you not live without?
For information, I find the WRC [Workplace Relations Commission] website, Citizens Information, CIPD and Legal Island very useful. In terms of support in my own company, I have found Network Ireland to be the best source for developing contacts.
There are a few books I really find beneficial. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan offers very clear and simple advice around focusing our time on what will actually bring us closer towards reaching our objectives.
Neuroscience for Leadership by Tara Swart, Kitty Chisholm and Paul Brown outlines how we can maximise our brains to ensure we get the best results, and Mindset by Carol Dweck, which is possibly my favourite approach, looks at the importance of having a growth mindset – which is essential both at work and at home.