The new lead for Aon Ireland said resilience is key to adapting to change and creating a workplace where people thrive.
As someone who has recently been appointed CEO of Aon Ireland, the Irish branch of the multinational professional services and insurance giant, Rachael Ingle is at the top of her game.
The Dubliner has worked with the company since 1998 and was appointed to lead it in March. She has had a number of different roles throughout her time working for Aon, and it’s no surprise she has learned a lot.
Ingle spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about her career path so far and why she thinks it’s important to stay agile, resilient and future-focused in the business she’s in.
Ingle takes the top job at Aon Ireland at a challenging time, post-pandemic – a fact she is well aware of. She is tasked with leading the company out of the storm generated by Covid-19.
Aon has been in Ireland for more than 100 years, but Ingle has her eyes on the future for both the company and its clients.
‘We strongly believe that resilient businesses and workforces are sources of security and purpose in an uncertain world’
– RACHAEL INGLE
“For me, navigating the pandemic really solidified the need to keep a firm eye on the future and not to be solely focused on short-term challenges,” she said.
“One of the most important things I’ve learnt at Aon is the vital importance of agility and the need to continually embrace change. Standing still can be risky for any business or leader. Our business has been continually evolving over the decades to meet the changing needs of organisations and their people.”
Ingle has had a hand in Aon’s development over the years, having previously served as joint managing director of Aon Hewitt Ireland which involved merging the two organisations under Aon’s branding.
“Bringing together the Aon and Hewitt businesses demonstrated to me the need to lead with conviction and to gain the buy-in of employees. Keeping focused on the vision for the combined organisation and encouraging each team member to play a key role in transforming the business helped to drive growth throughout a changing time,” she said.
It looks as if Ingle will use some of what she learned back then to guide her through her current challenge. And she is keen to impart her wisdom – and the importance of resilience – to her colleagues.
Over the past 12 to 18 months, Aon has championed the theme of ‘Rising Resilience’ globally, according to Ingle.
“We strongly believe that resilient businesses and workforces are sources of security and purpose in an uncertain world. Resilience allows companies to adapt quickly to change and to maintain business operations, while creating a workplace where people thrive.”
In Ireland, Aon has been working with many of the country’s leading employers to “help build resilient workforces that are prepared to withstand today’s volatility and future disruptions”.
Those disruptions, as we all know, include the climate crisis, political instability, changing consumer demands and talent shortages. At Future Human 2022, Aon’s global lead, Eric Andersen, told the audience about his own optimism for the frightening future we all face.
So, what does resilience mean to Ingle? “Resilience requires visionary leadership, a continuous dialogue with your workforce, and a well-rounded programme of wellbeing that supports diverse needs,” she said.
“From assessing the programmes already in place and boosting performance through employee health and benefit programmes, to building bespoke solutions that provide for a secure retirement, our team at Aon Ireland are making sure business leaders have the tools and solutions to build a more resilient and inclusive workforce.”
That last point on inclusion is clearly important to Ingle. She is a member of Aon’s Global Inclusive Leadership Council, which provides advice, recommendations and accountability for the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy. It was founded in 2020.
‘You need to be open to learning new things. A career is a journey’
– RACHAEL INGLE
Throughout her career, Ingle has been inspired by women role models. From her own mother, Ann Ingle, who wrote a book of essays about her life aged 82 in the middle of the pandemic, to Microsoft Ireland’s former MD Cathriona Hallahan.
“Cathriona is a great role model for women in Irish business, having worked her way up within Microsoft over the course of some 30 years to lead one of the biggest multinational tech corporations in Ireland. Although more a role model than a mentor, she’s someone I’ve always admired and looked up to in my career to date,” Ingle said.
The Dubliner is not so much following in her role model’s footsteps as carving out her own path as she leads a team of around 700 workers in Ireland.
But Ingle emphasises that she is only as good as the people she surrounds herself with and learns from. As a leader, she believes it is important to be self-aware and to keep learning so the business does not go stale.
“You need to be open to learning new things. A career is a journey. Although some core leadership principles tend to stay the same, client needs and the optimum ways in which to engage and motivate your teams are always changing,” she said.
“Therefore, you have to possess the self-awareness to know when an old habit needs to evolve, whether you need to upskill in a certain area or get advice from someone else on the team. As a leader, it’s important to keep learning but you can’t know everything and that’s why it’s important to surround yourself with the right people, who are talented, hard-working and passionate about their roles.”
Ingle concluded the chat saying that it was important to recognise the strengths of each individual team member and to give them the support that they need to carry out their best work.
“Sometimes, this involves creating a safe space to take risks, secure in the knowledge that without risk there can be no innovation. And innovation is what drives a company and people forward.”
It’s a fine line between balancing employees’ interests and the future growth of the well-established company that employs them, but Ingle seems to be resilient enough to take on the task.
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