Q&A with Claire Cotterell, HR Manager at Peter Mark

Claire Cotterell

Claire Cotterell is HR Manager with Peter Mark, the well known Irish hairdressing chain founded in June 1961 by brothers Peter and Mark Keaveney. They opened their first salon on Dublin’s Grafton Street and currently have 66 salons across the island of Ireland. The company train and recruit their own staff with a dedicated College in Dublin. An Irish institution, Peter Mark has been at the forefront of Irish hairdressing now for an incredible 61 years and we asked Claire Cotterell to share her thoughts on HR, her career and the challenges facing her and Peter Mark.

HRHQ: Tell us about your career journey and what originally attracted you to a career in HR?

Claire Cotterell : The attraction to a career in HR was working with people, also the variety of what you would be dealing with in this area really appealed to me.

I moved to Dublin and began a BA in HR and Accounting at the National College of Ireland when it was located in Ranelagh, the college then relocated to the IFSC in my second year. I worked in Dunnes Stores in the Ilac centre throughout college as a weekend service manager. As I grew up in a family business I was used to dealing with staff and customers, so I loved this job and it gave me great experience for the years ahead.

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I graduated in 2003 and went on a years traveling around the world with friends. We worked for three months in Sydney selling accidental death insurance in a tele sales company for Westpac bank.

When I returned home I worked briefly in a recruitment agency and at the time Dunnes Stores had a recruitment drive on for HR managers. I applied, was successful, and over the following years worked in a lot of their Dublin stores.  I finished my and time with Dunnes Stores after opening the Charlestown branch. We recruited and trained over 300 staff to open that store which was a massive undertaking.

I Joined Peter Mark in 2008 and haven’t looked back since. I originally took a position as a HR Generalist and then in 2015 took over the role of HR Manager for the company. It’s a very varied and busy role but  thoroughly enjoyable. There’s amazing people in the business and that makes it a great place to work.

HRHQ : What has been the most significant change in the HR world since you began your career?

CC: There have been so many but initially the change from the older style personnel department into a HR function was great, it became more about the people in the company and not just paperwork, it’s far more personal than it ever was before.

It’s an area that is always changing and I think companies now see HR as the valued asset that it is. Before it was seen more of a cost whereas now HR is one of the key functions in any company.

HRHQ : What is the most important HR challenge facing you currently?

CC: Talent acquisition is the biggest challenge currently facing most employers across a lot of industries at the moment and that’s why most companies have become far more employee focused. It’s an employee’s market and we have to be the most attractive employer to win them.

There are also numerous employment legislation changes coming into effect that will have a major impact on businesses in many ways from costs to implementing these new policies.

HRHQ :What advice would you give a person at the start of their HR career?

CC: Be prepared for the unexpected, you never know what you’ll face each day. Don’t rush decisions or be put under pressure to make decisions. Also know that your able to stand over your decisions.

HRHQ : What are you most proud of in your career?

CC: Probably the relationships I’ve built up with the people I work with now and in the past, I’m still close to people I worked with 14 years ago and have built great friendships with people throughout my career.

HRHQ : What is your companies Employee Value Proposition?

CC: Our people are our most valued asset and we reward them and recognise their talent at every opportunity. The training offered within Peter Mark is unrivalled and there is always an opportunity to develop talent further. In Peter Mark there is plenty of opportunity to diversify into other roles and opportunities within the company which is unique to other salons.

HRHQ : When assessing Talent, what do you look for in an employee?

CC: Someone with the drive and passion for the role they do. Having the right attitude is so important and wanting to succeed. If you love what you do it will never feel like work.

HRHQ : What do you think the Future of Work is?

CC: More flexibility with higher focus on work life balance. Technology has helped with facilitating a hybrid approach to work. The focus is more about the quality of work being done than whether an employee spent long hours getting something done.

More fluid and regular feedback is the way we work now with our teams rather than traditional annual reviews. Employees are looking for a great work experience and value being told how they are getting on and how they are contributing to the success of the business.

HRHQ : Where do you think the opportunities to add value exist in organisations that can be exploited by HR departments, which will then help drive them forward?

CC: Employees are looking to see what’s in it for them when moving roles, whilst salary is important companies add value when choosing what added benefits and working environment they can offer.

Flexibility and a work life balance are playing a key role in the candidates selecting the right role for them.

HRHQ : Many thanks Claire for taking part and we wish you and Peter Mark the very best for the future.