Laura Flynn is Head of People Consulting and Partner at EY Ireland. EY exists to build a better working world, helping create long-term value for clients, people and society. Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate.
We asked Laura to share her thoughts on HR, her career and the challenges facing her and EY Ireland.
HRHQ: Tell us about your career journey and what originally attracted you to a career in HR/People?
Laura Flynn: My interest in HR began with my Bachelor’s in Psychology – sparking my interest in the overlap between psychology and business. I then completed a Master’s in Occupational and Organisational Psychology in the University of Surrey. I consider my career as having two halves. I started my career in London working in international HR in global HR leadership roles. My industry focus was the private sector and semi-state industry, where I spent three years on the senior leadership team in the rail industry. With each role, I expanded my remit – starting with learning with individuals, moving to broader team development and then talent management. My subsequent move to consulting then meant I could do this for multiple organisations and in 2019 I took over as Head of the People Consulting practice in EY Ireland.
HRHQ: What has been the most significant change in the HR world since you began your career?
LF: I have worked in innovative organisations and also in unionised organisations where the focus was more traditional HR. One of the most recent developments has been the digitisation of the HR function and expansion of HR into deep employee experience. The focus has migrated from the services that defined HR historically to the new people services that will define the function for years to come. Today’s HR function has to deliver a superior employee experience, derive better insights from people analytics, strategically plan their workforces, transform HR as well as modernising and digitising learning.
HRHQ: What is the most important HR challenge facing you currently?
LF: While I work with clients, I also run the People Consulting practice of over 100 professionals which includes all the HR activities that come with that role! As with many organisations, there is the constant challenge to give people fulfilling and developing experiences while enabling them to grow & evolve within the team. We are luckily able to do this by offering different client experiences for our team.
HRHQ: From an employee’s perspective, what does a great HR service mean?
LF: People have come to expect so much more from their lives, both personal and professional. Expectations are also higher for services, technology and experiences. Employees want and expect a HR service that is flexible and meets their expectations. They want to self-serve and have policies and processes that can adapt to their refined demands.
HRHQ: How should HR professionals design their career and how much can you realistically career plan?
LF: I would suggest starting a with plan but be flexible to take advantage of new, interesting and surprising opportunities. I’ve always challenged myself to assess any new role as to how the role or the experiences within that role can develop me.
HRHQ: What advice would you give a person at the start of their HR career?
LF: Take every opportunity you can to learn and don’t be afraid of the tough times – some of my best development experiences came from difficult circumstances. I would encourage people to have a broad focus and consider all industries and sectors as being valuable environments.
HRHQ: What soft skills do you believe are key to progressing your career?
LF: The most important skill in my job and that of my team is the ability to problem solve; being able to identify clients’ needs and continuously look for ways to better meet those needs. My transition to consultancy was helped by the skills I gained as an internal consultant with organisations – allowing me to talk to clients competently and engage authentically.
HRHQ: What experiences should HR professionals try to get as they build up their CV?
LF: Think about enhancing your experience in supporting areas for example technology or data analytics – develop skills in non-traditional but complementary areas. It’s also important to develop a strong understanding of the operational and organisational elements of your environment and how to access the services and solutions to support it.
HRHQ: What are you most proud of in your career?
LF: Definitely taking the leap from HR into consulting – I’m really proud that I’ve been able to use that platform to work on some really complex transformations that I may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.
HRHQ: What is best part of your job?
LF: I love the variety – being able to balance working with clients while growing my team with the focus on sales and operations – like a mini-entrepreneur. I also love being able to shape the agenda both within my organisation and teams and also with my clients.
HRHQ: Do you have a work mantra?
LF: Always do the right thing even when it is difficult – dealing with challenges is easier when you know you are doing the right thing. I also try to assume positive intent – give people the benefit of the doubt that they are coming from a good place.
HRHQ: What do you think the Future of Work is?
LF: This is hard to permanently define as it is constantly evolving! The topics I’m being asked about change every six months or so, depending on what is top of people’s minds. With that constant evolution though, one common theme is that business leaders are all working to transform amid constant disruption. The Future of Work is definitely centred around people though – getting the employee experience right helps companies keep and build productive, capable and happy talent.
HRHQ: Many thanks Laura for taking part and we wish you and EY Ireland the very best for the future.