Sharon Doyle is Head of HR and Corporate Affairs at Bord na Móna who provide employment for approximately 1500 people. Bord na Móna have been working at the forefront of energy technology in Ireland for over 75 years.
We asked Sharon to share her thoughts on HR, her career and the challenges facing her and Bord na Móna.
HRHQ: Tell us about your career journey and what originally attracted you to a career in HR?
Sharon Doyle: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do both Business Studies and Accountancy for my Leaving Certificate. I really enjoyed both, but wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue in the long term, so I decided to apply for a Bachelor of Commerce in the National University of Ireland, Galway at the time. The course covered a breadth of business subjects and I thoroughly enjoyed Human Resources so I went on to pursue a Masters of Business in Industrial Relations and HR Management following completion of my undergraduate degree. I particularly enjoyed the diverse range of topics in HR which really reflects the diverse range of issues that arise when dealing with employees. Having completed my masters I secured a role as a Graduate Recruiter/HR Generalist with Matrix Recruitment. Three years later I joined Bord na Móna in a HR administrator role and my career has progressed from there to Head of HR through a combination of HR Manager & HR Business Partner roles along the way.
HRHQ: What has been the most significant change in the HR world since you began your career?
SD: The most significant change in the HR world since I began my career has been managing the HR function while navigating the Covid pandemic. Covid effectively upturned the entire world of work as we knew it – prompting a transformative shift in the way we approached our working lives with the introduction of hybrid and remote working. When it comes to the ‘perfect’ hybrid working model, there is no ‘once size fits all’ approach. Every organisation and individual team member will have differing needs, and an emphasis on a high standard of people management has been essential among my own HR team to successfully adopt a blended remote and on-site working approach. We’ve come a long way in a short space of time since the pandemic but the journey continues and remote working processes and policies need continuous consideration and updating to ensure we are creating the best and most effective working environment for our colleagues.
HRHQ: What is the most important HR challenge facing you currently?
SD: The most important HR challenge facing me currently is Employee Experience. Attracting and retaining talent in today’s market can be met with increasing challenges. How people want to work and what they expect from their employer is evolving, and ensuring the wellbeing and continued development of our team members is essential in maintaining a positive workplace environment in which our team can thrive.
HRHQ: From an employee’s perspective, what does a great HR service mean?
SD: A great HR service is one that delivers a spectrum of programmes that genuinely support employees – ranging from onboarding to health & wellbeing, career development and beyond. The key for employees is that they feel supported, empowered and that we have their best interests and career progression in mind. It’s also crucial from an employee-perspective that individual concerns and issues are addressed with consideration, empathy and importantly with timely solutions. Increasingly people-focused policies and DE&I are deciding factors for employees when considering job opportunities – and as such, a people-first approach and building an inclusive environment is hugely important. We recognise this at Bord na Móna and have a range of measures in place to build a more diverse and dynamic work environment for our staff which starts at the top with our board of directors which is represented equally by male and female members.
HRHQ: How should HR professionals design their career and how much can you realistically career plan?
SD: It is difficult for HR professionals to career plan as the starting point can vary for everyone. Entry roles may be through graduate programmes, recruitment or HR administration type roles and experiences will differ. However, from an experience perspective an individual should map out the role they desire, identify their strengths and development areas and then seek projects, roles and opportunities that broaden their experience and provide progression opportunities.
HRHQ: What advice would you give a person at the start of their HR career?
SD: Look at every project as an opportunity to develop your skills and don’t be afraid to take risks in order to broaden your experience. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is important to look at everything as a learning curve. I also suggest taking advantage of every opportunity to gain experience in different areas within the discipline.
HRHQ: What soft skills do you believe are key to progressing your career?
SD: I believe that a high standard of communication skills, openness to change, and resilience are essential skills that a HR professional requires to build a successful career. These skills are also sector-transferrable and allow HR specialists to apply their knowledge to different roles and industries, thus becoming rounded advisors.
HRHQ: What experiences should HR professionals try to get as they build up their CV?
SD: HR professionals should try to get experience across operational areas including recruitment, contracts, industrial relations, strategic projects including – health & wellbeing, employee engagement, and downsizing including redundancies. Working in a positive HR environment where a business is growing and hiring is much easier than a downsizing, redundancy focused environment but HR professionals need experience of both.
HRHQ: What are you most proud of in your career?
SD: I am most proud of my success as Head of HR within Bord na Móna, not only having gained a broad range of HR experience across the company, but also as the first female Head of the function. Bord na Móna as a business has undergone significant change since I first walked in the door, through its transformative Brown to Green Strategy – evolving from a traditional peat business to a climate solutions and renewable energy company delivering a growing product portfolio to help Ireland reach its energy targets by 2030 and 2050. Following our business transformation programme, our focus was to mirror future-focused change across all areas of our business, which applied to HR too. As a result, myself and the team developed a HR strategy covering a wide range of HR programmes from Health & Wellbeing, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Engagement, which combined would enable Bord na Móna to attract and retain the talent required to deliver our business strategy today.
HRHQ: What is the best part of your job?
SD: Personally, I get most satisfaction when I can see that the HR services that my team is committed to delivering are actually valued and appreciated by our employees. I also really enjoy the constant challenge and opportunity that evolving people requirements present today. Continuous improvement, building new programmes and adopting better processes and policies is crucial to ensuring our employees thrive, and for me that means there is constant variety and purpose in the work I do and the people-centric portfolio of policies that Bord na Móna is building for its team.
HRHQ: What do you think the Future of Work is?
SD: I think the future of work will continue to evolve at pace, enabled by technology, AI and automation. I think it will be like nothing we have anticipated previously and will provide endless challenges for HR from the perspective of data security, data privacy, GDPR, etc not to mention the evolution of employee experience. Future challenges also present future opportunities to do things better and to think differently, and I look forward to building future-focused HR solutions and evolving personally as an agile HR leader.
HRHQ: Many thanks Sharon for taking part and we wish you and Bord na Móna the very best for the future.