HR future leader of the month: Emma Bolger

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HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the industry to discover what makes them tick

I love to help people and figure out solutions to their problems, so HR seemed an ideal fit for me. Of course your understanding of HR evolves. I realised very quickly it’s not just about being good with people. Great HR partners understand the business and the need for a bespoke culture – and how that culture can have a real impact on people’s motivation, engagement and overall happiness.

It’s all very well HR professionals introducing new initiatives, but they need to upskill management and help organisations understand the impact that employee wellbeing has on engagement and productivity. You might think this would be an easy task today – there is so much research proving the correlation – but many businesses still just don’t get it.

In advertising we see the impact of an epidemic of perfectionism coupled with being always ‘online’, particularly among Millennials. This leads to burnout, anxiety and stress. So workplace wellbeing programmes and training are no longer a ‘nice to have’.

I am most proud of having a part in launching our new apprenticeship scheme and brand CANVAS. It’s a 15-month programme aimed at attracting untapped talent from diverse backgrounds. We’ve offered five individuals from very different backgrounds a place on the programme. Our mission was to reach people who might not have qualifications, work experience, or even any experience of writing a CV.

I’m currently listening to The Sanctus Podcast on Mental Health. Sanctus is an amazing company changing the perception of mental health, particularly in the workplace. The podcast covers such a variety of topics and you get to hear people (mainly in the working world) tell their stories. And it would be remiss of me to leave out The High Low, which keeps me up to date with the best books and articles.

I absolutely love the variety that my role offers but it can be challenging. In one day your job covers everything from the emotional to the practical to the strategic. One moment you’re having meaningful conversations, the next you’re managing budgets, then administrating paperwork, then planning training. You need to be ready for anything that comes your way.

When it comes to people your intuition counts for a lot. It took me a while to understand that regardless of what you read and no matter how many TED talks you watch, having a gut feeling on situations will always be a trusted guide. Now I do know, I build on this by attending HR events, finding a mentor, communicating with peers… basically just speaking to as many people as possible. It helps you hone intuition into insight.

Emma Bolger is a people partner at McCann Enterprise

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