With a tremendous career spanning 25+ years, Ann initiated her early days in industry. She has since gone on to work for some of Ireland’s most renowned professional services and consulting firms in Anderson (now Accenture), PwC, and presently Ann is the Human Resources Director for BDO in Ireland.
Q. Tell us a little bit about Ann Hogan the person, and of course, the professional?
I live beside the sea in north county Dublin with my husband and two (almost) teenage children. In the past few years I re-discovered my love for tennis and I am now an active member of the recently founded Donabate Portrane Tennis Club. This year I represented the club in the Fingal league and have signed up again for the summer league.
I have a Degree in HRM and a Diploma in Business Studies. I have worked in HR roles for over 20 years. I started off working in payroll and personnel for a clothing manufacturing company and while this had more of an industrial relations focus it whetted my appetite for the emerging field of HRM. I studied HR at night in NCI and started working in HR for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). This was an amazing opportunity; it was a fast paced and dynamic environment where they were always looking at new ways of doing things. I was exposed to up to the minute practices in HR and talent management and I learned so much.
After five years there I joined PwC – this was just after the merger (PW & CL) and was a very interesting time as we had to consolidate the HR & L&D practices and processes and build a firm for the future. The HR team were given a lot of scope to develop and implement new initiatives particularly around flexible working and enhanced reward and benefits. I was very proud to be part of their global diversity initiatives particularly on increasing female participation in professional services.
I left PwC after 10 years and did a stint of consultancy before being asked to join BDO as their Head of HR. At BDO I was given the opportunity to establish a revamped and more business-focused HR function. The last seven years have flown by and I have enjoyed building a HR and L&D team that is focused on helping the business achieve their objectives through our people.
Q. Describe your current company?
BDO is the leading relationship based accountancy firm focusing on entrepreneurial and growing businesses. We are also the leader in advising and funding ambitious Irish businesses, helping them to grow in domestic and international markets. Our global reach and expertise is built on exceptional client service, a collaborative and inclusive culture and a passion to succeed for our clients. With offices in Dublin, Limerick and now Cork, BDO partners with clients’ businesses working closely as business advisers.
Q. What do you see as the key challenges you face in your current role?
Like many businesses, employee engagement and retention are our key issues. Talented and skilled staff have so many choices open to them so as an employer you have to work hard at demonstrating what you can do for them and how their careers can grow with you. Three years ago I developed our ‘EVP’ (employee value proposition) which describes the ‘give and get’ for working in BDO: We outline what we will give to our people (career development, proper rewards, a good working environment etc.) as well as setting out our expectations on what we want them to give in return – their skills, talent, efforts, commitment, energy and enthusiasm. This clarity of expectations focuses the mind on why we are here and what we want to deliver. In essence I want to create a dynamic, interesting place of work where people feel they are making a contribution to both our clients’ success and our firm’s success.
For me, the line manager is the most critical role in any organisation. They are the ‘coal face’ of people management and are ultimately responsible for bringing HR initiatives and practices to life. If the line manager cannot communicate nor lead their people effectively then the impact of HR initiatives will be limited. We are focusing heavily on upskilling our managers to ensure they have the people skills to be successful in their roles.
Q. What in your opinion are the key characteristics of your top performing people?
They are strong communicators (in that they listen as well as being articulate). They are intellectually curious – they want to understand how things work, why they work (or don’t work) and look for new ways of doing things. They are resilient and also able to have some fun.
Q. What or where do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?
I think that AI will become more prevalent in terms of the more routine/admin parts of HR – screening applications, processing standard letters, answering standard queries etc. HR will also become more engaged with their business leaders. They can play an active role in helping businesses grow and develop for the future but they must demonstrate a solid understanding of the business’ needs and its wider environment.
As mentioned above I think that HR need to champion the role of the line manager. We need to invest more time and energy in training and empowering line managers as these are the real drivers of employee engagement in all enterprises.
Q. How important are health and wellbeing initiatives to employment strategy in your opinion?
They are important – employees now look at their lives in a more holistic way and expect lifestyle support from their employers. I think this is very positive and employers should provide services where it is feasible. For example, at BDO we provide pilates classes at lunchtime, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), various health initiatives and free breakfast. These initiatives are in addition to a strong people and training structure.
Q. In your opinion what is required to have a top career as a Human Resources Director?
HRD skills are transferrable across different businesses but no matter what sector you work in it is important that you really understand the business you are in and that you know what their key drivers are. It is also very important to be resilient, a strong communicator and pragmatic (with a dose of idealism!).
Q. What keeps you motivated day to day?
I like what I do and I have a terrific team. Together we deliver a strong HR & L&D service to BDO and we have fun along the way. Our service and achievements make me proud and pushes me to be innovative and forward thinking in my role.
Q. What is your proudest career achievement to date?
My proudest career achievement to date was being invited to represent the Irish firm and our HR initiatives at the BDO Global HR conference two years ago. It was an acknowledgement for all the hard work and effort we had put into transforming the function and delivering on our people strategy.
Q. Who inspires you professionally?
I find good leadership really inspiring. Recently Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, presented to our Partner/Director group and I was struck by her openness and direct approach, her ‘can-do’ attitude and energy. She is a very positive, realistic role model for working women.
Q. How do you stay current?
I read constantly – mostly HR and business articles from sources such as CIPD, LinkedIn or HBP. I enjoy TED talks, particularly on topics such as human behaviour. I have a great HR network and we share best practice and ideas with each other. I’m also attuned to our business and how they are reaching to the future and that makes me consider how we can evolve to help them.
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