From redesigning a bank’s IT function to designing a new Irish utility company, Laura Flynn’s work at EY has varied greatly.
Since digital transformation takes hold of virtually every area of companies, it is important to remember how it affects the employees themselves and the HR side of the company.
That’s where Laura Flynn from EY comes in. As head of people consulting in Ireland, Flynn works with companies and government departments to leverage their staff’s agenda as part of an integrated business strategy, helping them rethink their business for the future.
She took office last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, when the need for change was more important than ever. Here, she breaks down some of those changes and what a day in her shoes looks like.
‘The most important skill in my work and in that of my team is the ability to solve problems’
– LAURA FLYNN
If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day at work?
In EY’s consulting practice, it’s fair to say that every day and every client is different. However, my days involve a balance between delivering to external clients, running our team of more than 80 people, and nurturing relationships across our business.
When you are deeply ingrained in working with the client, I believe that you have a personal commitment to that client, so your work always comes first and this usually involves meetings with the client and the program, as well as the design and development of solutions. such as organizational structures, communications, implementation plans, etc.
However, my journal on any given day will include internal business meetings on strategy or operations, and team meetings (group or individual) as well.
What kind of projects do you work on?
Personally, I like to drive transformation and change on a grand scale and have always been drawn to this type of work. My work at EY has ranged wildly from redesigning a bank’s IT function, designing a new Irish utility company, and helping a government department transform, to working with clients through their Covid-19 response.
Our work as a team has spanned from operating model and organization design, to change management and business readiness, training, recruiting, strategic workforce planning, and technology implementation.
Most recently, I have supported clients with their future careers and hybrid job strategies and planning, and we are also working with clients to transform and digitize their HR functions.
We are increasingly working with our alliance partners, including SAP, Microsoft, and ServiceNow to leverage technology to drive a differentiated employee experience and develop modern propositions for employers.
Ultimately, the projects I work on involve putting human beings at the center of transformation, or helping clients with their people agenda, so they can cultivate impactful people, HR, and organizational alignment in the Business critical crossroads of transactions, transformation and mobile talent.
What skills do you use on a daily basis?
At the simplest level, the most important skill in my job and that of my team is the ability to solve problems. I work with our company, my team, and our clients to identify their needs and continually seek ways to better meet those needs.
Sometimes these solutions are straightforward and I can bring a personalized experience to support. In other cases, it is about overcoming complex and multifaceted challenges to get to the heart of the problem and begin the journey to develop and implement innovative and creative solutions.
This must be done in partnership with our clients, so the ability to build relationships and effectively manage stakeholders is also key.
What is the hardest part of your workday?
The easiest part of my job is providing clients with services and solutions they know they need, such as organization design, workforce planning, learning, or human resource technology.
The hardest part is where the solution is less tangible, but no less beneficial. In particular, achieving people’s commitment, acceptance and adoption for change – be it new technology, new ways of working, or improved processes – is a journey, and sometimes the benefits take time to materialize.
In a transformation program, ensuring that change management is mobilized early enough and gets the right focus and attention can be challenging.
Do you have any productivity tips to help you during the workday?
I have the pleasure of working with a team of very talented individuals, both within EY and its various lines of service, as well as with our clients.
I find that getting the right people into the room solves the problem much quicker and comes up with a better solution than doing it alone.
For me, making sure that there are opportunities to work with others and develop their ideas, not only saves me time, but also gives me a lot of energy, which helps with productivity.
When you started this job, what surprised you the most when you learned that you were important in the position?
When I moved from industry to consulting, I expected customer delivery to be a critical part of my role. While that’s critical to my role, the surprising element for me was that I also need to be an intrapreneur.
I am tasked with strategically and sustainably developing the people consulting area within EY while ensuring its smooth day-to-day operations.
Because of this, a comprehensive understanding of what running a business entails and being able to navigate between business, legal and risk management, strategy and practice development, people management, sales, and customer delivery is critical to succeed.
How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?
The breadth of our work as a consultancy is the one that has changed the most. Initially, people consulting was part of large transformation programs, with a focus on restructuring, organization design, and change management. While we still have a great focus on these areas, we have grown and matured, our services stand out on their own and there is much higher demand in the market.
Innovation happening at scale in people consulting means organizations take a much closer look at how to deliver a superior employee experience, gain better insights from people analytics, strategically plan their workforce, transform resources humans and modernize and digitize learning.
What do you enjoy the most about work?
I really love the challenge that comes from working with our clients to solve some of their most complex problems. I’m the type of person who ‘rolls up my sleeves’ and is happiest when I work alongside our clients to plan, design and implement solutions. It gives you a deep understanding of what they are facing and where the greatest opportunities are for them.
I also really like that my role is not industry specific. Throughout my career, I have worked in the private sector, financial services, public services, government, and healthcare, to name a few.
Each provides new insights into how organizations work, where the consistencies lie, and where the unique challenges lie for each. It means that I can learn something new with each client I work with and continue to develop myself as well, which I think is very important.