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International Women’s Day: Hear from successful women at Hays

Posted By Lisa O’Neill, Hays Senior Business Manager C&P on Wednesday, Mar 7, 2018

Interview with Lisa O'Neill - International Women's DayFor International Women's Day, we are featuring stories from some of the successful women we have in Hays here in the US. Sharing their story with Hays and expertise, they give their career insights and advice.

From Houston, here is what Lisa O’Neill, Senior Business Manager for Construction, has to share about the career she built with Hays.

What was your progression into your leadership role with Hays?
I started my career at Hays in 2010 where I joined the Senior Finance team in our flagship office in London, UK. In over 5 years I built my business from scratch to a successful temporary business, being promoted from Consultant to Business Manager level. I also took a year off to have my daughter in 2014.  In early 2015, the business was looking for people around the global to help build a Construction & Property business in the USA. Although my specialism was not in that specific market, and after given it some serious thought and discussing the opportunity with my husband, we agreed it would be a great opportunity to pursue so I submitted my application. In July 2015, my family and I arrived in Houston, Texas and since then I have steadily built a very successful Permanent Construction & Property business in Houston specializing in Estimator & Project Management positions from Junior levels to Executive roles. Since my arrival in the US, I earnt by promotion to Senior Business Manager, I am a Top 10 producer for the division in the US, and I am currently on track to achieve Business Director level over the next year or so.

Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
Yes, in every position I have worked in both with Hays and my previous companies I have always pushed myself to work with high productivity levels and offer exceptional customer service. What I like about the structure at Hays is the path to leadership can be achieved through a sales path or a people manager path. I have chosen the sales path because, as much as I enjoy working with people in my team and helping to coach and develop junior team members, my biggest strength is client relationship management. And, for me, there is no better place to do this than in the USA as clients and candidates truly value recruitment expertise. From building my business from scratch in Houston, I now have a very loyal following of clients and candidates which I enjoy engaging with on a daily basis and I am now in a position where I can truly enhance and impact a client’s business.

Have you encountered any gender-specific challenges or obstacles in your career?
The biggest gender-specific change in my career happened in 2014 when I had my daughter in London. I took a year off from my business to be dedicated 100% to her first year. Although it is never an easy decision to leave a successfully developed business for that amount of time, it was the right decision for me at the time. And this was one of the best decisions I ever made. While I have always been a very productive recruiter since my daughter arrived, I have learned to split my time more evenly between my two passions. What I mean by that is that I have learned to be more focused in the area where I am actually spending the time at that particular moment. 

How can women help women? Can you share any success stories?
Women can best help women at work by creating common bonds and sharing advice and experience related to specific topics to help support each other on their journey. As I work with a high energy and diverse female-dominated team in Houston, I have experienced multiple occasions where this kind of support can really benefit female members of the team at certain stages of their career when faced with challenges both professional and personal.

One example of where this kind of support can really benefit a team and a business is by building the type of collaborative relationship I have experienced with myself and another female team member. Through working closely together and spending countless hours meeting and developing clients we have got to know each other very well. We both have families so face similar challenges trying to juggle all our work & home responsibilities. We have also learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses and have utilized both our capabilities to really maximize both our businesses. We also encourage each other to work on our weaknesses and we are both willing to lend an ear and talk through work or personal life challenges we are experiencing at a particular time.

Women are more likely to than men to say they left their last employer because of company culture. What cultural changes or initiatives can employers make to better retain their female workforce? What have you seen work during your career?
I think encouraging women to take advantage of fast-track routes to leadership is important. In my experience, I have found women are less willing to take on positions of leadership if they do not feel they are fully qualified to do the job where men if they are 60% qualified, will be more willing to put themselves forward. I think this has both negative and positive outcomes. I do feel when women feel qualified, they also feel empowered and when they actually obtain those leadership positions they do a great job. However, in order to encourage other more junior women to advance themselves into these roles creating woman’s leadership forums, mentorship programs, and female focused networking groups are very beneficial.

One example of a successful female networking program was “Golf for Girls”, a leadership program one of my colleagues founded in the UK. In this program, female leaders got to network effectively with other female leaders and they also learned golf as a new skill, enhancing their opportunity for developing business opportunities in a male-dominated sport.

Continuing to improve maternity leave and child care policies, and developing more flexible working hours makes it easier for women to stay in their work after having children and also helps retaining qualified, top talent which is a valuable asset to the organization.

I would also encourage woman that work in a male-dominated market to use it to their advantage. In my Hays career, having the opportunity to engage with an intelligent, knowledgeable female who can use their expertise to support one part of their business is refreshing change for men and a distinct stand out advantage for the female.

What is your advice for female professionals who are starting out their career and want to reach a leadership role?
I would encourage female professionals to work hard, really refine their craft, absorb as much knowledge and successful work practices from their counterparts and managers, and never stop learning. If they approach their career with the attitude that there is always something new to learn or a better or more efficient way to work, they will develop a process of constant and never-ending improvement.

As a female recruiter, what advice would you give to employers on attracting and retaining women, and keeping them in the pipeline through the hiring process – from job ad to offer? Are there common mistakes you see, or best practices you’d like more companies to embrace?
I actually recruit for a market where female candidates are few and far between. So when a strong female candidate interviews for a position I would highly encourage an interested employer to act fast, especially if the female is keen on the organization also.

I have seen many clients that loved a female resume and did not even get an interview opportunity as they were not quick enough to book an interview in the first instance. I have also seen many lose out after the interview stage because they have delayed too much in getting an offer out. Women are much more intuitive when making a decision about a job offer. If they feel the culture is a good fit for them and the offer is right they won’t delay in committing to a decision.

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#HerHaysStory #IWD2018

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