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Meet the Team – Shauna Ryan, SL Controls HR Manager

What do you do at SL Controls?

I wear two hats. One is HR Manager, which means having responsibility for the full HR lifecycle. This includes everything from onboarding and induction to performance management, employee relations, and employee communication.

My second hat is as a member of the SL Controls senior leadership team. This is the team that is responsible for running the business, so it is more of a strategic role compared to my responsibilities as HR manager. It involves things like change management, organisation design, organisation development, strategic planning, and so on.

Describe your job without using the word HR.

My job involves several responsibilities and overseeing the running of a number of initiatives – really, it’s about keeping a number of plates spinning. One part of my role that I particularly enjoy is supporting and coaching our people managers as they work with their teams. We have a process in place where every manager has at least one monthly one-to-one with each member of their team. Initiatives like this are not only hugely important but also very rewarding for everyone involved.

I also conduct regular benchmarking of salaries and benefits – it is important that we remain aware of industry trends. Another part of my role is my involvement in initiatives with our commercial and technical teams, ensuring we have interesting projects coming in and a dynamic range of customers, helping to keep our employees motivated and challenged.

We also look at what’s coming next – what’s the next thing we need to know about as we are in an industry that doesn’t standstill. Knowing about it early ensures we can give people scope to get trained, gain exposure, and build up experience. Activities like our Skills Base surveys help to gather information on our employees’ competencies, which we then analyse in line with our technical roadmap to identify both skills gaps and opportunities.

It’s also about understanding what is important to our employees, as it’s not just salary. For some, it is flexibility, work-life balance, and working remotely, while for others good health insurance and a strong pension are priorities. Others still put a larger emphasis on our activities around Wellness. As HR Manager, I need to ensure we have a balance so that we can meet the needs of as many employees as possible.

On the fun side, we do employee appreciation events regularly and we have a weekly virtual canteen. We also run various wellbeing initiatives throughout the year.

What made you want to build your career in HR?

I got into it when I was in secondary school, although they called it personnel then. Quite honestly, I don’t know how I came up with it. I didn’t know anyone who worked in HR, but I knew I wanted a career dealing with people – hiring, working with people, etc.

I went to UL to get a degree in business with a major in HR, and it’s been a passion of mine all the way through. Once I qualified and started to work, I’ve always worked hard, and opportunities have presented themselves. I have never worked in another area, but I’ve never been pigeonholed in a particular part of HR either. I have been able to work across the whole lifecycle.

I consider myself lucky because I get to use my personality to do my job.

What is it about HR that gives you the most satisfaction or that you are proudest of?

Without a doubt, it is the people and getting to interact with them. I suppose it’s about the variety in terms of the types of people and the myriad of reasons why you are dealing with them.

I see part of my role is to assist in difficult situations, helping to resolve them as best we can. I feel energised by that. It might be a difficult conversation, but there is huge satisfaction in getting the best resolution. I am naturally an empathetic person, and that really helps.

People never cease to amaze me, and I love the variety. Sometimes the job can be really analytical, where I’m up to my neck in spreadsheets and pivot tables, trying to make sense of data from numerous sources and putting it to use.  I think it is fair to say I have a  job that is never repetitive!

What was your first day working at SL Controls like?

I joined on 4 January 2020, so it was a new job in a new year. It was the first Monday after Christmas and, to be honest, I was thinking I should have taken another week! I was also feeling massively sorry for Norma who was doing my induction! It was her first day back after Christmas, too, and she was stuck doing an induction with her new manager – a new manager she had not met while having to do the induction remotely.

Norma was super professional, though, and didn’t complain once. What I learned was that onboarding virtually is not as strange as you might think. It is amazing how we have all adapted ourselves and our processes to the virtual world, to ensure things have continued to run smoothly.

It set the trend as most of the job so far has been virtual with everything going on with Covid-19. I don’t think the fact I’ve only met 10-15 people in person has hindered anything. With the reality of remote working, I knew I was coming into something new, and not only needed to adapt, but also reap the benefits of working virtually.

Is there anything about SL Controls that makes it stand out from working at other companies?

From an HR perspective, the fact you can start, integrate, and onboard remotely – and do it successfully – makes SL Controls stand out. I don’t think that would be possible in every company.

In fact, SL Control’s ability to adapt to the pandemic and full remote working also makes the company stand out.

More personally, I was attracted to the fact that not only was it Irish owned, but that it was at the cutting edge of its industry. I’ve always worked for multinationals, but the agile environment at SL Controls has meant that everything can be more nimble – decision-making is much quicker. There is a very flat structure that is not hierarchical, with founders who worked up from the bottom. They are all points of difference that are important to me.

What advice would you give to people interested in joining SL Controls?

Send in an application! We are growing, so we have some fantastic opportunities. Then when you join, get involved. Go to the virtual canteens. Reach out and meet people, even if it’s virtually. Everyone in the company is open and approachable, so you’ll never get knocked back. Work closely with your manager, too, and think about your role and how you want to progress your career.

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Employee Appreciation and Staying Connected Throughout 2021

When we moved to remote working at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of our priorities was to maintain as high a level of team camaraderie as possible. Senior management also believed it was important to recognise the hard work of everyone on the SL Controls team as we continued delivering for our clients. One of the ways we did this in 2021 was through employee appreciation initiatives.

These initiatives included virtual parties with themes that included Escape the Office, Hit Mix Bingo, and quizzes. We had a magician at some of our virtual parties, too, including our virtual Christmas party held earlier this month.

Hampers were also sent to employees at various times throughout the year as recognition of the hard work everyone was doing. This included a recent Christmas hamper.

Another of the ways we kept employees connected was through our Live Well at SL initiatives. Examples include a workplace wellbeing day, a cycle challenge, and fundraising for the Darkness into Light event.

We plan to schedule similar employee appreciation and Live Well at SL initiatives in 2022 in-person if suitable and virtually if not.

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Virtual Christmas Jumper Day at SL Controls

How do you have a Christmas Jumper Day at work when everyone is working from home? At SL Controls, we all met up in festive attire in our virtual canteen!

We hold regular virtual canteen events to help everyone on the team stay connected with their colleagues. While not a perfect substitute for meeting up in person, they are still a good way to socialise in the workplace.

We used our Christmas Jumper Day this year to raise money for the Simon Community and its efforts to help those at risk of homelessness.

Shauna Ryan, SL Controls HR Manager, said: “Even though these events are virtual, they are still fun, and it is great to chat to the team about non-work topics. It was also good to see everyone getting into the festive spirit with their Christmas jumpers and having fun with filters and backgrounds.

“Raising funds for the Simon Community was an important part of the event too. They do fantastic work all year, but that work is even more essential over the Christmas period. We are proud to be able to support the work they do.”

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SL Controls Christmas Party Goes Virtual Again

The 2021 SL Controls Christmas Party took place on Friday evening and, like last year, it was a virtual event. In fact, the Christmas party followed a theme we have been adopting throughout 2021 – apart, but together.

The full event took place on Zoom where we had a quiz hosted by DJ Mick. Magician Joe Daly also performed his Virtually Impossible show. As for the dress code, it was festive, although some used the trickery of Zoom to add virtual festive attire.

Shauna Ryan, HR Manager at SL Controls said: “We are all now familiar with virtual gatherings – more familiar than many of us would like. That didn’t stop us from having a Christmas party at SL Controls, and it didn’t stop us from having a fun night either. It was great to see everybody and spend time together in a social environment – a virtual social environment. Our thanks to Brand Rocket for putting on the event, and also to DJ Mick and Magician Joe Daly for entertaining us on the night.”

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Health and Safety and Remote Working at Client Sites

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and as we look to the future at SL Controls with increased home working arrangements, we have adapted our policies on health and safety. There is now much greater emphasis on ensuring consistent standards between health and safety in an SL Controls office location and when an employee is working from home.

For us at SL Controls, this also brought into sharp focus the fact we now have three distinct working conditions for our employees in terms of health and safety.

  • Working in an SL Controls office
  • Remote working from home
  • Remotely working at a client site

Health and Safety for Remote Working at a Client Site

While working from home is currently a popular topic of discussion, remote working was common even before Covid-19. Remote working (outside of working from home) can take many forms, but at SL Controls, it typically means employees that travel to different client locations for all or some of the working week.

While this type of remote working has been common historically, it has not been common over the past 18+ months. As a result, we have taken steps to remind our team of important health and safety issues when working remotely.

Working at Client Locations

When working at client locations, our employees follow the health and safety policies and procedures of SL Controls and those of the company where they are working. This includes completing necessary risk assessments, understanding responsibilities, getting clarification when there is any confusion, and ensuring similar standards are applied for workstations and other working conditions.

Driving

Driving is an important health and safety consideration as there are many factors that are beyond an employer’s or employee’s control. Steps that we can take include checking the driver’s licenses of our employees and reminding employees about staying safe when driving for work.

This includes taking practical steps such as making sure the vehicle is safe and properly maintained. At this time of year, things like tyres, washer fluid, and lights are particularly important as roads become more slippery in the winter months, there is often reduced visibility, and there is increased spray on windscreens.

We also advise employees to plan journeys in advance and ensure they are realistic about how long the journey will take. This advice includes leaving early enough, taking sufficient breaks, and taking into account bad weather, traffic, and the unexpected.

It is also important to emphasise being careful when driving in low light and when it’s dark, as it is much more likely in the winter months to be driving in low light conditions both at the beginning and end of the day. Remaining alert and being well-rested are essential.

Other advice includes avoiding driving completely in exceptionally bad weather, and never using mobile phones while driving.

Covid-19 Considerations

Covid-19 is also a consideration for remote workers, so we also remind employees of the steps they should take to stay protected when working at a client site. This includes following the rules put in place by the client, in addition to following the more general advice of wearing a mask, regularly washing hands, and keeping a safe distance.

Travelling Overseas

While travelling overseas has been limited recently, it remains an important health and safety consideration for remote workers. Those considerations include everything from different driving conditions to crime and weather.

Monitoring the Health and Safety of Remote Workers

At SL Controls, we have clear and consistent management systems that ensure employees working at client sites and other remote workers are safe. We also take steps to ensure our systems remain effective. This includes regularly reviewing risk assessments and including remote workers in decision-making.

Ongoing Improvement Process

As with most things in business, particularly in our industry, it is important not to stand still. Continuous improvement should always be the objective, including in all aspects of health and safety.

This continuous improvement approach enabled us to quickly adapt our health and safety processes when we moved to 100 percent remote working at the start of the pandemic. It will also ensure we continue to use best practices in health and safety when our employees work at client sites.

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SL Controls Shortlisted for Limerick Business Awards 2021

SL Controls has been shortlisted for an award at this year’s Limerick Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. We are in the running for the Best Employer: Employee Talent Development & Workplace Wellness award.

It recognises companies that set high standards for wellness and talent development, and that create world-class working conditions for employees.

The other shortlisted companies in this award category are Three.ie and Kirby Engineering & Construction. The awards ceremony will take place on 19 November in the Limerick Strand Hotel.

Shauna Ryan, HR Manager at SL Controls said: “Employee wellness – both physical and mental – is a high priority for us at SL Controls. We have well-established programmes in place to promote and ensure wellness in the workplace. We are also committed to helping our employees find the right work-life balance while achieving what they want to achieve with their careers.

“Continuous professional development is also crucially important for us for a number of reasons, including the competitive nature of the recruitment landscape and the fact we operate in an industry that is constantly innovating. We support staff through training in a range of different ways to ensure we remain competitive as a company and to help our employees reach their full potential.

“To be recognised for these important priorities in our business is fantastic. We have been involved with the Limerick Chamber for many years now, and the awards ceremony is always a highlight on the regional business calendar. We are delighted to have been shortlisted in this category, and we are looking forward to the ceremony.”

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Remote Working Health and Safety at SL Controls

Health and safety is a top priority here at SL Controls, so we have always had robust and continuously reviewed health and safety procedures in place. Like many other companies over the past 18 months, we have adjusted the way we operate and deliver our services, resulting in a greater level of remote working. Our health and safety procedures have had to evolve too.

We have had a remote working policy at SL Controls for many years now. Some of our staff would have worked from home for a certain amount of time each week, plus we regularly had engineers who would spend considerable amounts of time at client sites. That said, the default position was that staff would work in the office.

When the lockdowns were put in place to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, this changed overnight, with all staff moving to a remote working situation. We dealt with this change effectively as we already had the IT infrastructure in place and previous experience.

We did refine the way we operated, however, to ensure staff wellbeing, meet company objectives, and provide services to clients. This experience led us to review our approach in relation to where and how SL Controls staff worked.

The result of that review was to adjust our policy to make it much more open to remote working, as we could clearly see the benefits. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for every member of staff, but offering greater flexibility is the approach we now take.

That has had an impact on health and safety – specifically, remote working health and safety.

Remote Working Health and Safety Checklist

During the lockdown, we introduced a remote working checklist to ensure the health and safety of staff working from home. This was based on the health and safety risk assessments we would have done in our office locations, but then adapted for home working environments.

The checklist ensures employees have a set up at home that is safe, and it helps managers to understand if the company needs to provide any support. The checklist has another important function as well, as it also highlights remote working health and safety issues that might otherwise be missed.

The remote working health and safety checklist has seven categories of questions that include:

  • Desk area – focusing on adequate space, cables, light, etc.
  • Screens and workstation – focusing on posture and comfort while operating a computer.
  • Fire and electrical – covering things like smoke detectors, wear and tear of electrical equipment, and other potential fire hazards.
  • Manual handling – for the prevention of injuries when lifting or reaching for items.
  • Slips, trips, and falls – highlighting common risks that could cause a fall.
  • Lone working – highlighting important issues around lone working, including having the ability to quickly and easily contact a manager or supervisor whenever needed.
  • Stress and welfare – ensuring regular breaks are taken and that the employee is taking care of themselves when working from home.

Regular Communication and Information

The remote working health and safety checklist isn’t the only thing that we do to ensure the wellbeing of our staff while they are working remotely. We also send out regular surveys to get feedback from employees to see how they feel about remote working. One of the reasons for this is that circumstances can change, so what worked in the past might now be difficult.

We have also published a Remote Working Charter and we have distributed it to everyone on the team. The Charter highlights 10 things we value at SL Controls when working remotely. Examples include creating boundaries between work and personal time, understanding the realities of how home life can impact work, and the importance of maintaining togetherness and human connections.

SL Controls Remote Working Values

 

Continuous Review

We have a policy of continuous improvement at SL Controls, so our health and safety procedures, including documents like our remote working checklist, are kept in constant review. This ensures we can remain agile and flexible as a company, while also ensuring the health and safety of our employees.

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SL Controls Employees Take Part in Virtual Cycling Challenge

SL Controls has launched a virtual cycling challenge to help employees stay fit and connect with colleagues in this era of remote working. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, all SL Controls offices have been closed, with staff working either remotely or at client sites.

The cycling challenge will help employees connect in a non-working environment wherever they are located, from Limerick and Dublin all the way to Jacksonville, Florida. In fact, the goal over four weeks in August is to collectively cycle a virtual distance equal to the distance between the SL Controls head office in Sligo and our office in Jacksonville, Florida. That’s 6,249km!

Shauna Ryan, HR Manager at SL Controls said: “Any employee can take part in our virtual cycling challenge, and they can join in with any type of cycling, from short distances on a hybrid bike to long rides on a road bike to fast single track runs in forests on a mountain bike.

“Cycling is a great way to get outside and get some exercise, both of which are great for physical and mental wellbeing. It’s also important to us at SL Controls to stay connected with colleagues. We have been working from home and remotely for some time now, so it is good to get an opportunity to do something enjoyable together – even if it is still virtually.”

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An Approach to Remote Working that Maintains Standards and Improves Business Agility

Like many other companies, large-scale remote working became an abrupt reality at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. In fact, 100 percent of our staff moved to remote working overnight as our offices across Ireland closed in line with Government restrictions.

We were in a good position as a company to deal with many of the challenges this presented. This particularly applies to the technical challenges, as we are a technology business. Also, we had a mindset at the highest level of the company dating back to before 2018 that embraced modern and flexible working arrangements, including remote working.

Our approach to this has evolved even further, however, following the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the periods of lockdown, we continued to operate at full capacity, delivering for our clients. We also developed new, novel solutions for our clients to help them operate remotely while remaining regulatory compliant and ensuring IT security wasn’t compromised.

The Future

As our society moves back to a more usual way of living and doing business, we don’t plan to go back to the way we operated prior to March 2020. We did have employees who had remote working arrangements back then, but they were in the minority. The default position was to have our team working from one of our four offices in Ireland (and our office in the US).

We plan to take an approach that is even more flexible, where individual staff members have more control over how much time they spend in an office. We will also have a default position that is closer to a hybrid situation, where employees will have the option of spending a portion of their week working from home with some time also spent in an office. This is in addition to the many members of our team who spend considerable portions of their working week on client sites. Of course, these arrangements are only being implemented in full whenever Government guidance on social distancing and working from home allows.

Good for Business

This approach to flexible working arrangements brings many benefits to SL Controls, including helping our employees achieve a better work-life balance while also making our company an attractive place to work.

We are also aware that remote working should never impact performance or standards. Instead, it should make us better at what we do in addition to making our operations more agile.

Take health and safety as an example, as it is a considerable challenge when staff are working from home. After all, everyone has a different setup and different space in their home working environment, and they have different personal situations.

We have dealt with the health and safety issue through training, plus we have developed a comprehensive Remote Working Checklist that our employees complete so we can help ensure they stay safe when working from home. This checklist covers everything from desks and chairs to fire and electrics to stress and welfare.

We also have well-established management, training, mentorship, and operational procedures to ensure teams and business units continue to deliver for our clients while also helping us deliver on our ambitious plans for the future.

Taking the Opportunity

At SL Controls, we see the way the workplace in Ireland is changing as an opportunity. This period of change is a time for a reset to take place, where employees can become more content and productive while at work while also having more time to spend with their families. It is also where companies can become more agile, efficient, and better equipped to deal with the challenges – and opportunities – of the future.

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