Interview with Louise Hadland, HR and facilities management director at Shoosmiths

Ensuring people have fun at work is one of the ambitions of Louise Hadland, HR and facilities management director at law firm Shoosmiths.

In a career that has spanned more than 25 years, Hadland has gained a wide variety of business experience, working in a range of disciplines across the public and private sectors, including sales and marketing, finance and, most recently, HR.

She is currently studying part-time for a degree in psychology with a view to becoming a qualified occupational psychologist, which she believes will help in her current role.

“You have got to keep yourself fresh. I’m not afraid to try new things. One of the key aspects of what I do is to come up with things that are fresh and exciting and unless you constantly refresh what you offer, you will fall behind,” she says.

Hadland says the business knowledge she has accumulated from her master of business administration (MBA) qualification, coupled with her experience gained from her career, has helped her in her role as HR director.

“I am a business person as well as an HR person and I have to understand how my business operates, where it makes profits, how an expensive resource like people will meet business objectives, and how Shoosmiths can compete and differentiate itself in the marketplace,” she says.

As well as managing the law firm’s employee benefits, Hadland’s role also includes generalist HR, staff learning and development, recruitment and professional development, as well as facilities management. This means her typical working week is quite varied. “It’s fantastic. We have eight offices, so I do a lot of travelling. I consider the people I work for in the firm to be my clients and it is my job is to make sure they are happy,” she says.

Hadland regularly meets a variety of employees to keep abreast with what is going on in the organisation. She also makes an effort to meet new joiners and attend company meetings.

“I spend most of my day talking to people, but I try to do twice as much listening as talking. By five o’clock, I have time to get some paperwork done,” she says.

In the time she has been working in HR, Hadland says the field has become increasingly strategic. “HR professionals need to have ideas for moving a business forward strategically, but these incur costs. Unless you are very clear and persuasive in your business argument as to why you are doing something, these hurdles will become insurmountable,” she explains.

She believes the biggest challenge facing HR professionals is engaging employees, and benefits are a good way of achieving this. “With benefits, you have to make sure you are as good as your competitors and different from them in your provision. Then you have to weigh this up against budget and cost.”

To help overcome this, Hadland values the importance of networking with like-minded people. “I strongly believe in the firm benchmarking itself to keep up to date with best practice, both within the legal profession and externally, in order to be the best in business generally,” she explains.

In the fast-paced world of HR and benefits, Hadland says it is important for HR professionals to remain pragmatic to keep ahead of the trends. “I think it is my responsibility to make sure I am stretching myself and to keep coming at HR from different angles,” she adds.

Curriculum Vitae 1998 Shoosmiths, HR and facilities management director 1997-1999 Volkswagen, personnel manager 1986-1997 Northampton College, registrar 1983-1986 Coffer Sports, sales and marketing roles 1980-1981 Foden Ibex, marketingQ&A n What has been your biggest hurdle? I wouldn’t say I have had huge hurdles in my career. It’s more important to have the resilience required for the everyday hurdles, although I wouldn’t say there has ever been one I couldn’t get over.

n What advice would you give to others? If you have a good idea in HR, start as you mean to go on. Make a good business case supported by your knowledge and understanding of your business. Then you will be able to start selling the true benefit of what you want to do.

n Do you have a role model? I don’t have one particular role model, but I have worked with people who have afforded me the space and freedom to grow and develop. If I can give that to the people who work with me, then I think I have done a good job.

n What is your favourite benefit? Shoosmiths gives staff a day off and a £50 voucher on their birthdays. This makes people feel really special, because it is unique to them on their birthday, with the endorsement of their employer to have a good time. It is lovely to have a benefit that brings so much pleasure.