Interview with Zara Loughrey, UK head of human resources at Pall Europe


How would you describe yourself?
Enthusiastic, energetic, driven and quite creative.

What management books do you read?
I like a mix of journals and books because we are all time-poor, so journals really help. The books I really like, which I read some time ago, are by Marcus Buckingham: First, break all the rules and Now, discover your strengths, and Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

Who is your role model?
The person I admire most is retail marketing consultant Mary Portas. I think she has incredible drive, vision and technical capability. She has worked incredibly hard to get to the positions that she has. She is so passionate about what she does, and she is not afraid to be passionate about things.

What is your favourite benefit?
For employees generally, the idea of flexible or voluntary benefits is terrific because it enables them to target their benefits. For me, it is having the ability to buy holiday.

Curriculum vitae: Zara Loughrey

February 2011-present UK head of HRS, Pall Europe
July 2008-December 2010 group reward director, Babcock (formerly VT Group)
May 2005-July 2008 manager, reward and policy, National Air Traffic Services (NATS)
December 2000-April 2005 benefits and policy specialist, Eli Lilly
1998-2000 HRS representative, Eli Lilly
1996-1998 HRS generalist, NatWest Markets
1993-1996 reward specialist, IBM UK
1993 personnel project manager, Manchester Royal Infirmary

In a varied career in reward and benefits, Zara Loughrey, UK head of human resources at Pall Europe, has learnt that success depends on focusing energy on the right things

For Zara Loughrey, UK head of HR at filtration, separation and purification products manufacturer Pall Europe, one of the key lessons she has learnt in her career so far is that working with others and engaging all stakeholders early can bring more effective results.

Loughrey’s career has spanned roles in industries including IT, pharmaceuticals, engineering and air traffic management.

Her first foray into benefits came at IBM, where although in a mainly compensation role, she worked on the company car scheme among other projects.

But she did not specialise until several roles later. “I really got into benefits when I worked at Eli Lilly and was offered a role that was 50% policy and 50% benefits,” she says. “I took that and fell in love with pensions.”

At Eli Lilly, Loughrey worked on the launch of a flexible benefits scheme. “That was what really hooked me.”

Loughrey has been involved in launching a number of flex schemes, which she cites as her biggest achievement and which has given her most satisfaction. The scheme at Eli Lilly was set up from scratch, whereas at Babcock (formerly VT Group) she helped consolidate a number of benefits by relaunching them under one flex scheme. “I believe they have really delivered a lot of value to staff on a financial basis, but have also delivered a lot of value to the businesses; not only in terms of national insurance savings, but also employee engagement and commitment.”

Loughrey believes one of the biggest challenges she and her HRS peers face currently is how to find new ways to be fresh and develop benefits in a way that is meaningful for employees, while also bringing a good return on investment for the business.

Two key customers

“I see that reward has two key customers,” she says. “The business, and within that I include HR business partners, and also employees, so it is about keeping both happy.”

Keeping a large, varied workforce happy is a demanding task, but Loughrey believes employers are getting sharper at doing this. “It is about saying ‘what different types of employees have we got?’ and trying to recognise that the different demographics do not necessarily match up to what the employees want,” she says. “For example, the profile of people retiring has changed significantly, so what people want later in life is changing quite a lot.”

During her career in reward and benefits, Loughrey has seen her roles become a lot more interactive with employees, creating more engagement. “Roles have also become a lot more technical, because the ability to be more creative within the constraints of tax regimes has required it,” she says.

Loughrey’s long-term goal is to continue to work on projects that motivate and inspire her, while ensuring her energy is correctly focused. “Some feedback someone gave me once, which I found really helpful, is that you have only got so much energy you can give to things, so make sure you give it to the right things. Do not spend time getting annoyed or worrying about things, because that uses energy that needs to be focused somewhere else.”

Loughrey was among the movers and shakers in the benefits world in 2011. See Hot 100 Benefits managers

Read more about careers in reward and benefits