Claire Kolly
HR Consulting & Executive Coaching -
Claire’s introduction

Claire has spent more than 20 years in the HR field working in global environments, accompanying businesses in their -always complex!- development and transformations. Working across teams and cultural boundaries, she became passionate about helping teams and leaders navigate through changes and make sustainable decisions for themselves and their teams, balancing the short-term and long-term impacts in organisations.

Back in 2016, she added a coaching hat to her HR experience, got trained and certified (PCC-ICF) with the idea that most of the time what employees and leaders are missing is a space to reconnect with what is really important for them, what makes them successful, or on the contrary slows them down.

In 2021, Claire launched her own business, combining her Executive HR and Professional Coaching expertise. She is since then, helping organizations and individuals who want to do the “right thing” to develop the "S" in ESG through sustainable, human-centered HR Practices, development programs and coaching. To really be the change they want to see!

She is able to strategize, coach, train and advise in order to improve both long term executive and organizational performance, as well as ensuring that personal growth and well-being are taken care of in a sustainable and authentic manner. She is Hogan, Gallup CliftonStrengths, Individual and Team Coaching Certified.

As a citizen, you have always been concerned about the world that you will leave behind for your kids. How do you apply this in your professional life?

Early 2021, I decided to build my own senior HR consultant / coaching practice, to get the best of both worlds and work with people with very different backgrounds, from different companies. 

I wanted to work with organisations that have sustainability in mind, think long term and question themselves about the impact they have. There are many ways to look at adopting a sustainable mindset, which is basically to make decisions that have a positive impact in the long run, for people, ecosystems and communities. And that’s how I use my skills in coaching and HR fields to help organisations and individuals develop in a harmonious and responsible way, mindful of their holistic footprint.

With Covid, organisations and individuals have really started to be more aware of the importance of these aspects.

Covid had a big impact on working conditions (being at home and then returning to the office, often in a different setting). How do managers have to adapt? What good tips would you give them?
  • Focusing on the outcome more than on the daily tasks. If the direction and goals are clear, trust your people that they will do the right thing, even if it is not exactly how you would have done it yourself!
  • Providing flexibility / Have a better balance for employees to offload some of the pressure and create space for them to recharge in a way that is the most effective for them. Make  shorter meetings, leave time in between back to back meetings, introduce a “no meeting half-day”, etc.. could be easy ways to implement that balance. Being flexible also means that you can adapt your thinking and decisions as conditions change, so remain aware of the context in order to adapt quickly.
  • Listening to them (really listening!) to understand what type of support, help they need, what they are going through, so you can adapt your response to the situation (one size does not fit all). For example younger professionals might be more impacted and want to return to the office as this is an important space for socialisation, while other professionals might prefer to spend more time at home to avoid commuting or have time with their families. Whenever that is possible and makes sense, adapting your response will have a huge and positive impact on their engagement, and the quality of their work ultimately. Professionals question ( and  reshuffle)  a lot of their priorities. If they don’t feel their management and organisation are listening to them, this could  lead them to become highly disengaged or leave the company.
  • Last but not least, good advice I got from my mum when I was younger: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. If you follow that rule, most of your decisions will be guided by fair and balanced principles.
Should we expect something good coming out of the Covid situation in an HR perspective?

The good thing probably with Covid, is that it has pushed companies to rethink their HR practices. It has changed the way organisations look at their people, how to (re)engage them, and how to support their leaders in doing so. 

These changes and adaptations span across all the steps of the employee life: from the recruitment process, onboarding, developing good (and useful) benefits, ensuring employees can grow and develop their career, to having a proper exit process. 

On top of these, a strong focus on well-being, resilience, flexible working practices but also health and safety developed over the past 2 years. It has definitely accelerated a trend that otherwise would have taken way longer. It also means it has put a lot of pressure on the HR professionals and leaders to be innovative, find solutions, pivot extremely quickly as situations were volatile, while continuing to deliver on their other missions… not an easy job for sure!

What else is important to focus on for a company willing to be more sustainable in its HR approach?

First of all, I would mention the culture and the values that your company stands for. Where do these come from, how do you embody them ? How do you help your employees to connect with them ? It all starts with the culture and values you promote, and then you adapt it to the different HR workstreams (Hiring, Talent development, Benefits, etc…).

An employee who is committed  is an employee that understands what they are doing, why it matters and how they can contribute to these values. It is critical to ensure a sense of belonging, trust and ultimately pride in the company the employees work for. 

I would take the analogy of “greenwashing”, if you are not serious about your culture and values, your employees (and larger ecosystem) will feel like what their company is doing is not very right, that it is not a true commitment, and they would lose trust. 

For example, you can’t say, on one hand, I care about my people and customers and on the other hand, imposing, for example, some very restrictive policies for WFH conditions, or not supporting maternity/parental leaves, medical bills for mental health, just to name a few … There is a disconnect that can harm your brand deeply. 

If you really want to engage in a sustainable approach (whatever is your field of activity), it has to come from the inner culture and from the top. “Walk the talk” and take a holistic approach. Experiment, be genuine, don’t over promise but be consistent. Ask for feedback and you will grow as an employer of choice.

Physical health is one thing, but mental health is not to be overlooked. What would you suggest for organisations to cover?

First of all, as mental health can be viewed as a stigma, make sure that treatments, specialists consultations, etc… are covered by your HR policies, as not including it can prevent employees or their dependants from getting treated. 

Secondly, you can use some external support such as programs called EAP. The “Employee Assistance Program”, provides external counselling and support on a variety of topics : financial wellbeing, health wellbeing, conflict management, family issues, critical incident responses for trauma or crises, to name a few. As they are provided by external counterparts, they guarantee full confidentiality on discussions as well as an access to professional counsellors. 

Thirdly, depending on the situation, some coaching (for teams of individuals) can help to overcome a difficult situation such as high stress, risk of burn-out, fatigue, change management, etc.... Coaching will help to get to the root cause of the challenges and enable your teams and employees to find solutions, feel empowered in regaining control over a difficult context.

Fourthly, actively communicate through the company (through corporate communication and/or leaders) that “it is ok not to be ok”, we all have moments in our lives where things are difficult. This open communication helps to remove some of the constant pressure employees might feel. Engage your leaders in walking the talk and show good behaviours in that regard, as this will permeate in the organisation and have a lasting positive impact.

Last but not least, some topics can be put aside, not just mental health, but the ones related to minorities, would it be cultural, sexual, religious, gender, any stigma where people would feel that they may not be “mainstream” or not fully accepted,. This is where you want your organisation to show its support and inclusion, to ensure all employees feel equally valued, contributing their best.

HR is mostly seen as a set of policies, what is your vision?

To put it simply, HR is everybody’s role. There is no such thing as a company without its people so HR is business. Policies are just the output, to ensure everyone is treated the same way.

What are you most proud of?

My kids definitely, as I believe they will become good adults ;p 

Having been able to switch from a big organisation, to taking the leap of faith to start my own business, because that is what I wanted to do… and being successful and happy in doing it.

What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?
  1. Spend some time browsing and reading the materials. I really like the pragmatic approach taken by the TMI contributors, there is so much to learn!
  2. Start small and don’t freeze by thinking that the issue is too big -  Start with small parts of a project and build around it. Take an iterative approach.
  3. Give back - If you are grateful for all the information that you receive from TMI, share your feedback in return, and spread the knowledge. The more do-gooders, the better!
How could you help The Matcha Initiative (TMI) users?

People can reach out to me for HR/ People projects that they would like to embark on, any change they would like to engage in their organisation and are not sure of how it would work, I will be happy to share my experience, advice and coaching as I have faced a fair deal of HR challenges in various organisations.

Claire kindly accepts to answer your questions.
If you need additional insights, you can send her a message.