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Prioritising health and kindness and how it helps the bottom line

Kicking off our The New Face of Recruitment: Female Leaders Paving the Way is Sinead Connolly, Director and Co-Founder of boutique Sydney agency Lotus People, which she founded in 2015 with her then business partner Laura Hopes and investors, SustainAbility Consulting.

Sinead has acquired an impressive list of awards, both individually and for her agency, including being the 2019 Winner of the Recruitment International Awards’ Best Small Agency and picking up their 2018 award for Recruiter of the Year.

Lotus People is a thriving agency where Sinead has worked hard to ensure staff at all levels of the organisation enjoy work-life balance with an ongoing commitment to implementing wellbeing programs with meaningful outcomes.

Here Sinead talks with the co-founders of Australian Women in Recruitment, Hannah Kissel, LinkedIn’s Regional Sales Manager - Head of SMB (Staffing ANZ), and Clara McCarthy, LinkedIn Search and Staffing Enterprise Relationship Manager, about her own struggles with health issues and why she insists the mental and physical wellbeing of staff should be a priority for every business.

Lotus People was named the 2017 winner of the Recruitment International Awards (RIA) Best Small Agency to Work For and has been a consistent finalists in similar categories for other awards. Why?

When Laura and I started the business, we made creating a workplace where staff are able to come in and be themselves and achieve their best a priority in what we do. When we set up Lotus People there was a real gap in the market in bringing that mentality of balance. Laura left after the first year but I have continued with this as part of my journey of discovering balance and what it means and the results show at Lotus People. We also have a very real focus on staff being authentic. I’m not super corporate and we wanted to be in an environment that didn’t feel stiff and required us to be a ‘work version’ of ourselves. In Lotus, everyone comes to work and is fully themselves. Instead of having that work version of yourself, you can just come in and be yourself and that was the idea behind it. It all ties in with culture and environment and balance and it’s all quite holistic. Being authentic helps the bottom line.

How are clients with that level of authenticity from you and your team?

They respond very well to it. It translates into more real and authentic relationships with clients. There are times when staff have to wear the “work outfit”, the suit and stockings, but there are also times when they don’t and they can relax and be authentic. Given the diversity of the market, it doesn’t always make sense to turn up in a suit when dealing with some clients. It can help people buy into us more rather than being a suit.

Why is it so important to you to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of your staff is a priority?

Because happy staff are good for business. Our staff work standard hours and people don’t tend to work outside of them because we have an awareness people have outside lives. For us, authenticity ties in with balance. We foster that through a lot of hard work, having a focus on it and implementing initiatives such as having a meditation teacher come into the office weekly. It is important to see wellbeing as a genuine pillar of your business.

There is also a very personal reason behind your insistence on maintaining work-life balance. Can you tell us about that?

I have an auto immune condition (Coeliac disease) and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In the first year of establishing Lotus People, we were very successful but that also meant we were working 12 to 14 hours a day, every day. We kept up that pace for about 10 months and then I got really sick with adrenal burnout and chronic fatigue. Looking back now I have recovered, I absolutely believe it was the result of intensity and the pace we were working at. It couldn’t be sustained.

What did that teach you about work-life balance and caring for your health?

I was housebound for two-and-a-half months with the chronic fatigue and all my research says you have to learn to live with it and will never get over it. That was terrifying and I genuinely wondered if I would ever work again. But I did recover and the learnings from that are that I feel like I am extremely in tune with my body; I am extremely aware of my own boundaries around self-care, mental health and obviously with that experience comes a huge impact on your mental health. I was struggling so much with anxiety but what that has allowed me to do is put a renewed and reinforced focus on mental health within the business. And so we have a genuine focus on that. You can be hard working, ambitious and want to achieve things but still maintain a social life and balance.

Do you think it is easier for women to succeed professionally than it has been historically?

I know the data shows that while more women work in recruitment than men, men continue to hold more senior positions than women. That said, I think the biggest problems facing women in recruitment is self-doubt and the imposter syndrome stopping women from putting themselves out there. There needs to be women present and getting involved and having a contribution to the conversations on how to get more women into leadership and have women put themselves forward for leadership roles. Women need to band together to ensure we are supporting each other up the ladder rather than trying to get each other. Our industry in the last year or two has been incredible at that, including initiatives such as this.

Your advice for women working in recruitment?

Be authentic and you have to be courageous enough to put imposter syndrome to the side. I also think there is a huge advantage to operating from a place of kindness. I think however many people you come into contact with, if you are just good to people, it will come back to you 10-fold and that’s applies to your staff and anyone you deal with. It is something that, even though it can be forgotten, kindness can actually end up very much positively impacting the bottom line, particularly within our industry.

Thank you Sinead. Keep posted for our monthly series and if you have someone you think should be profiled, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. To join in the conversation click here.

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