Press Release

Southern Region

The darker side of HR – an interview

7 October 2015

Southern Region HR Interview Event 2015 - Conor O'Connell, Chartered FCIPD, Chairman, CIPD Southern Region Committee; Dr Cliondhna MacKenzie, UCC; Charlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD; Recruit Ireland

Conor O'Connell, Chartered FCIPD, Chairman, CIPD Southern Region Committee; Dr Cliondhna MacKenzie, UCC; Charlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD; Ronan O'Callaghan, Sales Manager, RecruitIreland

'Different!' 'Fascinating!' 'Food-for-thought!' 'Provocative!' 'Quirky!' 'Thought-provoking!' Just some of the words used to describe CIPD Ireland Southern Region’s The Darker Side of HR interview event with Charlie Dolan and Dr. Clíodhna MacKenzie, held at University College Cork on Wednesday 7 October.

First up, Conor O’Connell, Chairman CIPD Southern Region, Lindsey El Amoud, Business Development Officer Adult Continuing Education, UCC, and Ronan O’Callaghan, Sales Manager, RecruitIreland, welcomed the crowd. Lindsey also highlighted that over 1000 ACE students will graduate over 3 days the following week in the Devere Hall, some of which were in attendance on the night. With introductions completed, it was over to Charlie and Clíodhna, who subsequently enthralled the room.

Dr Cliondhna MacKenzie and Charlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD, in conversation with a selection of the audience

Dr Cliondhna MacKenzie and Charlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD, in conversation with a selection of the audience

To a large attendance of engaged HR leaders and students, Clíodhna provided some insight into her previous IT career, that she became weary of travel, returned to academia, and subsequent to her PhD focused on organisational behaviours during the financial crisis, is now known as the dark side researcher! In response to Charlie’s probing questions, Clíodhna provided the following insightful answers:

  • Does HR really have a seat at the table? No. Is a participant versus a decision-maker, as validated by interesting business developments hitting the news in recent weeks where HR policies and practices contributed. With HR often listed as 8th or 9th most important function for Chief Executive Officers, legislative change is required so that Heads of HR are vetted by boards of directors just as Chief Operations Officers and Chief Financial Officers are. Even with talent the biggest challenge, how can HR be truly-strategic until this change occurs?
  • What are the key skills required in HR? Economics, finance & accounting and big data. If HR understands economics, great…if not, will be cast aside even if the biggest trends right now are big data and talent management. And don’t get me started re performance management!
  • What about performance management? Stack ranking, bell curves, forced distribution, ticks against people? Can be so stressful for managers that they end up on sick leave. Companies like Microsoft and Accenture have thrown their processes out. The way forward has to be ongoing consistent feedback to drive connectivity, positive behaviour and contribution.
  • And talent management? Don’t get me started on an element of this one either! With family-friendly policies viewed as detrimental by two years to career progression, some companies are now offering to fund human oocyte cryopreservation (egg freezing). Is my fertility any of business’ business? There are some lines that HR should never cross, particularly when the odds after 29 further decrease after 35. Egg freezing should never be a perk or option.
  • What countries are leading the way from a family-friendly perspective? The Nordic countries. A six hour working day is currently being proposed in Sweden. Ireland has some related considerations to think about here. With 160k workers of our 1.987m national total employed by US multinationals, there exists a relentless pace of 'being on' for fear that that business will relocate elsewhere. This is not sustainable.
  • And what about big data? Companies like Google now have HR functions that are one third administration, one third recruiting & management consultants, and one third data analysts. Sophisticated algorithms are not just measuring but also managing, for example, the impact of talent leaving, of certain organisational behaviours etc. Ultimately, big data is all about financial impact. HR need to ask more, probe more, challenge more and think re long-term impact.

Conor O’Connell, Chairman CIPD Southern Region, thanked Charlie & Clíodhna for their captivating interview re the darker side of HR, and presented Clíodhna with a gift to mark the occasion, kindly sponsored by The Irish Examiner. Sincere thanks were also extended to UCC for their support in organizing this event.

For further information, please contact

David Barry
PRO, CIPD Ireland Southern Region
M. 087 2804753

Conor O’Connell
Chairman, CIPD Ireland Southern Region
M. 086 8303843


Speaker biographies

Dr Clíodhna MacKenzie

Dr Clíodhna MacKenzieClíodhna lectures in Human Resource Management & Development (BComm and MSc), Management & Leadership (MBS), and Strategy & Leadership (MBA and BComm) at University College Cork. Prior to that, she lectured Leadership & Strategy at University of Limerick (MSc Financial Services/Computational Finance).

As an IT professional, Clíodhna has previously worked for both US multinationals and global IT consulting firms. Clíodhna has spent time working on various projects and assignments in the US, Singapore and Thailand, as well as many parts of Europe. Her academic research focuses on organisational identity and its impact on organisational performance and efficiency.

Her research interests include talent management, organisational development, strategy, corporate governance, ethics, CSR, human resource management/development, and leadership & organisation development. She is also a member of the University Forum for Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and Irish Academy of Management. Clíodhna has published in a number of international journals as well as authoring/co-authoring a number of book chapters.

Charlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD

Charlie DolanCharlie Dolan, Chartered FCIPD, has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 35 years prior to setting up his own career guidance and HR company. Charlie is also a qualified career guidance counsellor.

During his industrial career, he has worked in many scientific roles along with working in HR for 16 years. While in HR, he was very involved with universities and colleges in course development, and both graduate and undergraduate recruitment.

Finally, Charlie is involved with a number of organisations including the Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA) of which he is a past president, and is a member of an EU working group on Early School Leaving (ESL).