Since joining Stonbury several years ago as ‘HR Manager’, Loraine quickly transformed this critical area of the business into the People and Culture team it is today, delivering world-class talent acquisition and management programmes. Loraine has also championed internal communication and helped shape and promote the company’s core values.
“For me, Loraine’s biggest talent comes in the work she does with staff engagement, which is at the heart of how we perform as a business and it was this talent that we wanted to leverage to the maximum. We have recently re-aligned the board structure to better fit our long term vision, and it made perfect sense for us to expand the remit of the People and Culture team to enhance performance in other key areas, most notably health, safety, welfare and wellbeing”.
Loraine and her team will also play a major part in Stonbury’s carbon reduction journey – a key target for the water sector – by ensuring Stonbury’s culture aligns with the sector’s strategy and plans to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“When I first started my career in the early 90s, there were not many women in leadership roles. I was always in awe of the few who were prominent in the media such as Anita Roddick, Karren Brady and, especially, Indra Nooyi because she, like me, is a woman of colour. Throughout my career, increasingly I came across more women leaders, which kept my goal alive of one day joining them and in doing so also becoming a role model for young women who were just starting out.
Although the industry gradually is changing, sadly, construction is still stereotypically male dominated. However, I did not let this become a barrier to me joining Stonbury in 2016 as HR Manager. This was a newly created standalone role, and it took great effort to review systematically what was already in place and spend time with the teams to understand employees’ issues while establishing the priorities from a company perspective. Next, came building my team to assist with developing and implementing policies and processes around core employee relations activities, talent management and reward and recognition. Shortly after this, as I led the business to begin focusing more on employee engagement and improving company culture, it was timely to rename the department from HR to People and Culture. It was at this point that the company invited me to become a member of the board, and I was appointed as the Director of People and Culture. This was such an honour, which carried immense responsibility not just in terms of delivering on Stonbury’s strategic objectives, but also because the company had finally given me the opportunity to become a role model for future generations.
The role has continued to grow, and I have overseen several key projects, all of which have served to make the department – and by extension, the company – more professional and efficient. Recently, following a board restructure, and in order to better fit Stonbury’s vision, the Managing Director asked me to also take on leadership of the Safety, Health, Environment and Welfare (SHEW) team, as well Compliance. I deliberated over the offer because I had already achieved my goal of gaining a seat at the boardroom table. It would have been so easy to stick with the one thing I knew and am good at and am comfortable with – in my case, People Management. Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge because experience has taught me that when I feel my most uncomfortable, and a little bit scared or nervous, that’s a good thing – it means I’m growing. There are days when I lack confidence, but I realise that it’s a constant work in progress and confidence only comes with action. Gradually, as I face each new challenge, I just do it repeatedly so that eventually my confidence grows. Additionally, I try to reflect on all of the aspects of my personality and experience that got me to this point in my career and remember that it’s those same characteristics that will make me successful in the future.
It is encouraging to observe that very slowly, the tide is turning, and there are so many more women in senior leadership positions, most notably in the water sector. It is great to know that Stonbury is also part of this seed change. Today, I hear of more mentoring and career development opportunities for women, which were sadly lacking for my generation. Furthermore, research on the emergence of ‘GenZennials’ in the workplace seems to suggest that they are less segregated by sex and the attendant gender politics. That said, there is still much work to be done. Female directors have so much to bring to the board, not just a different perspective on life, but my own experience is that I am more sensitive to the cultural dynamics and the strengths, weaknesses, motivations and potential of my colleagues. I am acutely aware that talent alone is not enough to create a well-functioning board; it also needs formal processes and the correct culture. Ultimately, this will influence each member’s contribution, which works in conjunction with the directors’ collective intellect”.