Sinéad Tolan, mum-of-three and head of human resources at Glenveagh, on juggling motherhood and work, leading a post-COVID team and why more women should consider a career in the construction industry .
“I’m in human resources because I love working with people. It’s a mix of my two main interests: business and psychology.
Originally from Co Meath, Sinéad Tolan now resides in Maynooth with her three children, just ten minutes from her place of work, Glenveagh Properties PLC. Today, she’s proud to be the head of HR, but her path to her dream role wasn’t easy. She dabbled in different industries along the way, navigating multiple maternity leaves and learning to adapt quickly to new roles.
Initially a student in publishing and journalism, she held positions in business support and volunteered for the ISPC (Childline) before combining her experience and knowledge to decide on her chosen field. She enrolled in a four-year human resources degree course in DIT, which she completed at night.
At the time, she was 22 and had landed a job with The Heaton Group (now Grafton Group PLC) as a human resources administrator. “I worked there for 12 years, where I had the opportunity to grow and develop through the career path I chose,” Sinéad said. “It was an amazing experience, and it was a great company to work for and a great foundation for my career.” There, Sinéad was selected for a Senior Leaders of the Future Development program and earned a postgraduate degree in leadership.
Juggling parenthood and career
Then the next stage of Sinéad’s journey began – motherhood. In 2008, she had her first child, and just 15 months later, she welcomed her second child into the world. “At that time I was progressing in my career as planned, but the challenge then was being a mother to ‘Irish twins’ and balancing a career.
“With two children under two, I struggled to balance work and parenthood, so I decided to take some time off to stay home with them. For me it was the right choice because I had these two years when they were so little. I was happy to return to work after this downtime and continue my career.
When Sinéad returned to work, she held various positions over an eight-year period before returning to construction, with a role at Kellogg’s, a telecommunications and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company filling out her resume before to land at Glenveagh. .
Sinéad worked hard to catch up when she returned to the squad. “When I came back to the workplace, I felt I had to catch up on the years I had taken.
However, when asked, she stressed that she would not change anything. “One hundred percent I would do it again. It wasn’t just me anymore; I had to consider my children then as well. Did I learn from it? Absolutely, because I found a wonderful, progressive and supportive company that was exactly what I was looking for in hindsight.
After having her third child, Sinéad wanted a job close to home. It was then that she discovered Glenveagh through an agency, just ten minutes from her home. “There are certain things that are essential for me, like the location because I am a mother. I have to pick up the kids after work and come home at a reasonable time to spend time with my family.
“I interviewed for Glenveagh four years ago and am absolutely delighted to have joined the team. I’ve always wanted to get back into construction, especially in an automaton. Once you work in construction, it’s very difficult to go anywhere else. Construction is a very exciting, energetic and fast-paced industry in which to work. »
women in construction
At Glenveagh, their workforce is made up of around 29% women, quite a contrast to the average of 9% women in construction, according to the CSO. And, Sinéad says, they’re still looking to attract more women with supports like community outreach, education and graduate programs, parental leave and inclusion policies, and flexibility with hybrid employee schedules. Office.
“The working environment is really energetic, innovative, progressive and supportive. From a female perspective, we have all the supports available. Construction is not a field that generally attracts women. are dusty and dirty places, but half of our employees work in the office, so there is a wide variety to choose from. Most employees who work on site or who visit regularly love it because of its productivity and fast pace.
“It’s an exciting place to work because you constantly see beautiful homes and new communities being created. People don’t see construction as a modern industry, but at Glenveagh we are a very contemporary organization in our ways of working and thinking.
More than forty-five percent of head office staff are also women, including Sinéad, of course, who hopes to use her position to encourage other women in the business. “My team is predominantly female, although we are delighted that a male colleague has recently joined the HR team. I always encourage the team to move forward on their career path because I’ve had the advantage of having that support in my career. You need people who encourage you and allow you to move forward.
Tips for leading your team
When it comes to managing her team, Sinéad has sailed smoothly so far, which she attributes to an important leadership quality: trust.
“The most important thing for me is confidence; trust your employees to do the job. We introduced a hybrid work model in the office because when COVID hit, we knew coming back to the office for the same hours would never be an option. It really helps with diversity and inclusion, especially for men and women who are caregivers, and it helps us attract more people looking for flexibility. »
“I think it’s about the quality of the work, and I trust my team 100% because they’re getting the job done. They know that I trust them and that there has never been a problem; they are a great team. I’m also very open and honest, and I think when you have that kind of management style, you have very little difficulty.
Another important part of being a business leader is ensuring your staff have the support they need, and Glenveagh has worked hard to enable this, particularly over the past few years.
“We are constantly working to improve overall health and wellness measures within the company. We provide training, workshops, and supports related to mental health, physical health, employee wellness, financial wellness, and the work environment. We are very aware of the effects COVID has had on people returning to work,” Sinéad said. “We have programs in place and speakers come to offer their support and raise awareness of the cause. You need to be understanding and aware that there is a lot going on for people.
The construction company also has a graduate program with 35 graduates recently joining the team as well as significant ongoing training and development opportunities for employees. In fact, through their education policy, they will provide funding for people to take a college course related to their role.
“It can be difficult to get the best people externally in today’s market, so one of our talent management strategies is to bring people across the company internally. We have developed a number of initiatives to encourage career progression within the company. I am currently participating in Glenveagh’s Senior Leadership Development Program with 27 of my colleagues. I also had the opportunity to take part in a mentorship initiative through the IMI (Irish Management Institute)/30% Club Network mentorship program, where I just received a brilliant mentorship.
Sinéad is always looking to develop her experience and vast skillset and she has really hit her stride as a human resources manager at Glenveagh, also hoping to encourage personal development within her own team.
“My favorite part of my role is working with people. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning; I love it. I love giving people the opportunity to develop and build their careers. I want them to feel happy, safe and supported in their work. I love that about HR and that responsibility, that you can make sure that happens and that there are policies and procedures in place to allow that, especially at Glenveagh.
As one of Ireland’s leading homebuilders, Glenveagh’s vision is that everyone should have the opportunity to access high quality, affordable housing in thriving communities across Ireland. They prioritize diversity and inclusivity across the company and are on a mission to break the male-dominated stereotype of the construction industry, encouraging women from all walks of life to join their crew.