Colleague spotlight: meet Susan McLaren, our Business Development Director

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

2nd February 2021

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With a career spanning 30 years in HR, and passion for helping HR leaders overcome their biggest professional challenges, Susan McLaren, our new Business Development Director, was the perfect fit to join our Commercial team. Here, we find out what she enjoys most about her new role and why her Christmas dinners are hard to beat, thanks to a certain celebrity chef!

Tell us a little bit about your background?

I joined BT straight after school as I got a job as a clerical officer in their personnel department. I only ever intended to stay for about a year to save up enough money for college, but that never happened – I enjoyed the job too much! I progressed my academic studies while at work and gained my CIPD and Masters in Strategic HR. I’ve always liked variety and I enjoy a challenge, and I found the range of HR roles available provided me with that.  As a result, my career has been spent entirely in the HR space, having had a variety of roles in Employee Relations, Employee Communications and Engagement, Strategic Resourcing, Organisational Design and Development, Learning and Talent, HRBP, Business Change, Transformational Change and a number of Head of HR roles too.

What made you want to join the team at AdviserPlus?

I loved the culture at AdviserPlus, the people are amazing and there’s a real sense of family throughout the business. Although I’ve only been with AdviserPlus since October, I feel as if I’ve been here for much longer and that’s down to a great induction plan and the people who’ve made it so easy for me to settle in so quickly. The main reason I joined was because AdviserPlus is unique in what we do. No other business has a product that can provide what empower® can and transform the HR function. We’re trailblazers and I always like to be one step ahead of the competition.

What does your job entail and what do you enjoy most about it?

Like all of us at the moment, my day starts with a two-minute commute to the kitchen and kicks off with a much-needed cup of coffee! But then, my day mainly involves speaking to HR leaders about their latest challenges and key themes within that sector, and what areas of their work they need support with. What is really satisfying is that people aren’t always aware of the amazing capability of empower® until they see it for themselves, and so I’ll often spend the day giving them demonstrations of how the solution works and I so really enjoy seeing how impressed they are with the technology and our other services which complement it.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for HR leaders at the moment?

There’s a real test of leadership going on in the HR profession at the moment.  HR professionals are at a pivotal point in their careers, dealing with all of the challenges that have been forced upon them. As a result, they need to be brave and look after their own resilience levels, because entire organisations are looking to them for direction and efficient people solutions. CIPD has just recently released research which confirms that stress-related absence in HR professionals increased by 70% last year so the sector really does need to consider who is watching out for HR when HR is watching out for everyone else.

This is HR’s opportunity to shine.  For years the HR profession has worked hard to get to a place of influence and now they can prove their worth by being front and centre in what is a massive transformational people change on a number of levels.

The range of what they need to be tackling is staggering – remote working, flexible working, health and wellbeing, redundancy programmes, reward, inclusion and diversity – the list is endless.  Many HR teams will be trying to put policies in place now that they’ve never had before and will be struggling to keep up.  It’ll be those that are the most creative and agile that will survive.

What would you say is your biggest professional accomplishment to-date?

That was probably taking a team in Learning and Talent, from being order takers to pioneers who continue to be regularly short-listed for external awards.  However, I’m most proud of introducing part-time working to an engineering workforce. It had never been done before, but we managed to demonstrate that it wouldn’t put the business performance at risk.  As a result we managed to save a number of jobs through the reduction in the wage bill, but what made me most proud was being stopped in the corridor by an engineer who thanked me for the opportunity it had given him to prepare himself for retirement.  He was loving the reduction in hours.  That’s the thing about HR: you can make a huge difference at an individual level.

Tell us an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?

I once got some tips from Gordon Ramsey on how to cook a great Christmas dinner. When you take your turkey out of the over, always let it rest for at least 45 minutes or even up to a few hours wrapped in tea towels to keep it warm, and that way the meat will be juicy and tender. As for the roast potatoes, always parboil first and add to hot oil. I’m surprised I actually remembered the tips he gave us, as I was out for a meal with friends at the time and we’d been enjoying a few glasses of wine.  I’ve followed these tips every year since and they’ve never let me down!

Connect with Susan on LinkedIn.


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