SARA profile: Meet the recruitment leader of the year

The SEEK Annual Recruitment Awards (SARAs) Recruitment Leader of the Year inspires and motivates others, improves business and makes an impact in the broader recruitment industry.

The 2021 winner, Sinead Connelly, co-founder and director of Lotus People, says her achievement shows the value of persistence, thinking outside the box during the pandemic and focusing on mental health and wellbeing.

What does it mean to you to win Recruitment Leader of the Year?

I started my business seven years ago and I started in the industry 12 years ago as a receptionist. Every year since setting up the business I have worked with my team to enter the SARAs as it sets the bar for the standard of excellence in the industry, and I wanted my business to be a brand that was considered best in market.

We've been a finalist in a few different categories a number of times, which has been amazing, but to actually take home the award, particularly one that is a leadership award, means a huge, huge amount.

What’s special about the way you run Lotus People?

I'm very focused on people experience – our candidate experience, our client experience and also our internal culture and our staff experience. I tend to put a lot of my energy into making sure our agency is a place where people are proud to work and that they feel psychologically safe, happy, fulfilled and like they have progression and growth opportunities available to them.

Which initiatives have you delivered that support the success of the wider recruitment industry?

Our industry was massively impacted by the pandemic. We personally lost 80% of our revenue overnight when it began. For a short period, we weren't doing the same job as there were very few roles that we were recruiting for.

At the time no one knew that was going on within the employment market. No one had any answers about the pandemic. But we were gathering so much information from employers, businesses and candidates that I realised we were in this really privileged position where people genuinely wanted to know what was going on – and we had some of the answers.

So, I brought the team together and, following a mantra of 'where can we add value', we ran a series of webinars and a one-day virtual conference for the recruitment industry, as well as sessions for candidates and employers. We provided information and guidance, and asked industry leaders to share their advice and insights.

These sessions didn't generate revenue, but they did generate a feeling of working in line with our values, which built brand awareness and credibility within the market.

Are there any specific challenges you’ve faced in the last year?

One area of particular concern has been mental health issues, especially around the border closures as many people in our industry come from Ireland, the UK and other countries. There has been so much anxiety and stress with people being unable to travel to visit their families.

We dealt with that by allowing people to take big chunks of leave now that they can and implementing a global policy where team members can work overseas for a certain amount of time. We also have a psychologist come in to facilitate mental health awareness training.

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