Company: Labour Relations Agency
Marie Mallon believes that good employment relations can contribute to the success of an organisation
Give a brief outline of your career to date.
I have a long career in health and social care at various levels and in recent years as Director of Human Resources in the Royal Hospital, as well as Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Human Resources in the Belfast Health & Social Care Trust. My career background has involved me working in the industrial and employment relations field as well as employment law. In 2014 I took up a public appointment as Chair of the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).
What was your favourite subject at school?
My favourite subject at school was English. I enjoyed all aspects including creative writing and poetry, but ultimately I was intrigued by how we can use it to communicate with people in different ways.
Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?
I attained my professional qualification as a member of CIPD through a three-year course of study at what is now Belfast Metropolitan College. I completed this on a part-time basis while working full-time for the Health Service, which provided me with a great deal of help and support. I then completed a Masters Degree in Human Resource Leadership at Manchester University, while also working full-time.
How did you get into your area of work?
Following a long career in public service I felt I wanted to continue to contribute in the public sector and applying for a public appointment is one way of doing this. Public bodies support the business of Government and play an important role in public life. They are managed by a Board, members of which, including Chairpersons, are drawn from society and are classed as public appointments. My career background had involved working in the industrial and employment relations field as well as employment law and therefore I felt the role of Chair of the Labour Relations Agency was attractive.
Is this what you always wanted to do?
I felt a public appointment would give me the opportunity to both contribute and to develop the skills that I had already gained. Labour relations is an area I feel passionately about and the opportunity to improve employment relations in Northern Ireland is something that I wanted to try for. I was also attracted to the role because it is an organisation with a great reputation which has been gained by the effort, skill and commitment of its staff and the calibre of its board members.
Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?
There were no particular qualifications required. Public bodies draw from a mix of people with different skills, experiences and backgrounds to serve on their boards and these are assessed through a criteria based application process. My background in HR and previous posts has included responsibility for employment relations and I have built up experience and understanding of what that involves. I particularly understand that good employment relations can contribute to the success of an organisation and benefit workers in the organisation.
Are there alternative routes into the job?
The majority of public appointments are filled by members of the general public through open competition and each appointment has its own application process. The public appointment is for a fixed term and the length of the term will depend on the specific body.
What are the main personal skills your job requires?
There are many skills and experiences that can contribute to make an individual suitable for a public appointment. These include skills gained in employment and in voluntary and personal life. Individuals from all walks of life can make an important contribution and the diversity of a Board is key to its success. Everyone, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are, will still continue to learn and develop along the journey of the Board appointment.
What does a typical day entail?
As a public appointee I take part in discussions, review paperwork, work with partner organisations, and ensure that the public body fulfils the aims and objectives contained in its Corporate and Business Plans. The Labour Relations Agency Chair is required to work six days per month, which includes reading papers and preparing for meetings. My specific role as Chair at the regular Board meetings is to encourage constructive discussion and decision making by board members to further our aims of improving industrial and employment relations in Northern Ireland.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?
A public appointment is a very varied and challenging role. There is a personal sense of satisfaction and you will always learn and develop. There is always the opportunity to meet and network with new people and generally contribute your skills that have been gained over a long period of time to the achievement of the objectives of the organisation whose Board you serve on.
Why is what you do important?
A public appointment gives individuals from different backgrounds and with specific skills, knowledge and expertise a chance to help make decisions that affect all our lives. They are a great opportunity to give something back to the community, whilst developing your own skills and meeting a range of people.
What advice would you give to anyone looking at a similar career?
The advice that I would give to someone who is thinking of applying for a public appointment is not to hesitate. If you want to contribute to an individual organisation — and ultimately to the success of Northern Ireland — then here is your opportunity to do so. You will gain personal satisfaction as well as making a difference.
If you could go back, what is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?
Don’t worry if you don’t know everything on your first day — you will learn through doing and interacting with people who have taken the journey before you.
Describe your ideal day off.
When I get the chance to relax I love nothing more than taking a long walk together with my husband and then coming together for a nice family meal along with my daughters, their partners and my grandchildren.