Introducing Maureen Cahill, Managing Partner at McLean & Company

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Maureen is the Managing Partner of McLean & Company’s Executive Services team. Maureen is a progressive executive with nearly three decades of experience as a human resources practitioner, consultant, advisor, and a business leader. Maureen served as Chief HR Officer for two notable health care organizations. She has worked as an HR executive in for-profit, non-profit, privately held, publicly traded, and P.E. backed organizations. Maureen joined McLean & Company as Managing Partner in August 2022.

In this Q&A, Maureen discusses the top priorities of CHROs, her advice for new CHROs, and what fuels her.

What do you do in your current role? What drew you to it?

As Managing Partner, I lead our Executive Advisors and Counselors who work with senior HR leaders in every industry to further their HR strategies. This team blends their expertise combined with McLean tools and insights to yield an improved employee experience for tens of thousands of people – and that is quite gratifying. What are the top priorities for CHROs right now? What challenges do you see for them in this moment?

The answer to that question is…it depends. We see differing priorities based on the industry the CHRO is working in along with the geographic footprint of the company. The challenges the CHRO of a US-based healthcare organization is facing can be very different from that of an HR executive in a global manufacturing company with multiple locations in Eastern Europe. That said, there are some common themes:

  • Preparing to operate in a recession – There is uncertainty in the current economic environment and CHROs need to be anticipating, scenario modeling, and planning along with their peers to prepare for what may play out. For most companies, salary and benefit costs are one of the largest – if not the largest – expense line item. Executive teams will be looking to CHROs to inform budget shifts while ensuring retention of top talent and continued engagement of the workforce.
  • Unusual labor market dynamics – Unemployment in many countries remains close to historic lows. Millions of available positions are going unfilled. Inflation is at its highest level in decades. Average pay increases are rising, but not at the same rate as inflation, eroding employees’ buying power. Limited digital skills are in high demand. Union activity is on the rise. These challenges are forcing CHROs and their teams to become more creative in how the function acquires the talent and skillsets needed to fulfill their organizational missions.
  • Flexible work and engagement strategies – Employees are demanding more flexibility in where and when they work, while some executive teams are requiring workers to return to the workplace. Employees are seeking more meaning and purpose in their work. COVID-19 variants continue to evolve – some highly transmissible. As a result of these factors, cultural and operational implications abound. CHROs are expected to deftly balance these complex and competing realities.
  • Implications of Political and Social Shifts – War in Ukraine. The overturning of Roe vs. Wade in the US. Supply chain complications affecting production and sales. Climate change impacting where and how employees live and work. Civil, social, and racial unrest of varying degrees exists in most countries. CHROs need to provide leadership on risk mitigation strategies and policy adjustments because of these shifts.

What advice would you give to someone beginning their journey as a CHRO?

In my opinion, the role of CHRO is one of the most challenging in any organization, and it is not for the faint of heart. It is also one of the most rewarding. Here are a few things I have taken away from my tenure as CHRO:

  • Get deep into the business and its financials – fast. How does the company make money and deliver services? Who are the competitors and what is happening in those organizations? What are the trends in the industry? What are the levers that impact business outcomes? Having a sold grasp of these factors is table stakes for any HR executive today.
  • Build and maintain relationships thoughtfully – The importance of building and maintaining trusted partnerships with each member of the executive team cannot be understated. HR executives must tackle difficult issues with the support of their peers and the CEO, requiring a foundation of trust. To build trust, CHROs must listen, respond, flex, challenge, and present options and associated risks. Equally important is effectively leading their team of HR professionals and earning respect from the workforce at large.
  • Think like an operator – so you can deliver at a more strategic level. Delivering on foundational HR processes – administering benefits, compensating employees competitively, orienting and onboarding new employees, and hiring great talent – is critical. When the systems driving these administrative processes are humming, business leaders, managers and employees will be more receptive to a true consultative and strategic partnership with the HR organization. Workforce planning, succession management, leadership development, Board of Director management – these are strategic levers where HR leaders have significant impact on business outcomes.

What fuels you?

Having a positive impact on people is what fuels me. Most adults spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work. And the experience we have at work often spills over into our personal life. Being a part of an organization dedicated to making the time we work more engaging, and fulfilling is incredibly energizing.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

Being outside in nature is where I find peace and renewed energy. Hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado and biking along the beaches of Florida where we live goes a long way for me. I also shoot archery. I find that “thump” when the arrow hits the target very satisfying.

What books and TV shows are you into?

I’m a bit of an HGTV junkie. My husband and I flipped a few houses during the time we lived in Pittsburgh, PA, and I loved turning an ugly duckling of a house into a beautiful home. I am also a fan of cooking shows. Admittedly, I’m not a great cook and am hopeful some of it may rub off on me. Recently, the Hallmark channel has become a favorite. In these unpredictable times, I like knowing how the story will end. (Spoiler Alert: They find true love!)

I read a lot of fact-based World War II stories. I am inspired by the ability of humans to survive unimaginable experiences. I also find myself hopeful as these stories often include people who helped, even when it was risky for them to do so. As the late Mr. Rogers said, when times are difficult, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

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