The Engage HR Forum Interview: Maria Seabright, Greendale Construction Limited


Maria Seabright is Finance & HR Director at Greendale Construction Limited; the Poole based chartered building company established in 1990 by Rob Hooker and Chris Kane, specialising in a wide spectrum of construction projects from luxury private houses, NHS, schools and colleges, to internal office refurbishments and commercial builds.  Amongst the company’s many acclaimed achievements is holding a Gold IIP award, and winning the FMB Chartered Builder of Year 2012 for its work renovating Durlston Castle in Swanage.


Maria is a regular at the Engage HR Forums and has found the supportive and relaxed format something which makes the breakfast meetings highly enjoyable and something to look forward to.

“The speakers are always really inspiring and their presentations are consistently relevant to situations I have to manage on a regular basis.  I love the interaction and being able to candidly discuss HR topics in an open and friendly way with people at my table, and there’s always lots of laughs as well which is a bonus!”


Maria joined Greendale on 1st October 1997 as an office administrator/receptionist, having previously left Poole High School in 1985 with, by her own admission, ‘a handful of very low grade CSEs.’  Over the next 19 years, Maria worked her way up within the Company, eventually being appointed to the Board of Directors on 1st January 2013.  Greendale now employs around 58 people and last year turned over £15 million.

As a successful woman in a very male dominated industry, and one who didn’t take a typically academic route in her career, I was fascinated to hear Maria’s story, and how her experiences have shaped the person she is today – in and out of the business environment.


Maria, you’ve achieved so much, but, if you had your time again, what, if anything, would you do differently? And, with hindsight, is there anything you think you could have done better?

 “I went through some personal tragedy in my life when I lost my son, George in 2004, who was born prematurely.  Looking back, I felt that I couldn’t really be with him in hospital over the 6 months and 1 day he was in special care.  As much as I wanted to be with him during the end of his life, I felt guilty being away from work, and in such a male dominated company, I felt other people wouldn’t understand how I was feeling from a ‘mother’s point of view.’  When I look back I wonder how I did it; balancing work with visiting George in hospital and then going home to be a mum to my then 10 year old son, Jordan.

“I know I can’t change this now, but as I try to focus on the positive in life, I can see the experience made me grow as a person and has made me a better employer, as now, I always try and see personal issues any of my staff has from their point of view, and be sympathetic and understanding from that position.”


Being a Finance/HR Director holds a lot of responsibility.   You’re responsible for keeping the Company financially fluid and also, the welfare of your employees and the smooth running of the company on a ‘people’ level. How do you deal with stress and have you achieved the all too often elusive work/life balance?


 “I go to the gym twice a week before work where I have a personal trainer, Marvin, who is amazing at keeping me motivated, which focuses my mind and in turn sets me up for the day.

“I also really enjoy spending time in my garden and renovating my home – a cottage we moved to in the countryside near Wareham in 2013.  I love to take our dog – a border collie called Lacey – for long walks in the countryside with my husband, Andrew.  I also enjoy cooking using vegetables we’ve grown in the garden, and I love to bake.  I think living in a house I love, surrounded by beautiful countryside really helps with the work/life balance, although inevitably, a stressful week at work still manages to creep home with me more often than not, so like most people, I’m still working on it!


Only 1 in 10 Executive Directors in the UK are women and not only have you achieved a Board position, but you have done so in a male dominated industry.  What is your advice to women who are hoping to achieve the same?


 “You need to be prepared to stand your ground.  From a personal point of view, when I was appointed Director at Greendale, it was a massive step up from being a manager – in both responsibility and workload. I am the only female Director on a Board of 4 and the only senior ranking female in the company.  I think that women given executive and board positions have to prove themselves more than  men given the same role – particularly with the older male generation who might take exception to being answerable to a lady boss.

“I’d tell other women that it’s not going to be an easy ride, but you have a voice and you have to make sure that it’s heard above the other male directors.  I think a woman always looks at things differently and this has gone in my favour when dealing with delicate/tricky issues in the business.  Never exploit your sexuality as it just degrades you.  Get to where you want to get to on your own merits – through sheer hard work and determination.  Every problem has a solution – look outside the box and take time to make decisions, don’t fire from the hip.  Plan ahead.”


As a South Coast employer, what are you concerns for the future talent/ employment/training/apprenticeships for the region?


“I am passionate about training for the future of the construction industry and this is something as a company we are very pro-active with. However, I have concerns that not all employers in this industry feel the same as Greendale, or are as committed to investing in training, as we are.

“At Greendale we actively encourage apprenticeships and work very closely with the local college and schools.  The construction industry is a place where, as long as you have passion and drive, you can have a successful career regardless of your academic ability.  Many years ago it was seen as the choice for those who were less academic, but the truth is, it’s an industry which needs those with talent and ability across a wide spectrum.  We have employees who have taken the career route through university to become QS/Contract Managers, and we have young people who have come to us straight out of school on an apprenticeship or training scheme and proved themselves to be highly talented and in demand within their chosen trade.

“I think that because I disliked school so much I like to really help students that are struggling and I want to encourage them and give them a chance.  I attend various events at schools and do lots of talks about the construction industry and the careers that are available within it.

“When I left school I was told by teachers and also by my parents that I would never make anything of my life.  These words have stayed with me throughout my whole career, and been the driving force pushing me on. Today, I can say I am exceptionally proud of what I have achieved.  I know that I am very lucky in the fact that I joined a great local company that has grown over the 19 years that I have worked for them – enabling me to grow in terms of my career.  I know that I wouldn’t have got to where I am today if I wasn’t at Greendale’s.  Although I have been able to forge a successful career without great academic qualifications, when talking to students I try to get across the importance of working hard at school and striving to get the best you can achieve as it’s a different world today than it was 20 years’ ago.

“All in all, I love what I do and I love the company I work for…..99% of the time!”











Niall Cluley: Global HR Director at Fitness First discusses triumphs and challenges


I was absolutely delighted to welcome Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, to the latest Engage HR Forum, which, with over 30 had the highest attendance yet. Word is getting out!  I’ve had some fantastic feedback from everyone, so we know we’re doing this right and our attendees are really getting something very special out of our forums.


Whilst our guests enjoyed fresh fruit, croissants, coffee – and a cheeky bacon bap or two, Niall talked candidly about how he first joined Fitness First 5 years ago as global head of talent, after initially approaching the CEO as a member, when he became frustrated with the group who he saw as focusing more on sales than service.  Niall led the development of the organisation’s people strategy through its global rebrand and transformation programme; becoming Global HRD 2 years ago.


During his presentation, which was peppered with impromptu questions and discussions from our guests, Niall talked about how the rise of the low-cost gym, and ‘wearable’ technology – such as the fitbit and other fitness apps – has affected the way gyms have had to think about how they procure and retain members.


Not afraid to open up about all aspects and challenges faced in his role, Niall discussed the frustrations involved in spearheading a global re-brand across different countries with extreme geographical and cultural diversities; all of which affected decisions on the brand logo, aspirational slogans, and uniform.


Rounding up the forum, our resident solicitor, Malcolm Scott Walby, briefly discussed the importance of the human aspect in being a good boss, and how getting to know your employees on a personal level can help you understand and iron out any issues in the workplace well before legal action is required.


As I said previously, I continue to have the most fantastic feedback after our HR Forums, and so I’ll leave you with some of those quotes and a reminder that, these forums are about you, the HR leaders that make your company or business run smoothly from behind the scenes, and so please do not hesitate to get in touch and discuss any subjects which you feel we could be covering which will help you in your job.


Resize_Niall Cluley“Informal, informative, open debate and genuine interest in learning and sharing experiences.  Well organised, a lovely group of people, topped off by a great choice of breakfast snacks.” Niall Cluley, Global HR Director, Fitness First.

“The most recent meeting presenting by Niall Cluley, Gloval HR Diurector of Fitness first, was a great example of how HR can successfully drive and enable change in an organisation. The talk was informal and participative, and as always from these events, I walked away feeling inspired to consider how some of these work practices could be translated into my own HR processes in the future.” – Andrea Finnagin, Data Harvesting.

“Great HR forum run by Engage at The Cliff in Canford Cliffs.  One of the best networking events for HR professionals, or those responsible for HR in their business, in the area.  The last event saw Niall Cluley from Fitness First talk us through the change program undertaken over the last 18 months – the highs and lows and how they got engagement from the team.” – Sue Kerr, Reality HR.


Date for your diary

Our next HR Forum is on 22nd September, where our guest speaker, Jo Kane from Trailblazers will be presenting on resilience, mind-sets and stress management.  As this is a vast subject, we are keen to hear from you what you would like Jo to concentrate on, so please do get in touch.


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Niall Cluley; Global HR Director of Fitness First, will be leading our June HR Forum

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Engage are delighted to announce that Niall Cluley, Global HR Director at Fitness First, will be leading a session at our next HR Forum on 9th June at The Cliff, Ravine Road, Poole.

Global health and fitness brand, fitness first, has embarked on an extraordinary employment engagement journey that connects its people, brand promise and members together with a clear purpose.  Learn how it empowered employees by building an internal culture that embodies the DNA of its brand and vision for the future.

Niall will be sharing some of the key successes, challenges and lessons learnt through the Fitness First brand re-launch and culture change journey.

Specifically, Niall will discuss:

The story of Fitness First’s brand transformation.

Developing a people strategy through a major international rebrand

Lessons learned – what worked well and what they would do differently

What they are doing now to align the employee and customer experience

Niall first joined Fitness First 5 years ago as the global head of talent and led the development of the organisation’s people strategy through its global rebrand and transformation programme;  becoming Global HRD 2 years ago.

Prior to Fitness First, Niall held Ops and OD roles at Royal Mail and Vodaphone, as well as spending 7 years in consulting delivery change projects with brands such as Gap, First Direct, Sainsburys , O2 and SSE with leadership development, employee engagement and differentiating themselves through their people and service.

A proud Scot with 2 young children, Niall has lived in Poole for 9 years.  An ex British sailing team member, he is a passionate about encouraging everyone to enjoy the outdoors and the benefits of participating in adventurous sports.

This is an exclusive, invite only event, and so for more details, please contact me on

Jobshop UK’s Executive Recruitment Company, Engage Executive Jobs, Resolves HR for Local Businesses

Sally Bennett Engage Executive Jobs Resolving the challenges that recruiting within the HR sector brings, Executive Recruitment Director for Engage Executive Jobs, Sally Bennett, draws upon her twelve years of recruitment experience and in-depth knowledge of HR; its function within an organisation and its challenges, to match the ideal candidate to the organisation.

CIPD qualified, Sally’s experience as a global recruiter and her specialism in HR recruitment for both agency and corporate organisations, enables Engage to offer a tailor-made and holistic executive search service honed to the precise requirements of its client.

Being keenly aware that people are key to the success of a business, and recruitment of the right people in a timely manner essential, Sally’s previous role as Business Partner at Farrow and Ball has given her a broad range of relevant experience with first-hand knowledge of direct campaigns, working in partnership with different functions across the organisation, and offering advice on additional areas of people management.

Locally, Engage will be organising HR forums offering the opportunity to discuss hot topics in a confidential arena of shared experiences where subjects discussed include addressing change, employee engagement, and employer of choice.

Under Sally’s expert leadership, Engage work in partnership with its clients, as an extension of the team, in order to really understand the culture within the company they are recruiting for; an essential practice in successful recruitment.

Approaching every project individually, each brief is taken personally followed by an in-depth search process involving an accurate selection of candidates for face to face interviews before the final shortlist is presented to the client and supported with a concise profile overview.

Engage’s comprehensive approach to recruitment, encompassing all aspects of its client’s business ensure all candidates presented for interview are not just fully qualified and experienced for the role but also fully briefed on the organisation and motivated at interview.

Sally said: “In this challenging marketplace which is short of available talent, people are the foundation of any organisation.  Engage prides itself on implementing a range of techniques in order to find the right match.  With my background in Recruitment and Human Resource Management for a global organisation I am transferring my own skills to help develop strong partnerships with organisations.  Over time I plan to add value and build a trust in our client partnerships in order that they view Engage as an extension of the Human Resource Department.”


Job vacancies outstrips candidates for first time since recession


The number of job vacancies has overtaken the number of job seekers for the first time since the recession, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from

Competition for jobs passed a milestone in October 2014 as the number of jobseekers finally fell below the number of advertised vacancies – with 887,771 jobseekers compared to 936,596 advertised vacancies. This equals a ratio of just 0.95 jobseekers per vacancy, down from 1.02 in September. Year-on-year, competition for jobs has fallen from a ratio of 1.69.

Total advertised vacancies increased 25.1% year-on-year in October, hitting 936,596 available positions. This comprehensively beat the previous post-recession high of 906,191 set in September, representing a monthly increase of 3.4%.

Advertised salaries increased 4.3% year-on-year in October to £34,670, outstripping a low Consumer Prices Index inflation rate (1.3%) to provide the UK with its first taste of respectable real wage growth since before the recession. This is the third consecutive month in which annual salary growth has kept its leading margin on CPI; in real terms, advertised salaries have gone up by £997 over the year to October.

Sally BennettEngage Executive Jobs Executive Recruitment Director, Sally Bennett explains: “With job vacancies now outstripping jobseekers, using an experienced recruitment specialist has become even more paramount in assisting a company in the recruitment process.  Searching and selecting high calibre candidates in a candidate short market enables clients to spend their time doing what they do best; running their department to optimum levels of efficiency.  Meanwhile, we not only seek out the best potential candidates for our clients using a variety of methods including a specially adapted motivational tool to identify candidates’ key motivators, we can also advise on how to retain employees – be it through engagement, company benefits or bonus incentives, or clearly identified promotional career paths within the company.  All these aspects are becoming increasingly important to retain the best employees – after all, no one wants to spend time and money recruiting and training the best staff only to see them move on to a competitor in a couple of years.”

To speak to Sally about your requirements as a client or jobseeker, or to take advantage of our motivational tool call 01202 674488 or email

Financial and banking sector enters top 5 growth industries for first time this month


The finance and banking sector entered the top 5 growth industries for the first time this month, as searches for finance vacancies hit an all-time high for 2014.

Despite the fears surrounding the skills shortage, latest figures released show that jobs in the UK have increased across all industries in October compared to September 2014, reflecting the continuing decrease in the UK unemployment rate.

Compared to October 2013, the data revealed that the number of job vacancies  in Transportation has risen by 46%, Real Estate by 42%, Hospitality sees a 37% increase whilst Construction and Education have also experienced a healthy increase, clocking up a respective 35% and 32% rise on last year.

As well as recording great improvements in job vacancies, Education (+7%) and Real Estate (+5%) came out as top growth industries between September and October with Financial Services recording its first entry into the top 5 with 5%,  whilst Banking (+5%), Accounting (+5%) and Transportation (+4%) also saw a rise.

How to Fast Track Your Way to the Top

Many would argue that you simply can’t fast track your way to the top, and to reach the peak of your career takes time and hard work – which we don’t dispute.  However, these tips, collated with information from an article in Forbes can help you reach that little further, and a little bit faster, than colleagues who may not be implementing these techniques.

Make a plan.

In order to achieve your full potential, you need a plan – a blueprint of some form for your long-term career plan, focusing on what you ultimately want to achieve, as well as the interim steps you will need to implement in order to get you there.

Remember the old adage; ‘The best laid plans…’ and be prepared to make adjustments as you go along, but always keep your ultimate goal clear in your mind.

Get an education.

Although we are all familiar with multi millionaire entrepreneurs who tell us in their autobiographies how they left school at 15, but, had their own company at 21, these are the very rare and unique exceptions to the rule.  A good education is the foundation for your career.  Don’t underestimate that. However, if you are not academically minded, this does not mean you must gain numerous degrees or be deemed a failure from the start.  A good education is about going as far as you can with your abilities before departing from formal education and reaching out to other areas in order to gain the experience you need.


Networking can open doors for you that may otherwise be firmly shut. The more people you know, and who know you, and like you, the better. Its all about connections and networking helps you make those connections

Work hard.

This is one area you simply can’t fast track.  Work hard, work harder than the rest.  Put in the hours and then some more.

Treat everything with urgency and volunteer for high-visibility projects. Always seek to contribute more, and be known as the go-to person or the get-it-done person. There is no replacement for hard work.

Work beyond your current responsibilities

Don’t let yourself be limited by what you are officially assigned to do; work beyond achievements that are obvious or expected.  Stand out from your colleagues.

Develop an “I will do whatever it takes to get the job done” attitude.

Equalise your work attitude and your work aptitude. Most people work hard, but if you’re the one with the ‘can-do’ attitude, your managers will certainly recognize and appreciate it.

Become a resource.

Continue building your own skill and knowledge outside the job.  Keep growing your expert status and credibility in your field, not just within your company.

Become an industry expert.  Read, study, follow industry leaders on social media outlets, and attend industry conferences. Seek out mentors; those you respect and are motivated and inspired by. This helps you grow beyond your job to know the industry and others in it. These relationships can open up tremendous possibilities for mentoring and advancement.

Dress for success.

Don’t look at how your peers are dressed; look at how the top executives are dressed. Dress for the position you want, not the one you have.

Think and act a level above.

Just as you need to dress for success, you need to act at least one level up as well. However, don’t lose sight of your current responsibilities.

Get to know your company and your boss.

Understand the company’s values and your boss’s priorities, and align your efforts with their goals and objectives.

Keep an on-going success file.

Record and file all of your achievements, especially those that align with broader company priorities.  Find ways to keep your boss and others informed of these achievements so you are recognized increasingly as someone leading company success beyond your own responsibilities.  This list is especially helpful at annual review time when you need to stand out from your peers.  Having a measurable and quantifiable record of your achievements will help you in your promotion aspirations.

Be a team player.

Managers look very carefully at how employees work with the rest of the department and other departments.  Being seen as a team player and someone who can work well with others, will help you in your career.

Express Appreciation

Everyone likes to be appreciated and by showing your appreciation to a senior level manager or CEO, you are showing that you actually take notice of any mentoring or advice they have given you, as an individual or even if the mentoring is done as a weekly/monthly department meeting.  It shows you are taking everything on-board and are keen to improve both your own abilities, but also those of your department.



Engage Executive Jobs Motivational Contributor, James Sale, is Guest Speaker at Next Poole Business Women’s Lunch

We are all of us busy – busy in our businesses, busy as directors, as managers, as executives, but are we really busy being leaders? James will address four key questions surrounding leadership at our lunch on the 17th October: Why do we need to talk about leadership? What is leadership? Has leadership changed in the last 20 or so years as a result of new technologies? And what are the future challenges for leadership? As usual, James will present NOT the usual stuff, but stimulating ideas and suggestions based on his own experiences about the real issues we need to consider if we want to be truly effective!

This month we are pleased to have Sue Kerr from People Matter as our sponsor.

The Format for the Lunch is: 12.00pm – 12.20pm     Arrival, welcome drink and networking

12.20pm – 12.30pm     Sit down and intro by Frances and Tracey

12.30pm – 12.40pm     10 minutes round the table introduction

12.40pm – 12.45pm     5 minutes from our sponsor, Sue Kerr of People Matter

12.45pm – 1.15pm       Presentation from James Sale

1.15pm   – 2.30pm       Buffet lunch and more opportunities to network

Venue: Storm Fish Restaurant, 16 High Street, Poole, BH15 1BP  Telephone:  01202 674 970 Prices: Members  £18.00    Non-members  £26.00

Please make sure that you have returned your acknowledgement slip and paid for you lunch ASAP. You can pay by BACS or Cheque. Cheques should be made payable to Poole Business Women’s Lunch Club. If you’d like to pay by BACS please contact Rebecca who will provide the details. Payments will be forfeited if you are unable to attend and have not informed us within 48 hours. Unfortunately we are unable to guarantee a place until we receive payment. Please send Cheques and Acknowledgement slips to: Rebecca Ashling-Yates,  PBWL Club, Jobshop UK, 1 The Triangle, Bournemouth, BH2 5RY Acknowledgement Slip October 2013  Membership Form Speakers and Sponsors for 2013 Should you require any further information regarding the lunch, please give us a call (01202 674488) or take a look at our website  We look forward to seeing you.