Principal Connections HR Leader for December, Theresa Compagno, HR Director

In the last of our series for 2018, Theresa Compagno, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Affairs for Enable Ireland, is Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for December.

Theresa’s career initiated from her early decision to participate in youth work in the most disadvantaged areas of urban Ireland before going on to lead staff groups in community development initiatives.

Subsequently she moved into university teaching and staff management across a range of social and healthcare settings. Today she is highly regarded for her work as Director of Human Resources and Corporate Affairs for Enable Ireland. 

This month we spoke with Theresa, read what she had to say.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Theresa Compagno the person, and of course, the professional?

I have worked in health, social care, education, training and community work settings throughout my 37 year career built on an academic background which focused on various qualifications across social science, HR management, law, business, teaching and training.

An early commencement in front line youth work equipped me with well honed mentoring, coaching and facilitation techniques; with these ultimately becoming my strongest HR management skillset.

An interest and focus in organisational psychology led to broad HR and business acumen and so I moved from front line management to strategic and change management positions before I was appointed as HR Director of Enable Ireland Disability Services. The combined mix of academic and operational experience across the health, social care and education settings provided a broad based competency to take on this challenging and often complex role.

I work to draw the best from the many talented and committed employees with whom I have the privilege to work and learn from each day, with the overall goal at the forefront, i.e. to provide the best service possible for the 7,000 children, adults and families who use Enable Ireland’s services of: assessment, clinical therapies and home/school/family supports across Ireland. This is done by ensuring the right people are in the right roles at the right time and know clearly what is required of them, receiving appropriate supports and feedback on a timely basis. It also involves clarity of vision and values to ensure employees understand our service user focus at all times. HR management in a large service environment is fast paced, demanding and requires workplace solutions everyday.

When not working, I really enjoy family time, travel and slow country living.

Q. Describe your company?

Founded in 1948, Enable Ireland, is a not-for-profit organisation that provides quality services to over 7,000 children and adults with disabilities and their families on behalf of the Health Service Executive. In 2017, a total of 7,138 children and adults received services through 1,422 employees working in 43 service locations and 21 retail locations across the country. The mission of Enable Ireland is to work in partnership to enable those who use its services to achieve maximum independence, choice and inclusion in their communities.

Q. What do you see as the key challenges you face in your current role?

The key challenges for me are the external environmental factors effecting the macro and micro economies over which one does not hold influence. In the health and social care setting for example, absence of budget control limits the planning process with significant impact on service certainty, ultimately having a very negative effect on the business and staff morale.

In our own organisation, as part of the voluntary sector we are stymied by difficulties on competing with public sector pay and competitiveness with the private sector.

These are the types of overarching challenges which the HR Director must understand and address in order to ensure sustainability and growth.

Q. What in your opinion are the key characteristics of your top performing people?

There are a number which in my opinion stand out -;

• Commitment to service users;
• Professional and technical expertise which results in delivery of what is promised;
• Oversight of the key critical issues of importance in how a service is delivered;
• Ability to recognise and understand both limitations and opportunities and to have an instinct for timing;
• A comfort with inability to please all stakeholders all of the time;
• Confidence in one’s own value system and courage of convictions.

Q. What or where do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?

I believe that the greatest advances will be made in the expansion of subcontracting HR service provision; a consequence of regulatory compliance, data protection and employment law obligations becoming too onerous on small and medium enterprises.

Q. How important are health and wellbeing initiatives to employment strategy in your opinion?

They are important. However, it is important also to realise that health and wellbeing initiatives are an investment by the employer in attracting, retaining and rewarding a workforce.

I believe in preventative measures of work-related stress through structured supervision, performance management and clear communication systems with a “no surprise” management approach. There is no substitution for straight talking and open dialogue in my opinion.

Q. In your opinion what is required to have a top career as a Human Resources Director?

I see the following as most important to serve a true and impactful career as a HR Leader;-

• A selective academic foundation encompassing; law/business/commerce/finance together with a professional HR qualification;
• A comfort zone in problem solving, project management and people engagement;
• Technical expertise and significant work experience in a front line chosen business area;
• A natural affinity with and general interest in people of all backgrounds, and finally;
• An ability to work at both strategic and operational levels at all times.

Q. What keeps you motivated day to day?

I really enjoy seeing the evidence of good service outcomes for children and families who use Enable Ireland Services.

Q. What is your proudest career achievement to date?

For me, it’s the contribution I make as a HR leader in enabling others to assist in changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities.

Q. Who inspires you professionally?

I am inspired by all 7,000 children and adults with complex disabilities and their families who give a mandate to our 1,435 employees in Enable Ireland to work on their behalf. This is a mandate of trust which I never take for granted and urge all Enable Ireland employees to recognise this professional privilege.

Q. How do you stay current?

Continuous professional development on sectoral issues, employment law updates, HR processes and mentoring techniques are all important facets of how I like to stay current. For me, deliberate contact with the parents of children with disability and adult services users enables me to listen and stay current on their needs. Finally, an important part of how I stay current is also using all available opportunities to meet employees and learn from their knowledge and experience on what demands are made on them each day.

Closing Comment:

Thank you to Theresa Compagno for participating in our HR Leaders Series 2018.

About Principal Connections 

Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search and Leadership Consulting Firm and the only Irish Member Firm of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

With an unrivaled 98% success rate, we partner with organisations varying in size, structure and maturity in the identification, assessment and recruitment of Senior Management, Executive, Specialist, Interim and Board talent.

In addition to our Executive Search / Headhunting solutions,  Principal Connections’ suite of client services also includes: the recruitment of Non-Executive Directors, Leadership Consulting, Interim Management and Advertised Selection.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date with all our latest news.


Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search Firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

Senior, Executive and Board Appointments Newsletter

Sign me up for the newsletter!