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Jo and Sarah – People and Organisational Development #IWD2022

By 4 March 2022No Comments
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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, we’ve spoken to some of the fabulous women that work at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust that are inspiring future generations.

Jo Harrison is Director of People and Organisational Development at Airedale. Keep reading to find out about Jo’s role, her career in HR, and some great advice.

What is your role and how did you get into the field?

I am Director of People and Organisational Development at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust. I was working in HR from the age of 17 and always knew this was where I wanted to develop my career.

How would you describe your role?

My role is to recruit, retain, and train our people to provide the best possible care to our patients and service users and save lives.

Who are the women that have inspired you?

There are too many to mention, I would say the women who have inspired me the most are the ones who have touched my life; my amazing Mum, my family and friends and fabulous work colleagues.

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

I think it is incredibly important that people support others to grow and develop to reach their potential and I believe this to be true for women leaders too. To me this means, taking time for each other, to listen to our different experiences and to support people to challenge and influence change.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Take the opportunities when they arise, don’t wait for the perfect time when the stars align, they rarely do…


Sarah Heys is the Wellbeing at Work Lead at Airedale. Read her interview to find out about her role, her career to date, and the advice that she would give to her younger self.

What is your role and how did you get into the field?

I’m the Wellbeing at Work Lead at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.  I left school not really knowing what I wanted to do so studied Business & Finance at College and then got my first job in finance/payroll.

I like working with people and opportunities came available to work in what was then personnel now known as Human Resources (HR).  I returned to part time study whilst working my way through all the generalist areas of HR; employment law, organisational change, training & development, organisational cultures & behaviours, people management etc. I did this to master’s level.  During this time I worked in different organisations and sectors too to broaden my experience: hospitality, further education and now the NHS.  I am also a proud chartered member of the Chartered Institute of People & Development (CIPD) who is the professional body for HR practitioners.

Although I am a generalist HR practitioner, I have a particular interest in wellbeing and that is the focus of my current job for the last couple of years.

How would you describe your role?

Supporting all colleagues across the organisation (including doctors, nurses, midwives, healthcare scientists, admin staff, porters, housekeepers etc.) to be as well as they can at work and working with colleagues who might need support or adjustments due their health or if they have caring responsibilities etc.  Part of my role is to also oversee attendance at work and supporting those who may be off work sick and helping them back into the workplace.

Have you faced any barriers in your career due to being a woman?

No, HR is predominantly female focused and working in the NHS there are lots of opportunities to progress if you want to.

Who are the women that have inspired you?

My mum; she didn’t get the opportunities I did and always encouraged me to do what makes me happy.

How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?

It’s really important to support each other, to listen, to encourage, to be a sounding board, share experiences, learn from each other, to laugh and cry together.  Everyone has different experiences and approaches and something to add.

What is the most powerful advice that you’ve been given?

You can do anything you set your mind to.  The world is your oyster and dream big… I apply this to whatever I’m doing whether at work or not.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

The hardest thing for me was returning to study whilst holding down a full time job and having family commitments.  If I was leaving school now I would seriously consider continuing my studies straight after leaving college whether that be through university or an apprenticeship.  It’s also important to remember that there is always more than one way to get to where you want to get to!

What is the most important message that you would send to young women thinking about their careers?

Do something that you have a real interest in and will make you happy. That way it won’t feel like a job and will be more of a vocation. Also, many people change career paths so don’t worry that what you are doing today you will still be doing at retirement – unless you want to of course!  Opportunities come along and you can grasp them if you want to.

What’s the best thing about being a woman?

We are resilient, can multitask, are usually more tolerant and good listeners.