The appointment of Jonathan Carroll as the first Director of People and Organisational Development within Extern underlines the importance the organisation is placing on supporting and developing staff as part of our new strategy.

The post will cover an important range of areas across the organisation, including the development of our Human Resources function. The new role is a positive consequence of the dynamic growth of Extern in recent years.

“One of the main elements of Johnny’s role will be managing and developing our excellent Practice Development Unit (PDU) to be more all-Ireland focused,” explains CEO Charlie Mack. “Currently, it is under contract with the NI Social Care Council (NISCC), so when CORU - NISCC’s sister organisation in the Republic - is looking to commission the training of social workers and care workers we want to be ready to put ourselves forward.

“The post will also help elevate the importance of people in our organisation. We want to encourage staff to access training to support them to reach their full potential, and for us to exchange their knowledge across the world.”

Charlie Mack, Extern CEO

This latter idea is particularly important, says Charlie, as it ties in with Extern’s key strategy aim of taking our work onto a more global level.

“We have world-class services which we want to export, and we want to encourage our people to be excited about exchanging their knowledge with partners across the world. Equally we can also get expertise from other countries coming back in to Extern,” says Charlie.

“The creation of this new role is also about building on things we’ve begun to do for staff, like wellbeing programmes and awards. It’s about saying ‘we believe in you and we believe you are doing great work’. Our people are our biggest and best resource, and that’s because our work is all about people. We change people’s lives every day, so we have to look after our own people and their wellbeing.”

The appointment of Johnny Carroll, who has considerable experience of working within the commercial sector, is in itself a mark of how seriously Extern’s commitment to its people is being taken, says Charlie.

“We have a lot to learn from private sector,” he says. ”We want the best for our staff, and I believe we have the best in Jonny, who will be bringing us ideas as to how we can develop our people and move into a more proactive human resources function.”

With decades of experience working for well-known names such as Boots The Chemist, B&Q and UTV, the change to working in the community and voluntary sector provides a welcome contrast, says Jonny.

“You get to a stage in your life where you reflect, and think it’s time to put something back and apply some of the skills and experience you have in a different area,” he says. “That’s why this role appealed to me. I like the journey Extern has been on, and I am impressed at how the organisation has grown and developed.

Extern is seen as a world-class leader in its field, so it was a good match, as I have a lot of experience from the commercial world. It’s now about getting that balance right between the compassionate and the commercial, because ultimately Extern is a charity, but it’s the business end which enables us to support and develop staff and our service users.

With the organisation continuing to grow, Johnny believes that the time is right for Extern to further develop its brand and, in doing so, attract even more high quality staff to the organisation.

“Part of the vision for us would be to become an employer of choice, and not just within the social care sector, but within the market in general,” he says. “Extern has only been as successful as it has been because of the people that have remained loyal and committed to it. Now, because of the growth the business has had, it’s about looking at those individuals and seeing how they can continue to grow with, and develop in, our organisation.

“It’s about getting our branding out there, and saying that we are exemplary and have the best people, policies and strategy. There is work to be done here, but ultimately it is about recruiting, training and retaining talented individuals as Extern enlarges, who are ambassadors for the brand and live our values and advocate for the work we do across all services.”

As for anyone starting a newly created position in an organisation as busy as Extern, there is plenty on the to-do list, and Jonny is keen to begin work on ensuring Extern’s support functions are working as smoothly as possible.

“A big priority is putting in place an HR structure that’s fit for purpose to drive the business forward, support staff and to drive responsibility, accountability and ownership as part of that structure,” he says. “But it’s also about looking at other departments, both in corporate services and our projects – for example, are those structures correct to drive the business forward, how can we support our staff, what is their scope for development?

“It’s about trying to drive that agenda in terms of developing and progressing staff right through the organisation, because people are the biggest asset we have and they need to be retained and acknowledged and recognised accordingly.”

The enthusiasm and energy of staff is, Jonny believes, a vital ingredient going forward, and he is keen to ensure that people are at the heart of any new organisational plans and objectives for the future.

“I have been incredibly impressed by what I’ve seen so far, the passion and enthusiasm of people I’ve met, and their expertise and knowledge,” he says. “I intend to look at the business from a people perspective and see where I can have tangible value, not just across HR policies but processes and practices as well, to really ensure that Extern is best placed, with the best people, to achieve its global aspirations.”