Our latest guest on Ten2Two’s Talking SME podcast is Louise Hosking of Hosking Associates, IOSH President and One WISH co-founder. In this episode we chat about putting the pulse into health and safety, what flexible working means to Louise and the impact of feminine skills in leadership positions.
A bit about Louise
Louise is a first career Health & Safety Professional with over 30 years experience. Her consultancy, Hosking Associates, was established in 2005. As an employer and small business owner she has a keen understanding of the distractions and pressures leaders face everyday.
Louise is a risk management leader working alongside teams across a range of sectors with SMEs and larger organisations on a project basis. A specialist in developing safe, healthy & sustainable management strategies. This is achieved via a tight, agile team who encourage cultural evolution via collaborative approaches whilst remaining unafraid to make strong decisions and be a critical friend when this is required.
Louise became IOSH President and Chair of Council in November 2021 having served as a Vice- President for 3 years and President-Elect for one year. IOSH is the largest membership organisation for Health & Safety with almost 49,000 worldwide members based in around 130 countries. Her role of the Chair of Council is part of the governance structure representing the views of members and providing advice and guidance to the board on matters of policy and strategy which affect members, the institution and the wider profession.
Louise’s Presidential themes focus on “People, Sustainability and Putting the Heart into Health & Safety”. As the world learns to adapt to living in a pandemic and with climate change she is focusing on how the modern OSH professional will add value to their organisations by moving beyond the technical to embrace #PowerSkills and what good looks like. By putting people first, by caring about how they feel, we will create inclusive, healthy and psychologically safe organisations which build teams who trust each other. With trust people will innovate and bring their best selves to solve the world’s greatest challenges.
Louise is a passionate Inclusion champion both within IOSH and outside of it. She is a co-founder of the OneWISH coalition: Women & Inclusion in Safety & Health. This is bringing networks together from around the world to encourage diversity of thought and to help with developing creative professionals representative of the modern world of work.
‘The Pulse of Health and Safety’ is just one in our series of podcasts where we talk about a wide range of topics. We talk with business experts, and also offer broad insights to help SMEs become more successful.
Jane O’Gorman (00:01):
Hello, and welcome to Talking SME our quick fire chat with business leaders. I’m Jane O’Gorman director of Ten2Two, two experts in flexible recruitment and consulting. And I’m very pleased today to welcome Louise Hosking, MD of Hosking Associates, President of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and Director of OneWISH, the Global Coalition of Women in Safety and Health promoting inclusion across the health and safety profession. Hi, Louise. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me today.
Louise Hosking (00:39):
Hi Jane. It’s great to be here and thank you for having me.
Jane O’Gorman (00:42):
My pleasure. So Louise you established Hosking Associates in 2005, focusing on occupational safety and health and, sustainability for businesses of all sizes. What, for you was the trigger that developed your passion in this area?
Louise Hosking (01:01):
So, um, gosh, it’s a really long story, how I got into health and safety. But I am a first career health and safety professional, which is actually quite unusual. So I began my career as an environmental health officer working for Cambridge city council, and really refined that into a health and safety role because I was always interested in how organizations and companies operated and worked. For me, health and safety is, is something that kind of, it spreads across any organization of, any size and of any nature really. I’ve worked in all sorts of places and, worked for a large corporate organization commercial property. And, I had this kind of realization one day. You know, these big corporate companies have very much got the resources that they need, and can use in respect of health and safety and their people.
Louise Hosking (02:11):
They make choices around that. Whereas smaller companies, SME’s, it’s just not as easy for them. And I really wanted to, focus on SME’s and how they operated. So that was very much the trigger for why I created my consultancy and it was all around using the skills that I had from corporate and from my experience to really support and help businesses, to use health and safety as an enabler for success, rather than seeing it as something that was all about compliance and holding them back, but actually using it to move forward.
Jane O’Gorman (03:02):
Indeed. I like that. And, was it always your plan at some point set up your own business?
Louise Hosking (03:08):
Oh gosh, that’s a really good question. No, I don’t think it was. And, I remember actually after I’d set up the business, hearing somebody talking about running a business and they said, if you knew how hard it was, you’d never have done it in the first place. And I think, but actually when I was working for the corporate, I, I kind of had my own cost center; I was developing kind of an internal consultancy within that organization anyway. And so for me, I, I liked the business side of what I did as well. So it was something that evolved. And, I remember I had an incredible line manager there who didn’t know anything about health and safety, but she knew how to lead a business. And, she was encouraging as well. So I think, there was a number of different factors. I couldn’t find the kind of health and safety consultancy when I was there that I wanted to create. And so that was kind of a driver for me, I guess.
Jane O’Gorman (04:19):
And, I’m sure as a business leader, you will have experienced ties and lows over the years. What, what would you think was the biggest challenge for you in those early days? And, and how did you overcome that?
Louise Hosking (04:36):
I think in the early days, it’s going back to that comment of, I didn’t know how hard, just how hard it was going to be. So, back in 2005, I was working in commercial property for a large property consultancy and, you know, I had that role in that job that I’d always kind of worked towards, and at the time I knew other people that were doing that and I was quite well known for what I’d achieved in that role. And I think I completely underestimated what creating a business would be like. I thought I’m gonna create this business, I’ve got all these contacts, it’s gonna be fine. And all of those, I will definitely ring you and yes, we’ll definitely use you. And we can definitely, take that kind of support. I went from a very, very busy role to the phone didn’t ring quite as much as I thought it was gonna ring.
Louise Hosking (05:49):
and I think it was that challenge of then, this is under my control; I’ve gotta do the marketing, I’ve gotta go out, I’ve gotta reach customers. I’ve gotta get customer focused and really harness all of those business skills. I think that was a really tough time. Also, initially, most of my work was in commercial property management and of course we had the big bank crash around that time. And that was just as I was starting to grow. That set me back as well. So that was a really tough period. I’d say.
Jane O’Gorman (06:31):
Yeah, I can imagine. We kick started about the same time, so I know your pain. You’re, clearly passionate about helping organizations create a safe and healthy environment for the people. What would you say has been your biggest highlight or proudest moment since starting the business?
Louise Hosking (06:52):
I was thinking about this and thinking, you know, what, are my highlights. I mean, my I’m very proud of my team that I have now. And where we are now and the, the group of people that I have working with me are a huge highlight. I think the highlights have definitely come from helping, you know, SME’s and have kind of light bulb moments around this. And when they focus on their health and safety and truly put their people first, there are all sorts of things that come out of it that just have incredible benefits.
I’m thinking about one organization in particular that I worked with. And I remember they were in engineering companies that had 50 engineers going out on the road doing various things. So predominantly a male orientated organization. And, we were talking about mental health and wellbeing and psychological health and safety because I, I firmly believe if organizations have psychological health and safety within their companies, they trust each other and we get authentic. You know, we get authenticity in what we’re doing and, and it drives organizations forwards. And I remember having these initial conversations with them, and one of the guys said to me, he said, Louise, we’ve got more chance of them admitting that they shaved their legs than talking about their mental health.
Jane O’Gorman (08:34):
Louise Hosking (08:35):
That was right at the beginning. And we actually, um, you know, actually did work around this topic area and supported this predominantly male workforce to kind of open up about just stuff, you know, and each other and build that trust. From that, we started to learn things about the organization. It heightened listening skills, it heightened, authentic working it, heightened collaboration, and, and that went across the organization. I think it’s, it’s being involved in that type of thing that that becomes a real highlight for me.
Jane O’Gorman (09:19):
Yeah. That’s an incredible outcome and a great example as well. And in a sense, there’s probably some of what my next question might have been and answered there, because you’ve given such great results that have come from that example. But, you know, I was going to say, why is it important for businesses to embed strong OSH values within all roles of an organization?
Louise Hosking (09:41):
It’s one of the things it’d be great to talk about as well. So I’ve got all these kind of different hats, so sure. With my hat of Irish president, we’ve got a campaign that we are running at the moment called Catch the Wave which is all about, social sustainability and where health and safety fits into all of this. And it is around how we put our people first. And, you know, we’ve always talked about this in business is we’ve gotta to be people orientated.
Um, you know, Richard Branson had that catch phrase, didn’t he, which I can’t remember now, which is all about putting people first. And we’ve always known that, but I think that coming out of the pandemic ,post pandemic, we really have our people first because we had to care about their health.
Louise Hosking (10:39):
We had to care about our customers health and that had to come before the organization and it’s changed the way that we do business. And the Irish Catch the Wave campaign is very much harnessing that people centered approach and actually showing the case that if you truly put your people first, you create psychological and physical health and safety. They will solve business challenges. They’re gonna work in, um, more innovative teams and be creative, they’re gonna work forward. And so, very much ties in with the topics that I’m talking around, around social sustainability as part of my presidential themes as well. And it’s not just for the bigger organizations, it’s definitely for everybody
Jane O’Gorman (11:36):
Amazing. And you’re Catch the Wave. Um, thanks for giving us a little bit of an intro on that. Is that being driven as a result of the pandemic? Is it something that you were already thinking of, or is it really something that has developed given the circumstances that we’ve had.
Louise Hosking (11:53):
Absolutely. It’s come off of the back of the pandemic. Um, and certainly if I think, you know, gosh, so much has happened, you know? Two years ago, I mean, you were asking me about one of the challenges. It was definitely, you know, going into the pandemic where our customers needed us to digest lots and lots of information. We were risk assessing their operations with them to keep their operations running, but to keep their workers healthy.
Um, and at the time, you know, I was doing the same within my organization and my team who as you know, are largely part-time workers with their own caring responsibilities and, and so health and safety, the health and safety profession was thrust into a spotlight at that point. And I think we absolutely rose to the challenge and I believe that our perception as health and safety professionals has definitely changed.
So the whole Catch the Wave campaign is actually saying, look at what we can achieve when we work together. And actually the way that businesses are doing business with each other and with their customers is much more socially aware now. So Catch the Wave is all about catching that wave and continuing to put our people first, because when we put our people first our businesses will thrive coming through and out the other side.
Jane O’Gorman (13:39):
Amazing. There’s a great message in that Louise, and obviously your reputation as a female business leader in your field is highly recognized and many congrats on your presidency of IOSH. Is Catch the Wave one of your main goals? What would you say is your particular goal that you want to achieve in your role?
Louise Hosking (14:01):
So Catch the Wave and sustainability is kind it. My theme across the area is people which comes first. So people, sustainability and putting heart into health and safety. It’s very much about how do we change the message around health and safety? How do we articulate that this is a caring profession where people come first, it’s not just about the process.
So that kind encompasses everything that I’m working towards, but I’m also working towards supporting women and under-represented groups into the profession as well. So currently within, I OSH we have almost 49,000 members around the world but only 21%, are actually women. And that’s not the same as our workplace.
Louise Hosking (15:08):
So for me, it’s bringing women into the profession, but not just bringing them into the profession, but actually encouraging them into leadership positions. So, hopefully I will be an example for that. And there’s lots of reasons why that’s important because, if you look at sectors like mining, construction, so on, where, predominantly they’re mostly male workforces we are not gonna be looking at health and safety in its entirety. So we’re not gonna be looking at health and safety through a more feminine lens if you like.
So, we certainly we’ve, you know, hear stories about the way that women are treated at work. And, and as soon as you get more women into leadership, you’ve got those kind of more feminine skills around empathy and collaboration. And, I don’t call them soft skills, they’re power skills, they really change organizations, so it creates a different kind of balance. So that’s important for our profession and for organizations as well.
Jane O’Gorman (16:30):
I like that power skills, Louise. I’m gonna keep that. You’re a great ambassador of part-time working. You touched on that just a moment ago and I know that this is something that you feel quite strongly about. What, does it mean for you and for your business?
Louise Hosking (16:47):
So part-time work for me is definitely not part of a role or a career or a profession. You know, if we’re to achieve, equity within our businesses, I strongly believe, you know, again, it’s, what’s come out of the pandemic, is a much more flexible approach to working. For me, we were doing this before the pandemic actually, where, most of the people that work for me are very flexible. It works for me from a business perspective, because when we have peaks and troughs, which I think SMEs really get those peaks and troughs, we can adapt to each other. And actually I’m, I’m a strong believer in empowerment, and it means that my team come in and do what they need to do when they can do it around their families.
Louise Hosking (17:49):
I mean, my team have just got some awesome credentials. One of my consultants in particular came to me because her employer at the time, after she had her baby, wouldn’t let her go part-time. And I was like, well, that’s my gain. We were already working flexibly, largely from home. So certainly when the pandemic came, yeah, we were able to adapt and I think that agility is, you know, that’s where SME’s, certainly come into their own. We were talking Jane weren’t, we about, encouraging men to work more flexibly as well. And I think that when we start saying to our male colleagues, do you know what this is okay. You know, you can, you can be the person to take paternity leave.
Jane O’Gorman (19:00):
It’s an enabler, isn’t it?
Louise Hosking (19:01):
Jane O’Gorman (19:02):
Yeah. And we are seeing a change in that I have to say. And, again, I agree with you, Louise. I think the pandemic has given people time to reflect and really think about how they manage their time and what they want to do with their time.
Louise Hosking (19:17):
Yeah. And I do think, you know, because I am a keen advocate for supporting women into leadership roles, is that, when we get to a point where everybody feels that they can be themselves and they can share and anybody feels that they can work flexibly and part-time, if they want to go part-time, and it’s not gonna affect what they’re doing, I genuinely think that’s where we’re gonna get true equity within our businesses. And, we need that to be representative of the world of work.
Jane O’Gorman (20:01):
Great points, great points. Um, you’re also a co-founder and Director of One Wish. A global coalition of women in safety and health. It’d be great if you can just tell us a little bit about that and what your biggest hope is for One Wish.
Louise Hosking (20:18):
Yeah. So, so I’m really excited by this. I mean, again, this is all being around how can we encourage women into health and safety, into leadership roles, for the reasons that I’ve described. And it actually came about because a very good friend of mine called Malcolm Staves, who’s the Global Head of Health and Safety for L’Oreal who’s kind of got the reverse job of me. So we have some quite interesting conversations. I was talking to him about, supporting a girls school in London that I work, a state girls school and encouraging the young women there into STEM subjects. And we were talking at the time about setting up some work experience with L’Oreal and science and just connecting those kind of dots.
Louise Hosking (21:19):
And then the pandemic happened and we had to kind of put that project on ice, but then we started talking about how women in health and safety. Um, we need more women in the industry with those kind of empathy, compassionate type skills. And he and I just started pulling our networks together from around the world. And before we knew it, we had this coalition of membership and organizations from around the world talking about how can we bring, how can we make women in health and safety, more visible? How can we give them confidence so we run training?
Because what we found was that they, they feel like they’re not good enough, and we are telling them, you are absolutely good enough. And we’re giving them lots of confidence and we’re, showcasing, women around the world and, and what they can do, and also linking people from around the world. So, you know, one of the benefits that’s definitely come out of the pandemic is the fact that, um, so tomorrow who helps run all of this is on the committees in Canada and she’ll just rig me, you know, saying I’ve got this idea. And I’ll be on the train coming back in St. Albans and I’ll get a call, and getting those calls from Canada or wherever has just become normal.,
Jane O’Gorman (22:51):
You know, and that’s definitely a big positive, you know, in terms of that ability to communicate geographically, there’s no barriers anymore. Is there really, you know, apart from obviously being conscious of the time constraints, but other than that …
Louise Hosking (23:02):
Yeah, time constraints suck.
Louise Hosking (23:05):
Pulling people together for one wish, one of the first sessions we had, we had people from Australia to Arizona. And I think we all got a little bit excited and then realized that actually we probably need to do something separate for the Asian Pacific region, because yeah the time zones suck.
Jane O’Gorman (23:33):
I’m not sure there’s much we can do about that. There’s so many. Yeah. I know. It’s the things we control, I guess. And, and so what would you say is your biggest hope for One Wish? What’s what is that?
Louise Hosking (23:44):
Well, we were talking about this yesterday actually. And what we were saying is that the biggest hope for One Wish is that we won’t need one wish in the future. Because we’ll have achieved equity and balance within our organizations and it won’t be needed.
Jane O’Gorman (24:03):
Wow. That’s a great one isn’t it? Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hopeful. And I’m sure you’ll do your utmost. Um, as we, as we look ahead and hopefully beyond COVID, or at least manage to, to live alongside it, is there, any top tip that you can share with us that we should consider in order to be future ready?
Louise Hosking (24:30):
I think it is this message of, you know, it comes back to my people sustainability and putting heart into health and safety; absolutely put truly, honestly, putting your people first and listening. You know, they have the answers, they are the ones where if we can treat them well, if we give them psychologically and physically healthy and safe places to work, they will return that and they will look after businesses. But it’s also think about your own.
That’s the other thing about running a business. It’s tough. We know it’s tough. And it’s put on your own oxygen mask first. So look after yourself, look after your own psychological health and safety. And be authentic, I think, you know, one of the things that happens within the crisis, which I’m sure a lot of SME owners can relate to, is just, we didn’t know what was gonna happen. We didn’t, you know, my phone stopped ringing and that’s worrying when that happens. And I was really honest with my team and I was probably more honest about things than I’ve ever been, and actually that brought us closer. So I think authenticity is important first, as well, be authentic.
Jane O’Gorman (26:05):
Do you know, that’s some lovely, lovely tips there Louise and I can certainly relate to those and I’m sure many of our listeners will too. So, so thank you very much for that. It’s incredibly helpful. And, thank you so much or joining us today and for this inspirational chat, I’ve so much enjoyed it and it’s been a pleasure talking to you
Louise Hosking (26:29):
And thank you so much. It’s been great to speak.
Jane O’Gorman (26:33):
Oh, and to our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our Talking SME. Look out for future episodes coming soon from Ten2Two, experts in flexible recruitment and consulting.