TJ interviews Eamonn Eaton, winner of the L&D professional of the year in the 2016 TJ Awards.
Eamonn Eaton is a senior member of the Bank of Ireland (BOI) Group’s Human Resources team with responsibility for developing, leading and implementing best-in-class learning, development and engagement strategies that drive the Group’s business performance and create value for the enterprise and its workforce.
His career has had two distinct phases, both within the bank. The first ten-year phase was in retail banking where he was involved in all areas of branch banking, including lending and sales.
In the second, the HR phase, he has held senior leadership roles in employee engagement, diversity, executive education, performance, leadership development and has more than 20 years’ experience, specifically within the training and development arena.
Collaboration with peers and the broader industry is something he has always believed in and his passion for learning and development has seen him participate in many educational and development initiatives at a national and industry level.
Eamonn won the award for L&D Professional of the Year in the TJ Awards 2016.
Why training and how did you start?
In the late 80s, I had been involved in customer service and sales within our branch network. Sales was a new and emerging area within financial services at that time and my success was underpinned by a strong belief in the relationship model and providing my customers with the services and products that truly met their needs.
The bank was just starting to invest in service and sales training at the same time, and I spotted an opportunity to build on my practical experience by joining the emerging sales training team within the bank.
Within 12 months, I had really settled in and knew this was the right career direction for me and I expanded my training delivery repertoire to additional areas including communications, personal development, assertiveness, people management and sales management.
Progression through all areas of training, learning, development, education and training management continued from this point.
Who or what inspires you?
I am fortunate to get up every morning to do a job that I love and one that inspires me. I believe that the purpose of what I do is to help people find talents they didn’t know they had and achieve things they never thought they could achieve.
I learnt the value of the 70:20:10 model early on and the importance of your manager in building your confidence and providing a supportive environment
The other great inspiration in my life was my parents. They provided the support and encouragement that helped me and my siblings strive to be our best at whatever we wanted to do. I was encouraged to compete with myself rather than others and this is where I learnt that often more is achieved through collaboration than competition.
I think this has an even stronger resonance in the new world of crowdsourcing learning, social media learning networks and communities, and learning through collaborative project and innovation groups.
What has been your lowest moment, and what your noblest hour?
Throughout any 37-year career there will inevitably be ups and downs, however, I am a positive and forward-looking person by nature who focuses on the solution rather than the problem.
I’m a firm believer in having a balance in life and, as long as I keep up my swimming, cycling and singing, and have the support of my wife and family, then low moments are just speed bumps on the road.
Obviously, winning the TJ L&D Professional of the Year and also the HRO Today HR superstar in 2016 made this a very special year, however, from a learning professional perspective, one moment stands out.
I was attending a university graduation ceremony where a number of our employees were receiving their post grad university qualifications for one of our internally designed and delivered programmes. A manager in her mid-50s, who joined the bank straight from school, came over and hugged me.
She had worked hard to put her kids through college, but had never been given that opportunity herself and, through her hard work and the opportunity afforded through our programme, had now achieved something that she thought would never happen.
Her joy and pride in her achievement is just one moment that stands out for me through all my years in learning. Moments like this make it all worthwhile.
What and when was your career turning point?
I remember a conversation with a senior and wise colleague more than 25 years ago who gave me a new perspective on the value of formal education. As someone who had joined the bank at 18 from school, hard work and determination could only get me so far.
To really tap into hidden talents and realise my potential, a more robust approach to third level education was required. Through her encouragement and the bank’s support, I completed my MBA at UCD and this was my career turning point.
The experience, network and diversity of subjects covered not only helped my personal development, but also cemented my belief and commitment to lifelong learning that has underpinned my professional career in L&D.
Describe your best learning and development experience
My first training manager was presenting a business case to a senior decision-making committee to seek funding and support for a training intervention supporting a business change initiative. I had supported her in the TNA, solution development and proposal preparation.
With literally 10 minutes to go she asked me to step up and present and she would take the supporting role. I was shocked, but in the heat of the moment, I did it. I realised afterwards that she had given me the perfect opportunity to step forward and orchestrated this to help further my career and personal development.
I learnt the value of the 70:20:10 model early on and the importance of delegation, empowerment and the role your manager in building your confidence and providing a supportive environment for an individual to develop and grow.
What’s next in your career?
I believe I’m now in my third career phase – the digital phase. There has never been such an exciting time in learning with the emergence and convergence of technologies. 25 years ago you could never have imagined participating on free university programmes with people from all over the world.
The amount of information, knowledge and resources at our disposal through mobile devices is astounding. Finding ways to leverage social media, crowd source learning, create virtual learning communities and generate and participate in online conversations instigated by learning catalysts is creating a new excitement and energy for the next phase.