Having worn many hats over her varied and colourful 40-year career, Shirley Smith culminated her working life with 13 years at EnerMech as part of the senior leadership team at the global integrated solutions specialist, leaving behind a legacy that is both inspirational and motivational.
From becoming a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) endorsing better work and working lives, to mentoring and championing gender equality improvements through the Axis Network and Girls in Energy, to chairing EnerMech’s Pension Trustee Board, her great personal success has rippled across the sector she has firmly advocated. As she enjoys her retirement and playing more golf, she can rest assured she has played her part in paving the way for a brighter, fairer, more supported future for the next generation.
Smith’s career has successfully navigated the multi-spoked wheel of business management, starting out in supply chain management before moving into communications and marketing, followed by managing a recruitment business. Her collective experiences and passion for working with and supporting people gave her the perfect springboard in 1998 into the world of HR, where she found her happy place.
HR was a very different animal back then to what it is today as Smith, who graduated with a Business Studies degree from Edinburgh’s Napier University in 1980, explains, “Back then, companies were unaware of the importance of employee engagement. As these areas have become more widely recognised, the role of HR and attitudes towards managing people have changed for the better. It’s now widely accepted that feeling safe and supported in the workplace, is key to retaining people.”
“Industry trends have also shaped the way business is conducted. The digital revolution has made communication easier and more accessible and gives transparency across the entire business, which was particularly useful to support working from home. Whilst the shift to hybrid working has connected the global business via virtual meetings, it’s great to see people getting back into the office environment and meeting up where possible, nothing beats human interaction and meeting people face-to-face,” she continues.
In 2009, Smith took up the HR Director role with EnerMech during its first year of business. Over the years she has helped the company navigate unprecedented growth from less than 100 personnel to approximately 4,000 based in over 40 locations. The firm has grown organically and through acquisition, advancing the company’s ongoing objective to win new business in new territories and new industries. This approach has cemented its market position today. Smith adds: “Introducing new workforces into any business comes with its own challenges. Understanding how people might be feeling and what their concerns are go a long way to putting people at ease and embedding them seamlessly in the business. This approach has been centre to all of our personnel integrations over the years, ensuring our high-quality services remain constant for our customers.”
“Inclusivity is also very important to the business. With more than 50 nationalities represented in EnerMech today, I am proud of the culture we have fostered which ultimately shapes the way we work and offers more relevant solutions to our complex projects,” she says. “Having implemented some innovative resourcing strategies, and leadership and project management training programmes, we have provided career progression to many, I feel fortunate in seeing the fruits of these initiatives as many of my current and past colleagues are now leaders in the industry, shaping the future.”
Smith’s role in HR has not always been office based. She has made frequent site visits, witnessing first-hand those she has helped to recruit delivering operational excellence in demanding environments. “I’ve been very fortunate to travel the globe and see the workforce carrying out technical and often niche projects, in some remote parts of the world.
“Visiting the regions in which we operate in, and understanding their cultural and employment differences, has also shaped our HR strategy. There really is no boiler-plate solution to HR, meeting with my colleagues in the regions has been truly invaluable.”
Smith has enjoyed several other career highlights witnessing the development of EnerMech’s apprentices. “I am proud to have watched our trainees grow and take on more senior roles including supervisory roles offshore and into operations management. We’ve had so many fantastic people come through the doors and achieve their career goals, EnerMech’s investment in apprentice and graduate programmes is one we will continue to invest in.”
Phil Ogden is Smith’s successor as EnerMech’s new global HR lead. Imparting her insight on how the company has rallied throughout the headwinds of recent years, Smith says, “EnerMech has weathered the storms of the downturn and subsequent impact of the Covid pandemic. Our continued growth despite this landscape is testament to the hard work and resilience of everyone in the business to establish us as world-class industry experts. To help elevate the business, we have recently developed and are implementing our Talent & Culture Charter which underpins our structured and continued growth.”
“Leaving the people in EnerMech is the hardest part of my decision to retire, however, I know I am leaving the business in safe hands. Under the stewardship of CEO, Christian Brown, the company is thriving and the continued investment in our teams’ skills and personal development can only strengthen this further. I thank everyone for their support over the years and wish all my colleagues my very best wishes for their continued success.”
Christian Brown, CEO of EnerMech, adds: “It has been an absolute joy to work alongside Shirley. Her guidance and calming nature have been a source of stability throughout our rapid growth as well as during some of the more recent testing times. We simply wouldn’t be where we are today without her commitment and passion for people. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for all her hard work, dedication, and loyalty to EnerMech’s vision and wish her a long and happy retirement.”