Each year, our annual HR conference ensures that our clients are kept up to date on the latest insights, trends, and solutions for HR Professionals across the Irish Public Sector for the year ahead. PAI’s annual HR conference aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the key driving forces and trends impacting on HR strategies, policies and programmes including our diverse and enlarged public sector workforce, and the need to develop inclusive healthy workplace cultures to improve peoples’ working lives at every touchpoint in the employee experience.

Our 2022 HR conference ‘Building the Workforce of the Future: An Inclusive Approach to Talent Management’ gave focus to the key role that HR professionals and leaders play in creating purpose, adding value and shaping positive inclusive cultures. 

The 2022 conference was timely after a two-year period of lockdowns and restrictions, shutdowns and remote working. Across the Irish public sector, workforces had to adapt to new ways of working while navigating challenges of immense proportions.

As the largest employer in the State, the Public Sector continues to be a key influencer of change. Our 2022 event cast a critical eye over and provided a spotlight for discussions on designing and building the workforce of the future.

Take a look at our 2022 conference below:


The event was opened with a Chairperson’s Address by Sile O’Donnell, FCIPD, who handed over to the first speaker of the day, Siobhan McKenna, Head of Equality, Inclusion and Diversity at PublicJobs.ie.

Siobhan’s presentation ‘Inclusive Recruitment, Attracting the Diverse Workforce – A Public Sector Best Practice Review’ provided an excellent insight into the current trends and challenges within the Public Sector.

Siobhan’s key points included:

  • Key By current demographics, the Irish Civil Service does not demographically reflect Ireland as a whole.
  • The Civil Service needs to develop its own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion both to better represent the people of Ireland and to serve as an example for the rest of the country.
  • Irish problems require Irish solutions. The way in which ED&I will be developed in Ireland will not be the same as the UK or the US.


Sharon Dillon Lyons, Barrister at Law provided an excellent legal insight with her presentation ‘Ensuring equality in talent attraction – developments and case law’. Sharon’s presentation detailed:

  • Organisations have certain legal obligations in the area of ED&I but going above the statutory requirements provides operational benefits to organisations.
  • Under the Employment Equality Acts, positive discrimination is allowed meaning organisations are permitted to provide benefits to certain candidates.
  • This gives organisations rooms to promote ED&I in their hiring processes. A consultative and reactive mindset is required for employers to comply with best practice in the hiring and interview sphere. Employers need not comply with every request, but they must give consideration to those requests.

Sharon’s presentation was followed by a Q&A session.


In his presentation, John discussed what HR managers and anyone else can do to promote ED&I in the workplace. John started with the idea that discrimination is primarily a result of the systems governing the workplace having been designed at a time when a much narrower group of people needed to be accommodated. Now that women and people of colour have entered the workplace, the cracks in these old systems are beginning to show.

To begin to create change, John urged the audience to consider five ways in which they can make their spaces more accommodating to marginalised groups. Facing systematic discrimination alone is an insurmountable task, but each individual can consider five ways to make their spaces more welcoming. By individually taking steps towards creating more welcoming spaces, people can slowly make the culture of their organisations more welcoming.

John believes that the “soft skills” required to makes one’s space more welcoming are both as essential as technical skills and quite easy to acquire. It is not difficult to be more welcoming, but it requires attention and thought. Attempting to achieve equality in the workplace does not meaning treating everyone the same. To John, an inclusive workplace tailors its response to each individual employee.

John asked managers to view the feedback they receive, especially about ED&I, as opportunities to improve rather than just criticism. Feedback is not criticism; instead, feedback is employees helping managers learn to be more inclusive and understanding.



This fireside discussion was followed by Conference Chair, Sile O’Donnell, who delivered an enlightening discussion regarding building equality, diversity and inclusion through best HR practice and cultural change in the workplace.

Sile’s presentation explained:

  • Employees have a right to dignity at work which means more than being free of harassment and bullying.
  • There is more to having an inclusive and diverse workplace than simply bringing on a more diverse group of employees. In order to have a diverse workplace, one must analyse their workplace culture.
  • There are three main steps of change in the ED&I space: the urgency for change where data or experience shows there is an issue with inclusivity in the workplace, designing the change where policies are created or altered to lead to a more positive work environment, and sustaining the change where organisation leaders implement and develop the new policies.




The conference was closed by Richard Grogan, who delivered his presentation ‘Wellbeing and Stress – the legal obligations and challenges from a safety health and welfare perspective’

Richard’s presentation detailed:

  • Generally, bullying is a downward practice. Definitionally, bullying occurs when someone higher in the organisation bullies someone lower in the organisation.
  • Bullying policies statutorily must be drafted in coordination with the employees.
  • Policies drafted by the HR department alone do not comply with the organisation’s statutory obligations. Bullying training and policies should be done in plain English. Jargon and buzzwords get in the way of effective training and policies.


“Powerful, knowledgeable and inspiring speakers, who have taught me a lot and have left me with loads of food for thought!”

Carla Marina Soriano – Environmental Protection Agency

“Relevant, insightful, eye-opening”

Barbara O’Connor – CCPC