Pioneer Profile: Meet Lisa Essuman

4th Oct 2023

It’s time that we recognise the people behind the evolving world of work. Our working lives have shifted to being more inclusive, more people-centric, more flexible, and just plain better for both employees and companies. 

These changes didn’t just happen: they were put into place and upheld by individuals and teams working to create a better working future for everyone. 

So we’re finally putting the spotlight on the people who make great companies great: the people-people.  

People-people are crucial to the success of every company. They find you the talent that drives you forwards, and they’ve taken on an increasingly strategic role in the past few years – often taking on responsibility for mental health, diversity and inclusion, culture, EVPs, Employer Branding and team happiness. 

Read more about the Pioneers List and go behind the scenes to understand how and why we’ve selected our Pioneers.

We were lucky enough to speak with Lisa Essuman, Inclusion, Wellbeing & Community Senior Manager at Flutter UK & Ireland about her career, her experiences with flexible working and building great company cultures, and her hopes for the future of work. 

Let’s dig in! 

Tell us a little bit about your career history, and how you got to where you are now. What were the key milestones?

I’ve had quite a squiggly career so far - which seems to be a trait of many people who end up working in this space! I started out in event management then went on to become an award winning radio producer which was more related to my degree.

10 years ago I joined Flutter and had various roles in the marketing and commercial space before taking on a secondment opportunity within the People and Culture team and I never left! That was 4 years ago.

More recently, during the pandemic I completed a diploma in coaching with a Neuroscience element to it, which has really helped me in my current role. The better I can understand people, the better I am at my job! 

And just this week I joined the board of the non profit black&irish which I’m so excited about getting stuck into! 

When did you become interested in flexible working, EVPs and the future of work?

My commitment to flexible working and building strong, balanced company cultures started 11 years ago when I was working in media production.

I reached the point of burnout and I wasn’t even 30. Work-related stress and anxiety reared its ugly head and it was at that point I began to truly understand the importance of company culture and wellbeing. 

What's the most impactful change you’ve overseen?

Something I’m most proud of introducing at Flutter are our parental workshops.

These workshops support all types of parents as they prepare to take off on, or return from, family leave. They’re a series of workshops that empower parents with the tools to set them up for success, whether that is prioritisation, re-thinking flexible working or how to evolve their personal brand and working style so that they can continue to thrive at work with the right level of support.

We continually get great feedback on these workshops and the success was also a catalyst for introducing improved flexible working policies across the board.

Last year we also introduced special Manager Workshops so that managers know how best to support parents in their teams. While we know we have more work to do in this space, I love hearing from parents about the safe spaces our workshops provide and the connections they make with other parents that help them feel supported to continue their careers whilst being able to give their all at home too.

What’s the biggest impact flexible working has had on your own life?

I’m a bit of an ambivert, so I need the balance between in-person interactions and time by myself to recharge and focus, so I often found the full time office environment too much. 

Flexible working has allowed me to work in the way that works best for me and because we don’t have set days where I must be in the office, I make the choice about my working environment based on what headspace I’m in that day. 

Not only does that help me work at my best, but having the autonomy to structure my day means that I can prioritise the things that are conducive to my mental health, like sea swimming and going to the gym. Plus, I feel trusted and responsible for my own work - which is what we all want! 

What’s the biggest challenge of being in your role right now?

Inclusion & Diversity roles are becoming much more of a ‘must have’ for many companies, which is great to see but I often think there is a misunderstanding of the depth of the role and what it entails. 

The work of I&D goes beyond the HR function – it touches the entire ecosystem of an organisation – and I think for many I&D professionals demonstrating this can be a challenge based on where we sit in an organisation.

Inclusion & Diversity is an outcome of a high performing culture, but for companies at the start of their I&D journey often the people in these roles are not seen as culture strategists – which they should be.

What do you think the next big trend is in working culture?

When it comes to flexibility I think we are starting to see shift workers, customer facing workers, and frontline workers looking for increased flexibility. 

I can see this trend emerging from our own internal data. Colleagues in these roles may have flexibility with working from home but they are looking to have more autonomy over their working day. This is going to be a challenge for both HR & People teams in putting fair and progressive policies in place, but also for line managers who might be looking at implementing flexible working for the first time within their specific area. 

Another is the move to a skills based organisation and skills based recruitment. What this means is the move away from the idea of having defined roles, and instead defining a skills based model so that organisations can tap into the skills within the organisation when solving problems, regardless of which team that individual might sit in. Josh Bersin talks a lot about this in his book ‘Irresistible’.

Take a look at the other Pioneers who made the list, and subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on new Pioneers, guides to help you navigate your strategic role, and exclusive invites to webinars and events.