5 stellar tips from HR award finalists

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Successful HR looks different in each industry and organisation. But as these award finalists prove, there are ideas that can work across the profession.

HR leadership provides the blueprint for achieving an organisation’s goals by attracting, managing and inspiring talent. Here, five finalists of the David Ulrich HR Leader Award talk through innovative initiatives and strategies that contributed to tangible outcomes for their organisation and the wider community.

1. “HR through the lens of design”

At engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon, chief people officer Liam Hayes introduced a design thinking methodology to ensure the HR team was focussed on solving the right problems and co-creating solutions to these problems with end-users.

Hayes says, “We looked at HR through the lens of design. We took our leadership team to our external clients to talk about the future characteristics that they wanted to see in our people. It gave us a really interesting insight, which culminated in eight Aurecon attributes, which are now key in defining the type of people we look to bring into the company and also how we form our teams to identify and solve client problems.

“We put people at the apex, as it is our people who deliver the solutions to our clients. By making that part of our business model, we make sure that they are led by an effective, inspirational and accountable group of leaders. This also means we have a culture that inspires greater performance with a clear purpose – to bring ideas to life for our clients and our communities, whether it is designing a school, a bridge or sports stadium,” he adds.

2. “Don’t wait for perfection”

There is a saying that “when the leader gets better, the whole team gets better” at St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria. So with that in mind, its general manager human resources, Cassandra Hatton, prioritises her own and her entire leadership team’s development.

“I believe leadership, at its very core, is about serving people. So, whether it is to do with my own department or a broader organisation strategy, I keep people at the centre and ensure that whatever I’m doing, it is helping the organisation achieve its vision,” says Hatton, who has learned to value progress over perfection.

“It’s unlikely that you will ever find yourself in an organisation that’s ready to roll out the best practices. Don’t wait for perfection, just make progress toward your goals. While you may not be at your destination yet, every step closer is a win. Before you know it, you will be outworking some amazing HR practices and celebrating cultural transformations.”

3. Grow through training

At the Mackay Regional Council, the HR policy focuses on providing local employment and training opportunities to connect with the community.

Its manager people and culture, Rod Francisco says, “We modified our apprentice and trainee program to ensure that it provides employment opportunities not only within the council, but in the Mackay region. We researched local businesses to identify gaps into Certificate 3 qualified people going into jobs. Our bursary students were largely from traditional engineering and town planning study streams so we broadened that out into health and safety, HR and business, and tapped into the local CQ University network with the aim to support locals to study and work in the region”.

“Our emphasis is to grow individually and organisationally through a structured and comprehensive learning and development strategy, that addresses priority areas early while improving long-term growth of our employees. The first step is to understand what change or impact you need to achieve then add in your desirables. That will give you the starting point for your strategy in whatever HR function you are focused on,” says Francisco.

4. Get a deep understanding, have a wide impact

The fuels and lubricants manufacturer and distributor, Viva Energy Australia Pty Ltd. has devised a people strategy that creates the experience the company wants its employees to have – purposeful work, growth, reward and recognition for performance, and leaders that can create a high performing culture.

Its general manager human resources, Jodie Haydon says, “It’s most important to have a deep understanding of your business and the industry you work in. From there you need to consult, collaborate and facilitate creative thinking about how you can contribute to business outcomes through your people strategy and if you can, facilitate social change and make an impact that goes well beyond your organisation”.

“For example, we were the first Australian company to continue to pay full time superannuation during paid and unpaid parental leave and during part-time work periods for five years. We have publicly shared this initiative and we are pleased to see other organisations implementing similar initiatives to make superannuation fairer for working parents.”

5. The benefits of business experience

At Ruralco Holdings Limited, most employees and managers aren’t office-bound. So executive general manager people and culture, Elizabeth Hardaker, has sought to partner with business leaders to understand what they were trying to achieve. She then tailored her HR initiatives to their business plan and ideal outcomes, providing flexible, prompt and pragmatic HR support and advice.

Hardaker, who is also director of two joint venture subsidiaries of Ruralco says, “Being a director has helped me develop better as an HR professional, because I’m looking at it from the business’s leadership lens and then applying it to the HR practice. A successful HR leader is one who has the support of the CEO and leadership team as a trusted advisor and at the same time someone the staff feel confident to trust and reach out to.”

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