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Engaging solid performers P22 ISSUE 11.07


Social recognition P34 PROFILE




PRESSURE Dealing with workplace depression & burnout


editor’s letter

Express yourself! Got a burning issue to get off your chest? Check out the readers’ forums at

Trimming the ‘fat middle’ ‘Best Employer’ and ‘Great Place to Work’ citations are rightly considered a sign of excellence in the HR field. Clearly, a company must be doing something right if they come through the rigour of assessment by a respected third party. However, I’m always curious to know what happens post-citation. Does the company lose momentum? If the focus was on employee engagement in order to win the citation, do they move on to other areas? How are targets and benchmarks now set? Does ‘exceptional’ creep down to ‘solid’? And just as important, how do they use the momentum gained by the citation to their advantage – in their employer branding, for instance? Our feature on engagement in this issue takes a look at a bizarrely overlooked segment of the workforce: the ‘solid performers’. These are people who do their work and do it well. They are certainly not underperformers, nor are they high performers. In short, they are the backbone of the organisation. Yet with the concentration often so tightly focused on those other extremes, they are often left to their own devices. This is a vastly underutilised source of potential discretionary effort. Imagine the possibilities if the performance of these workers could be nudged upwards just a little bit? One of our interviewees in this issue, Kim Seeling Smith, calls this group the ‘Fat Middle’, because statistically they are the largest of three groups of staff including Critical People (stars) and Squeaky Wheels (underperformers). Traditionally, the Fat Middle comprises about 60% of your staff. Most managers spend their time with their Squeaky Wheels (who squeak because of either performance or behavioural issues). Unfortunately, this rewards bad behaviour and can actually keep the Fat Middle in the middle. Seeling Smith instead suggests spending 80% of time with the 20% of staff who are deemed your Critical People, to empower them to help engage your Fat Middle. This way, both the Critical People and the Fat Middle will get the love and attention they need. This also helps the manager use their time more effectively, and helps with stress levels. They are working with the people who want to be there, instead of the people who don’t. Doctors suggest that losing some weight around the middle by incrementally improving diet and exercising more can only be a good thing. The same might hold true for organisations.

I’m always curious to know what happens post-citation. Does the company lose momentum? If the focus was on employee engagement in order to win the citation, do they move on to other areas?

Iain Hopkins, editor, HC Magazine

COPY & FEATURES EDITOR Iain Hopkins JOURNALISTS Stephanie Zillman, Cameron Edmond PRODUCTION EDITOR Roslyn Meredith


CONTRIBUTORS The Next Step, Kenexa, Frontier Software


CORPORATE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Mike Shipley CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER George Walmsley MANAGING DIRECTOR – BUSINESS MEDIA Justin Kennedy CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER Colin Chan HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER Julia Bookallil Editorial enquiries Iain Hopkins tel: +61 2 8437 4703 Advertising enquiries National commercial manager, HR products Sophie Knight tel: +61 2 8437 4733 Subscriptions tel: +61 2 8437 4731 • fax: +61 2 8437 4753 Key Media Key Media Pty Ltd, regional head office, Level 10, 1–9 Chandos St, St Leonards, NSW 2065, Australia tel: +61 2 8437 4700 fax: +61 2 9439 4599 Offices in Singapore, Auckland, Toronto, Denver Copyright is reserved throughout. No part of this publication can be reproduced in whole or part without the express permission of the editor. Contributions are invited, but copies of work should be kept as HC can accept no responsibility for loss.

Human Capital wants to hear from you. Email us: HCAMAG.COM






Check out the HC archive online:


04 | In brief: news 06 | In brief: HR insight


Cover story: Workplace burnout

Ridiculous working hours. 24/7 on-call expectations. Burnout and stress. In some sectors of the Australian workforce, it seems HR have little more effect than as the ‘hirers and firers’. Stephanie Zillman investigates the ‘diehard’ mentality still rife within the legal and finance professions

22 | Awaken the sleeping giant

08 | In Step – HR career experts 10 | HR Consulting 11 | Technology

50 | Profile: Hungry for change From hospital halls to the helm of one of Australia’s best-loved media outlets, this is one HR director who doesn’t take the easy road. With a palpable energy and zest for the role, Melinda Tunbridge of SBS talks to Stephanie Zillman about her passion for authenticity


While the Squeaky Wheels and Bright Stars get all the attention, how about showing the solid performers – those who make up the bulk of any organisation – some love? Iain Hopkins investigates how to unleash the potential within any company

34 | Democratising recognition While reward & recognition programs are commonly bundled together, employers are finding it is recognition that is benefiting most from the advent of social media

42 | Shattering the glass ceiling Women are still facing significant hurdles in their efforts to enter executive roles in Australia. Cameron Edmond outlines how mentoring can potentially help female employees rise to the top






The month in numbers WORKPLACE LEGISLATION

FALSE BULLYING CLAIM FEARS n Should reforms to the Fair Work Act be passed by the Senate, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) could face an influx of false bullying claims. Andrew Stewart, a law professor at Adelaide University who assisted in drafting the Fair Work Act, said that employees may abuse the system to claim bullying when they receive unfavourable performance reviews. Although Stewart acknowledged that bullying can manifest itself in performance reviews, he feared most claims of this nature would be a ‘convenient tactic’, resulting in the FWC’s attention being drawn away from more serious cases of bullying. “The new legislation should have some mechanism for screening complaints and for the possibility of the commission declining to act if they feel a complaint should be dealt with through another mechanism,” Stewart told SmartCompany. Bernadette O’Neill, general manager of FWC, told a Senate hearing in June that an annual 3,500 bullying complaints are expected if the legislation is passed – an increase of 10% on the current amount.



Percentage of women who are not interested in the C-Suite – with office politics and personal agendas cited as being unattractive to them – as well as expressing fulfilment in their already highranking positions*


Percentage increase to the minimum wage, announced by the Fair Work Commission. The minimum wage will rise to $622.20 a week, up from $606.40



n Official figures released by the Immigration Department (IMMI) indicate that previous estimates in relation to ‘widespread’ rorting of the 457 visa scheme are without foundation. IMMI confirmed that advice had not been provided to Minister Brendan O’Connor that 457 visas had been rorted some 10,000 times. Migration and visa policy division official Kruno Kukoc told a Senate estimates committee that 170 sponsors had been formally sanctioned in the 10 months to April – an increase from 93 in the same period last year. Martin Bowles, secretary at IMMI, said Minister O’Connor’s comments implying the rorting were inaccurate. “The minister’s already put on the public record he made that assessment after reading a range of reporting,” he told Fairfax. The current model of the 457 temporary visa program allows an employer to hire a foreign worker if an appropriately skilled Australian cannot be found. IMMI is working with the Fair Work Ombudsman on a draft plan for how to best investigate 457 visa misuse from July.

Sources: *McKinsey & Company’s report, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women at Work



Number of weeks of paid maternity leave on offer by the Coalition should they gain office at the federal election – compared to the existing Paid Parental Leave scheme of 18 weeks.

n Traditionally, ‘mental health days’ in Australia have been equated with ‘sickies’ – taking time off when not really ill. However, one expert said employers need to get serious about the mental wellbeing of their employees, starting with terminology. Australia has 2,200 annual suicides, with 45% of adult Australians experiencing mental health issues in their lifetime. Despite this, mental health is largely ignored by both employees and employers. Michele Grow, CEO of Davidson Trahaire Corpsych, stated that placing emphasis on ‘mental health days’ as separate from ‘sick days’ has stigmatised them and reduces concern. “Language really matters, and someone is either well enough to be at work or they’re not,” Grow said. Grow emphasised the need for employees to evaluate themselves and said they should regularly assess their overall wellbeing. Resolving mental health issues may involve time off, but it is important not to differentiate mental and physical health. Ultimately, if employees feel they aren’t coping, they need to feel comfortable with addressing that.


MEASURING QUALITY OF HIRE n Getting the recruitment process right is a no-brainer when it comes to ensuring success, so why do so many HR practitioners still get it wrong? The answer might lie in your recruitment review. Hudson RPO recently found that 97% of organisations understand quality of hire is important, but only 32% measure it. Businesses seeking to measure quality of hire need to ensure resources aren’t wasted. “Each organisation needs to ask themselves ‘what are the roles that are most business critical?’” Kimberly Hubble, global leader for Hudson RPO, said. Hudson’s data found that the three most commonly examined measures were retention of new hires, manager feedback, and employee performance appraisals, but other measures should be used. “Retention is important, but it only tells us part of the picture. For example, we can retain low performers,” Hubble said. Hudson RPO suggested that an interview after the probationary period should be conducted. “That information can help improve the way we recruit and help the way we sell the organisation to employees,” she said.

DID YOU KNOW? June saw the launch of the first Twitter-integrated job ad, allowing candidates to put their names forward for a position without leaving the channel. While still early days, experts commented it could be the dawn of the 140-character CV, or a Tweet accompanied by an image or video




HR insight/unemployment Australia’s unemployment rate is forecast to jump from 5.5% to 5.75% by the middle of next year and remain high into 2015. Predicted annual jobs growth of 1.25% for the next two financial years will be below the historic average of around 1.5%. How is Australia faring globally?


GLOBAL UNEMPLOYMENT Top 10 highest unemployment rates








Burkina Faso




Cocos Islands









NB: The CIA World Factbook considers unemployment to be the percentage of the labour force that is without jobs. Substantial underemployment might be noted. Accurate as of 1 January 2012


DENMARK The rate of tax Danes pay into an unemployment fund depends on which unemployment insurance plan they choose Share of benefits to income


Share of benefits to income

Norwegian unemployment insurance is taken as 7.8% of personal income for those working in state or private sector jobs, and 10.7% of earned income for the self-employed




WOMEN remain the world’s

working-age women – approximately 1.5 billion – are not currently active in the global economy

Share of benefits to income



SOUTH AFRICA, Africa’s largest economy, has

the highest unemployment rate among the world’s 50 biggest economies. It currently sits at 25% and is higher for people under 35. A key factor behind South Africa’s high unemployment rate is the country’s apartheid history

SWITZERLAND has the lowest unemployment rate, with

2.7% unemployed. One reason for the success of Switzerland’s labour market is that, compared with other European countries, the access to unemployment benefits is quite restrictive, which helps to keep the cost of unemployment insurance low HCAMAG.COM

Anyone who has worked 52 weeks over the previous three years is eligible to receive 90% of their average earnings for up to four years


greatest pool of untapped labour. Nearly half of the world’s


The self-employed pay 8% of their gross earnings to the Labour Market Fund, which is comparable to what most funds require of their members

The latter rate is a bit better than employers who have to pay tax for 14.1% of payroll. The social insurance system pays beneficiaries 0.2% of their yearly income, per day, for one year

There’s a joke in Sweden that goes like this: If you add up all the people on vacation, taking sick days or on various paid leave days, there’s no one left to do any work. Still, the country’s unemployment system isn’t as generous as some of its Scandinavian neighbours, and unemployment is lower than in most of Europe. Benefits are paid for through enrolment in insurance funds and payroll taxes, with the government left to cover any deficits. Unemployed Swedes receive 80% of their previous income for 300 days Source:


»One » in four Spaniards is jobless. SPAIN’S unemployment rate has hit a record high of 25%. The total number of jobless in the country now stands at 5.8 million, about one fifth of Spain’s citizens between the ages of 15 and 64

»About » a million GREEKS have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in late 2008. Only 3.7 million people work out of a population of nearly 11 million

»In » the US, long-term unemployment under President Obama is at the highest level since at least the end of World War II. The average duration of unemployment is now at about 40 weeks, double the previous highest level of about 20 weeks that prevailed during the last three recessions





Craig Mason is the Managing Director of The Next Step, a specialist consulting practice in the human resources market. For more information, call (02) 8256 2500 or email Website:

Is your HR career off-track? Can people in HR manage their careers? Yes is the obvious answer, but there are times when circumstance, the market and opportunities don’t allow people to take the ideal path. In last month’s article, we discussed some of the warning signs of an HR practitioner’s current role heading south. This month, we are looking at the wider career picture and at some of the negative potential symptoms that HR professionals can find themselves dealing with, as well as at some potential ‘fixes’. 1. LACK OF MOTIVATION Through some potentially hard years, your own engagement in HR is low. You have lost your mojo and the reasons you got into HR in the first place have been become blurred (or may have even been hammered out of you). This could occur for a range of reasons but the main ones we see are excessive experience in managing cost-cutting and restructuring, combined with an overall disenchantment with the behaviour of leaders. Suggested strategy: Recognise that it’s hard to stay ‘up’ through excessive periods of challenge when there is less positive than negative business activity. Take stock and reflect on what has been achieved. Get feedback and reinforcement from others on your strengths and achievements. Learn to celebrate the small wins and successes. 2. NO DEVELOPMENT FOCUS The focus on your medium- and long-term development objectives has been dropped (if they existed at all). When pushed, you may be able to say something off the top of your head, but it’s not based on any real feedback or your capability evaluated against the changes that are sweeping through the HR profession. Suggested strategy: Organise some 1:1s. Seek counsel and feedback from your peers, current and past managers, as well as business leaders. Really evaluate this feedback in concert with the changing trends in the HR market, such as productivity and the need to drive performance through 8


Be persistent in highlighting your achievements in the context of the challenges you personally have faced analytics. Work through where you have gaps, and develop strategies to fill them. 3. BRAND DAMAGE The organisations that you have worked for aren’t exactly brand enhancing. Alignment with these brands may actually be limiting future career opportunities as they are perceived as not employing A players or they have very specific operating styles. Suggested strategy: Be uncompromisingly persistent in highlighting your achievements in the context of the challenges you personally have faced. Confidently reference the objective facts and outcomes you have achieved – this is not unreasonable self-promotion. Learn to distance yourself from the general perception of the brands you have worked for and evidence why you are different from the overall perception. 4. TENURE ISSUES For reasons not related to your performance, you find that you have had some recent roles that haven’t panned out as you had hoped. This has caused an impact on your CV that is commonly referred to as ‘leapfrogging’. This of course leaves doubt in others’ minds of your capability. Suggested strategy: Think objectively about what the reader of your information would think. If there are reasons why you left due to an organisation’s performance, say so! If it

was a restructure of HR, say so and why it impacted your role. If you have been working in contract roles, say that! If you have worked in consecutive contracts, group them together as one employment period. Remember, your job is to remove any doubts and answer the obvious question marks. 5. TOO SPECIALISED You have had feedback that you are perceived to be too specialised due either to the type of HR role that you have been performing or the industry sector that you have been employed within. Suggested strategy: Research other roles/industries. Build a picture of what the differences and similarities are between your experiences and others’. Proactively demonstrate that the issues you have dealt with are contextually similar to other HR roles and/or industries. Do what you need to do to draw the comparisons and fill in the gaps. Learn to ask questions of stakeholders that clearly demonstrate you know the broad key business levers that apply across the board. 6. NOT CONNECTED You are not connected externally and cannot comment on what is happening in the market. Your time is consumed with your busy life and you’ve realised you are spending little or no time on your own network. Suggested strategy: Aggressively set aside time every week for your own PD. Realise that this will help you as well as inform the future requirements of your business. Balance your business-as-usual responsibilities with regularly connecting with industry stakeholders.


Maybe some of these symptoms sound familiar; maybe they don’t. Career derailment doesn’t happen overnight and neither does the solution, but preventing a career ‘death spiral’ is all about recognising the telltale signs and consciously making the decision to do something about it. After that it’s usually just hard work and persistence.



Recent HR Market Moves Shelley Tate is joining Transfield Services as General Manager Capability Solutions. Shelley will lead a newly established team focusing on building Transfield Australia/New Zealand’s people capability. Shelley is moving across from the Fred Hollows Foundation where she was the Global Director of People & Organisational Development. Prior to that, she held HR executive and organisational development roles across several sectors, including energy, healthcare and construction. Jane Ireland is the new Head of Leadership & Engagement at Qantas. Jane brings a wealth of experience in leadership development, having held national learning and OD roles at Coca-Cola Amatil and also national leadership development management roles at IAG. Ability Options has welcomed Fiona Kellington–Murphy as its new Executive Leader Human Resources. Ability Options provides a wide range of services to people with disabilities in NSW. Fiona’s most recent role was with UnitingCare Ageing as Executive Manager, People, Learning & Culture, and prior to that Fiona gained a wealth of HR generalist experience across a variety of organisations and industries in Australia and the UK. Liz Evans, a 12-year veteran of Rio Tinto, has joined Incitec Pivot as Head of HR for Australian Manufacturing based in Brisbane. Liz is an accomplished senior HR leader with extensive experience across a variety of corporate environments. She has had strategic operating experience at a general manager level for the last four-plus years, when she was accountable for the delivery of HR services to an employee population of over 20,000 across 43 sites in Australasia. Liz is an experienced project manager utilising Six Sigma (Black Belt accredited) and Lean

business improvement methodology. Anjanette Murfet is taking the next step in her career with Graincorp as their new General Manager HR & Communication. Anjanette is a seasoned leader, designer and manager of large-scale HR projects and change programs, with experience gained at Vodafone Australia, Ghana and UK, Kraft Foods, Evolution Mining and Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. Anjanette holds a degree in law, specialising in employment law, and has extensive experience in ER management and strategy. James Kingsland is the new General Manager, People Strategy & Change at City West Water in Melbourne. James specialises in strategy development and implementation, change management, leadership development, workshop facilitation and coaching. His career has spanned the UK and Australia, leading functions in a range of industries, including Thames Water. Most recently James held the post of Senior Business Partner at TAC Victoria. Water and wastewater infrastructure service provider Veolia Water has appointed Kurt Warren as its new Group OHSE&Q Manager for ANZ. Kurt specialises in providing leadership in safety, environmental and quality services in growing and diverse organisations through developing and maintaining quality relationships within a risk management approach. Kurt has built his expertise in a

range of leadership roles at ANSTO, Qantas, Australian Defence and Ausgrid. He is currently completing a thesis as part of a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA) on organisational experiences in safety culture. Treasury Wine Estates has a new Global Director – Remuneration and Benefits in Amanda Lee. Prior to joining TWE, Amanda was the General Manager, Reward and Performance, at ASX 50 Tabcorp Holdings Ltd. During her time at Tabcorp, Amanda developed the remuneration and benefits strategic agenda before supporting the EGM HR and CEO in all aspects of the demerger of the casino division to Echo Entertainment. Postdemerger, Amanda moved with the Echo Entertainment Group to formally establish its remuneration strategy and function. Amanda holds a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Western Australia and a Masters in Management from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.

By supplying Market Moves, The Next Step is not implying placement involvement in any way.




HR consulting

Stuart Havill, Senior Consultant, Kenexa, an IBM Company 60 City Road, Southgate, Melbourne Phone 132 426 or email

Who is intending to leave – and how can you keep them? So you found the right person to hire, with all the skills, talents, abilities, and attitudes you were after. You bring them on board. And then after about a year they ‘up and leave’. Sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. It is a common frustration for many organisations. The employment relationship has come a long way over the last few decades. We have gone from one extreme of ‘the job for life’ to the other extreme, where frequently changing jobs from one organisation to another is commonplace. For many of the younger generation this has been the standard – they will not have known any different. Conventional wisdom is that your most recent hires are the least likely to be looking to move on to another organisation. Employee engagement survey data reinforces this, illustrating that those who are newest to any organisation will tend to have higher levels of engagement than employees who have been with their organisation a longer period of time. However, new global research by Kenexa, an IBM company, challenges this myth.

Table 1:

I am seriously considering leaving my organisation within the next 12 months LENGTH OF SERVICE


<1 year


1–2 years


3–5 years


6–10 years


11–15 years


>15 years




The greatest intentions to stay are seen when employees perceive their managers to be personally invested in their development In 2012, the High Performance Institute by Kenexa WorkTrendsTM survey was completed online by approximately 33,000 full-time employees, over 28 countries. The survey was comprised of more than 200 questions in regard to employee opinions and attitudes, manager and leadership behaviours, organisational practices and demographic variables. Among other things, WorkTrendsTM measured responses to the item ‘I am seriously considering leaving my organisation within the next 12 months’. Surprisingly, 34% of respondents who had been with their organisation less than one year indicated their intention to leave within the next 12 months, and at least one third of people within their first five years of employment were likely to consider leaving (see Table 1). The good news is that ‘intention to leave’ can be reduced significantly through several key areas. New employee intentions to leave are significantly lower for people who can agree that they receive the training they need to perform effectively, have clearly defined performance goals and objectives, and receive useful feedback from their manager on how well they are doing in their jobs. As stated in the research findings, when new employees have the basic tools they need to perform optimally (ie training, goals, feedback), their turnover intentions drop from 34% to 15%. Additionally, the research finds that employees who have received a performance

appraisal in the past 12 months are four times more likely to believe their organisation is preparing them for the future than employees who have not received an appraisal. Employees who receive performance feedback from their manager are also 17 times more likely to believe their organisation is preparing them for the future than employees who do not receive performance feedback. However, the greatest intentions to stay are seen when employees perceive their managers to be personally invested in their development. Though the leadership skills required to promote this manager-employee relationship are no different from what we already know to be important, the research demonstrates how powerful these leadership skills can be in retaining an organisation’s talent. These are skills such as motivating through goal setting, inspiring through communication, involving employees in decisions that affect their work, recognising employees for their contribution, and giving performance feedback to help them improve in their job. With the cost of employee turnover being substantial, it is no surprise that organisations place considerable resources and effort into recruitment, hiring, on-boarding, training, and employee engagement initiatives to ensure that they not only employ the right people but are able to keep their talent. And, by ensuring key initiatives are in place, this impact can be significantly reduced.

FRONTLINE INTELLIGENCE Nick Southcombe is the General Manager of Frontier Software, an Australian-based global provider of HR and Payroll software and associated services. Nick can be contacted at or by phoning 03 9639 0777. Website:


A new age for employee engagement


With heightened tension surrounding job security in a post-GFC climate, employees are increasingly cynical of engagement initiatives. How do we build the employment relationship to boost engagement and retain talent?


Employee engagement has been wounded globally by the lengthy period of uncertainty surrounding the recent economic crisis. HR experts have been driven back to the drawing board to come up with innovative strategies to win the engagement of top talent in an environment where employees remain suspicious of engagement initiatives. Best practice HR teams are implementing frameworks that allow organisations to employ both broad and specific tactics in the war for talent.


In a few short years since the GFC, the standards for employee engagement have changed forever. When it comes to recovering employee confidence, HR is in the driving seat. HR is now facing a new employment landscape, and every phase of the employee life cycle is affected. Heightened competition in the job market means employers face a constant battle to recruit the right talent. All high performers must be marked as flight risks; employers need targeted initiatives to win their retention. Key engagement factors like flexible work arrangements, performance-based leave and time off to pursue study are no longer differentiating extras but employee expectations. This shift has changed the way employers build a culture of engagement.


Employees are demanding more from HR. The new generation of professionals is

The radical change at the centre of the ‘new normal’ is the primacy of the individual. Engagement is both a culturebuilding exercise and a personal service entering the workforce expecting a personalised service with tangible benefits. Coming of age during the turmoil of the GFC, these workers want to see immediate career benefits or they will simply leave for greener pastures. Encourage managers to keep career progression in the conversation by: • setting regular team and personal goals • providing mentorship • providing training opportunities • giving regular feedback • publicly recognising accomplishments When it comes to retention, it’s important to be predictive and proactive rather than reactive. Retention planning is an issue that must move from the fringes to the centre of the organisation’s HR strategy. Simply looking at pay and rewards is short-sighted; career progression procedures are at the heart of engagement.


The radical change at the centre of the ‘new normal’ is the primacy of the individual. Engagement is both a culture-building exercise and a personal service. HR must utilise strategies that will cast a wide net while deploying tactics that are tailored to the individual’s priorities. Although at times managers may put it on the backburner, employees will always have their personal progression in mind. It’s up to HR to initiate, mediate and act on career conversations. This means HR must engage with senior management and direct managers to identify top talent, earmarking them for training, projects and promotion. Communication must go beyond a once- or twice-yearly review; employees expect to walk a clearly marked path to success.


HR technology has been a game changer for best-in-class organisations. Sophisticated systems link engagement initiatives to the day-to-day activities of employees and managers. Using performance management software, managers can motivate and reward employees by setting goals and KPIs. This puts performance and career progression in employment conversations throughout the year, not just in formal reviews. Technology also puts career progression in the hands of employees. Self-service tools let staff monitor their own performance, achievements and progression. These systems allow employees to access training and send requests to managers for feedback. These simple changes can return impressive benefits, improve productivity and give employees a valuable sense of empowerment. HCAMAG.COM 11


career spotlight

Safety first – ALL THE TIME In a career that has seen her work as a lawyer, followed by some 20 years in HR at companies as diverse as Diners Club and Freehills, Jen Mitchell is now CGU’s head of workers’ compensation, NSW and Victoria. She talks to HC about safety-first cultures, what HR should know about IR, and why knowing the numbers is so critical for all practitioners

HC: What drew you to an HR role initially? Jen Mitchell: I’ve always had a passion for developing people. I’ve had a number of HR roles where I’ve been fortunate enough to see people really grow and develop into great people leaders. That’s what drew me to HR initially and what still excites me the most about my role. HC: You commenced your career as a lawyer and subsequently moved into HR. How do you think that legal background has served you in your HR roles? JM: I work in an extremely regulated environment so having a legal background has been invaluable. Because I have formal training in critical analysis and thinking, I’m able to really look at the facts in front of me. This has allowed me to build credibility and become more rounded as a professional. And it also allows me more freedom to act intuitively when making important decisions. HC: Do you think (in general), HR professionals need to sharpen their skills around areas like IR? JM: I think it’s important for HR professionals to have general knowledge of IR and keep abreast of the landscape, but I don’t think they need to become experts. My advice



My advice would be to know the difference between a small disagreement and something that has the potential to become an industrial issue â&#x20AC;&#x201C; JEN MITCHELL


career spotlight workplace injury. One of my primary goals is to ensure our people are given the support they need to help others return to work. I’m also focused on staff retention in our claims team, which is now more than 50% higher than our industry standard, and that is something I’m very proud of. I think one of the main differences when you move to an operations role is, instead of acting in a key advisory role to the senior leadership team, you have the opportunity to work with people on the frontline, and I find that most rewarding. HC: Would you like to see other HR practitioners take more of an interest in workers’ compensation and how to mitigate risk around this? JM: I’d like to see HR practitioners take more of an interest in safe workplace solutions. Industries that are highly prone to workers’ compensation claims are often faced with addressing safety issues in the workplace. I’ve seen many occasions where workplace injuries could have been avoided if safety measures were in place. Taking a proactive approach to safety should be a key priority, as well as seeking specialist advice on workers’ compensation when required.

would be to know the difference between a small disagreement and something that has the potential to become an industrial issue. Helping line managers to stop an issue from becoming a significant one is one way HR professionals can contribute. IR is a highly specialised and technical area, so when addressing large industrial issues it’s important to outsource to professionals. HC: Which of your HR roles has stood out for you in terms of challenges, and also in terms of the satisfaction you got from that role? JM: One of the most challenging moments as an HR professional was when I worked for a company that was significantly affected by the Ansett Airline collapse. I was directly responsible for managing a large volume of redundancies. Although this was a very difficult time, I was able to persuade the business to offer a voluntary redundancy program. This enabled me to work with staff to find a solution to suit their individual circumstances. This is a great example of how HR professionals can act as true advisers and influence business outcomes. HC: You previously worked at WorkSafe and then moved into your current role at CGU. Can you outline what’s involved in your current role? What advice would you pass on to other generalist HR practitioners looking to move to an operations role? JM: As head of workers’ compensation at CGU for New South Wales and Victoria, I lead a team of 725 people who provide assistance to employers and workers with a 14


HC: What is your biggest career achievement to date? JM: I work with an incredibly dedicated team who are committed to helping workers and employers prevent and recover from an injury in the workplace. In my current role, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to the development of a constructive achievement culture. I’m particularly proud of our recruitment and talent management practices at CGU as we’ve worked incredibly hard to create a positive culture and are now seeing great results. Our commitment extends to enabling positive employment experiences through delivery of a strong diversity and inclusion program, flexible work arrangements and leave options. Our people are exemplary leaders and it’s rewarding to be a part of that. HC: What do you think it takes to succeed in HR? JM: Pragmatism, resilience and a sense of humour. It’s also important to have a strong understanding of financials because most businesses are driven by numbers, and you can gain – or lose – credibility very quickly on the numbers. Understanding the business that you’re offering advice to is also key. A great HR practitioner is somebody that has a combination of empathy and business acumen. HC: Where do you see the future of HR heading? JM: It will be critical for the HR profession to find ways to add value to business. Practitioners with a solutions-focused approach to business problems are more likely to prove their worth to employers and customers. Providing industry insights on workplace issues such as safety is a top priority. There is certainly scope for professional development as either a specialist or generalist. But when managing a client relationship it’s important to remember that most people find it easier to deal directly with one primary contact.



workplace burnout


PRESSURE Ridiculous working hours. 24/7 on-call expectations. Burnout and stress. In some sectors of the Australian workforce, it seems HR have little more effect than as the ‘hirers and firers’. Stephanie Zillman investigates the ‘diehard’ mentality still rife within the legal and finance professions 16


Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of the newly merged Glencore Xstrata, told the Wall Street Journal in May that his employees did not have a life outside of work, and that they did it because of the pay-off. “You don’t come here to take life easy. And we all get rich from it, so you know, there’s a benefit from it,” Glasenberg said. He noted that he tells investors to come and meet his employees, and they’re pleased to see there’s not one who would rather be lying on the beach. And if there is, it’s only a matter of time before they’re gone. “I see it happening, some guy suddenly decides: ‘I want to take life easier, I want to spend more time with the family’ ... an attack will come,” he said. “I’ve been through two generations of heads [of trading divisions]. Every one of those heads was kicked out from below.” While stressful positions replete with long hours may command respect from colleagues, and a fat salary to boot, the human toll is difficult to ignore. Kate Carnell, CEO of beyondblue, says the research speaks for itself: excessive hours of work cause stress, and stress is a major precursor of depression and anxiety. “In fact, some work we did with the University of Melbourne indicated that 17% of depression in working women and 13% of depression in working men was directly associated with long hours and high pressure to perform in the workplace,” Carnell says.


There are a whole range of factors that can lead to a mental health issue, including family breakdown, a serious health condition, a stressful workplace, or combinations of some or all of these. Carnell affirms that it’s impossible to put an arbitrary number on how many hours per week is ‘reasonable’, and reaching ‘x’ is the tipping point. The real question, she says, is considering the make-up of a mentally unfriendly workplace. “This is a workplace where there are high demands and low job control, one where people don’t feel as though they have the capacity to go home and be with their families. They have little control over their job, there’s an unclear work role, they have long work hours, there’s bullying, and poor communication from management about what’s really expected from them. [An employee] should be able to do their job, most of the time, within standard work hours, and if most of the time they can’t, there’s a real problem,” Carnell says. In Australia, the legal profession takes the top spot when it comes to those most likely to experience depression and anxiety. “We know the legal profession is right at the top of professions most likely to experience depression, anxiety, and a range of other mental health issues. And the reason for that, I think, is that the expectations of people in those workplaces, in many

The laws have changed, the community expectations have changed; it’s not OK anymore for workplaces to look like that – KATE CARNELL circumstances, are unrealistic. They’re employed to do a standard working week, 37–38-hour weeks, but it’s expected that they’ll be doing close to double that every week,” Carnell says. “It’s about really high demands, a lack of control, and a lack of predictability – and those things are incredibly stressful,” Carnell says.


For Carnell, there’s no question that the direction to change a toxic culture must come from the top. It requires strong leadership to change a culture, but the key point is that it is in the organisation’s best interests, from its people right through to the balance sheet. “[beyondblue] statistics show that it’s extraordinarily expensive. Someone with depression in the workplace is likely to have three to four days off work every month, and that’s nearly one day every week. So we’re losing about six million working days to depression every year, but probably more importantly in the legal space is the reduced productivity. Our statistics show about 12 million days are lost as a result of reduced productivity,” Carnell says. She adds that while there are people who can work their whole lives in adverse conditions, and never miss a beat, that’s simply not the case for the vast majority. “Often the managing directors, managing partners, the very senior people who have lived and worked in this type of environment for their whole working life and have prospered, because they’re now at the top of their profession, are usually in the 50-plus age group. I think the problem for some of them is that they just can’t see it. There’s the mentality that ‘I got through it; I was tough – these young ones should be able to do it too’. But quite seriously, the laws have changed, the community expectations have changed; it’s not OK anymore for workplaces to look like that. We all accept there are times HCAMAG.COM 17


workplace burnout in our working life that we’re going to have to work long hours, and that’s absolutely fine when you have to deliver on a project or whatever. But if it’s all the time, or almost all the time, and you can never really plan because you never know when you’re going to get home tonight, that’s when there’s a problem,” Carnell says. The symptoms of anxiety and depression usually begin with a lack of concentration, a lack of capacity to deliver on deadlines, and impaired capacity to work in a team, all impacting on productivity. There’s also the issue of the law. “Under the new workplace health and safety laws,” she says, “the onus is on employers to provide a psychologically safe work environment, and I think that there would have to be quite a number of workplaces that wouldn’t meet that criteria. If you are expected to be working 80 hours a week, if you never know when you’re going to be home, and if the workloads are just extraordinarily high, and if you do end up experiencing depression or anxiety, under the current laws there’s potential there for employees to make a case.”

A raft of research According to research used for the beyondblue National Workplace Program, depression and anxiety disorders are the second leading cause of disability and mortality in Australia. The impact of depression in the workplace includes: • three to four days off work per month for each person experiencing depression • over six million working days lost each year in Australia • 12 million days of reduced productivity a year Research commissioned by the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation (in memory of a 26-year-old lawyer who committed suicide in 2004 after battling depression), and conducted by Sydney University’s Brain and Mind Institute in 2008, shone light on some home truths. These findings supported earlier studies that found lawyers experience depression at four times the rate of the general population. Professor Ian Hickie led the research, which studied 2,400 lawyers, and said a systematic approach to the problem was needed by leaders of the profession. Hickie said better education was needed on mental health issues, as well as stronger mentoring and support, especially at law schools and during the transition from study to full-time work. His findings also indicated that a number of attributes common to lawyers, such as perfectionism, anxiety and obsessionalism, put them at high risk of depression. Individual characteristics are difficult to change, but he said other aspects of the profession, such as its competitive and individualistic nature, could be changed in favour of a more collegiate approach.




Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley is one leader in the sector who believes the high incidence of depression among lawyers is linked to timesheets. Bradley believes little has changed over the course of his career, and that excessive hours remain the norm in some parts of the legal profession, though he doesn’t agree it is the norm for the whole profession. “The problem is centred on the firms with a so-called ‘high performance’ culture, where the pursuit of profit is all-encompassing and an internally competitive environment has been nurtured and is considered to be both normal and the best way to achieve results. In these firms, and to a lesser extent throughout the profession, there is an intensive focus on chargeable hours, and the achievement of chargeable hours is the prime – and often sole – measure of value of an employee’s contribution,” Bradley says. He believes the culture encourages and rewards direct competition between lawyers to see who can clock up the most hours. “In some places, leaving before a particular time – say 9pm or even 11pm – on any day is seen as weakness or failure. There’s ego, adrenaline, testosterone, and the rush that comes from overachievement all thrown into the mix. High fives abound if a lawyer clocks up a silly number of hours,” Bradley says. Some firms are taking proactive steps. Mid-tier firm Holding Redlich’s national HR manager, Helen Ayres, says she has not received feedback from staff during regular surveys and one-on-one discussions (performance reviews and informal reviews) that targets are too difficult to meet. “Apart from normal business hours, there is not a set number of hours per week that lawyers are expected to work and be in the office per se – when matters are ‘on’, we expect ‘all hands on deck’, but that is coupled with an understanding that they will be balanced with less demand for their work during the quieter times,” Ayres says. Holding Redlich has also positioned employee wellbeing at the centre of its EVP. Provisions include: • A balanced approach: matters are properly managed with a mix of senior and junior lawyers and other relevant support staff. • A ‘catch me being excellent’ program and a reward and recognition program to acknowledge exceptional performance and foster a feeling of being valued. • An Employee Assistance Program, which consists of short-term professional counselling and support, either face-to-face with a counsellor, by phone, Skype or online. Counsellors are arranged and provided by an external organisation, and their service is professional, confidential and free of charge. “We encourage all levels of staff to attend social functions at the firm, including morning teas, birthday celebrations, client functions and regular office functions such as Friday night drinks. We promote health and wellbeing programs and organisations with regular

presentations in the offices, including R U OK?Day and beyondblue,” Ayres says. Senior associate Kathryn Howard describes the workplace culture at Holding Redlich as a place where “we inherently value our work, our clients and our people, and we don’t sacrifice one at the expense of the other”. Yet Bradley has witnessed those sacrifices being made elsewhere. This is what led him to establish Marque Lawyers in 2008. He states lightheartedly on his website that he did so with the “modestly stated ambition of completely changing the way law is practised”. “We wanted to change two things. First, the law firm business model, which is entirely broken. This includes time costing but also the remuneration model and internally competitive culture. We wanted to be a firm which operates as a collective endeavour, driven by a higher purpose than that of maximising our personal incomes. I believe that is essential for personal happiness. Secondly, we wanted to strip out all of the faux seriousness and pomposity and all the other crap lawyers do which create barriers between them and the outside world, including their own clients. We wanted to liberate ourselves and our staff to feel that it is OK to be a lawyer and a normal person at the same time,” Bradley says. While there may be all sorts of HR guidelines stating that only a certain number of hours per week should be

The problem is centred on the firms with a so-called ‘high performance’ culture, where the pursuit of profit is all-encompassing… – MICHAEL BRADLEY worked, and there is access to a whole raft of mental health care, in some organisations the message falls on deaf ears. In law firms especially, cultures persist in which taking stress leave, or sickness leave for mental health reasons, can cause a chain reaction adversely affecting the employee’s career. Bradley believes the legal profession has a long way to go. “The work that firms are doing to try to address mental health are all well and good, but they start from the wrong standpoint. They take the existing business model as a fixture, then try to address the damage it causes. Nobody seems to want to face the reality that it is the business model itself that is the problem. There’s no point even talking about culture until the business model changes,” he says.

What are the maximum hours an employee can work? The National Employment Standards (NES) set the maximum hours an employee can work in a week, while awards and industrial agreements can also have rules about minimum and maximum daily hours and breaks. According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, under the NES an employer can’t ask or tell an employee to work more than their maximum weekly hours, unless the extra hours are reasonable. The maximum weekly hours for full-time employees are 38 hours per week. For part-time and casual workers, their maximum weekly hours can’t be more than 38 hours per week but are usually less than 38 hours, depending on their arrangement with their employer and what the applicable award or industrial agreement says. While an employer may request that an employee work additional hours, an employee can refuse to work extra hours if the request is unreasonable. To tell whether extra hours are ‘reasonable’, employers need to consider factors including: • any risk to the employee’s health and safety • the employee’s personal situation, including family duties • the needs of the workplace

• if the employee gets overtime, penalty rates or other compensation • if the employee gets a level of remuneration that shows they are expected to work extra hours • how much notice they give the employee • any notice the employee gives that they intend to refuse to work the extra hours • the usual patterns of work in the industry and the employee’s role and responsibilities • if the extra hours fit with agreed averaging arrangements • any other relevant matter Under the Fair Work Act 2009, employees need to be paid for all hours worked, including any additional hours. Most awards and industrial agreements have overtime rates that employees are entitled to be paid when they work more than their maximum weekly hours. Some employers may also factor payment for additional hours of work into a salary they pay an employee, or may simply pay the employee on an hour-by-hour basis for additional hours worked. Further information on maximum hours of work is available on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website: employment/hours-of-work/pages/default.aspx



surveys You’re a competent HR professional who has seen a few staff surveys in your time. Your boss tells you that there is a desire to do a staff survey and to go out and choose one now. Like cars and computers, surveys are quite a technical purchase once you start delving deeper. In addition, the person selling you the survey probably knows far more about them than you. This article is designed to help you to ask the right questions so that you can make the best decision for your organisation. Question 1: Will my results be benchmarked or baselined? Benchmarking means your results will be compared to those of other organisations. This should not be confused with baselining, which is comparing your own results over time. If you’re looking to find out about something that is totally unique to your circumstances, then you might be able to write your own survey, but the vast majority of medium and large organisations choose to benchmark. Much is made of benchmarks by those who have them, and in truth they can be incredibly useful. For example, if only half your people trusted and were inspired by your executive team, would you be satisfied? You might well be, because benchmarks will show you that 50% is an above-average result for Australian organisations. Getting further into benchmarks, you’ll find various references to ‘high performance benchmarks’, ‘industry-specific benchmarks’ or ‘global benchmarks’. These might be useful, but we find that a good yardstick is whether your executive team will accept the benchmark, or whether they’ll get stuck. The truth is that there is always far more variation within an industry than there is between industries. Nevertheless, we’ve seen patterns emerge in the public sector, education, local government, health and utilities that aren’t readily apparent elsewhere. Industry-specific benchmarks are certainly more readily accepted by leadership teams.

Knowledge is strength in any purchasing decision, and the same holds true when making a choice about employee surveys. James Garriock presents nine key questions to ask



Question 2: Are the survey questions based on hunches or evidence? Some survey questions have what we call ‘face validity’, which means that they make sense ‘on the face of it’. Other survey questions measure areas that have proven links to high performance. It is a tough link to prove, since the share market, the economy or a technology can get between good internal performance and external measures. Simply ask the provider for their whitepaper or bibliography. Now you know the difference between face validity and evidence-based questions, don’t write off face validity just yet. Just because a survey question has proven links to performance doesn’t mean it has to be

asked. Survey questions need to be acceptable to your staff or you won’t get the project off the ground. Question 3: Is the framework based on evidence, and does the model ‘stick’ together? Some surveys are based on the opinions of their authors about what makes organisations effective. The authors are usually highly experienced and intelligent practitioners who have put a lot of thought into their models. Other surveys are based on evidence and research. In our experience, if the model comes under attack from one of your executive team, the whole process can unravel, so make sure you’re comfortable defending it. Not only should the framework be based on sound evidence but the questions should ‘stick’ together within each category. There are statistics that describe whether the survey is well constructed and whether the questions really do belong in the category. You might remember a statistic called chi-squared from your university days. This gets a lot of airtime in undergraduate courses, but it isn’t very useful when comparing surveys. Why? Well, most research databases contain tens of thousands of respondents, which means there are too many ‘degrees of freedom’ to make the chi-squared statistic meaningful. The statistic you should ask all your providers for is called the RMSEA. The lower the number, the better. Any decent survey should have a number less than 0.08. But the gold standard for this statistic is less than 0.05. Just ask your shortlist of providers; they should all know their numbers. Question 4: How long should the survey take to complete? To make this one simple, just ask yourself whether your organisation is expecting a five-minute survey or a 15-minute survey. The answer will knock out half the list of providers. The right answer, of course, is “as short as possible and as long as necessary”. Regardless of your ability to mount a convincing argument about why your organisation should go with the longer version, you should be wise about picking your battles. Question 5: Self-serve or independent third party? There are online tools available that you can drive yourself. This puts all the work onto you but saves money. The other option is to go with an independent third party. It costs more but reduces the risk of something going wrong, increases the response rate (since your people will be less suspicious of whether you can see their results), and you’ll get the added benefit of the analytical capability of the consulting firm. If the consulting firm has experience in your industry, you can also benefit from the similar experiences of your industry peers.

Surveys are like an MRI for your organisation – they’ll tell you where the problems lie, but won’t cure the disease Question 6: Can I customise the wording and add my own questions? In the past, some benchmarked surveys were so ‘locked down’ that clients couldn’t add, change or delete questions. Make sure you know what alterations you can and can’t make before you proceed. Question 7: Could you put the consultant in front of your staff, executive team and board? You should know your executive team and organisational culture as well as anyone. If you’re using an external provider, you probably want to be confident that the consultant can make you look good in front of staff, your executive team and even your board. Test whether the person you’re talking to really knows your industry, and whether they’re going to be around for the duration of your research project. Beware of the ‘bait and switch’ where the impressive, senior person who convinced you to buy the product is never seen again. Question 8: Will my team be able to understand the reports? Take a critical look at the reports. Will your line managers be able to understand and act on them? Question 9: What is my budget? Survey providers are generally highly ethical professional services firms who will happily tell you whether they can meet your budget. Keep in mind that, like accountants or lawyers, their overheads are mostly people costs. So expect to pay more for more senior people, and if your project is going to take extra time. Clients who are transparent about their budgets can encourage providers to be innovative about how to save costs in delivering the project.

About the author James Garriock is the executive director of Insync Surveys. Visit


These nine questions will put you on the way to choosing a provider who’s right for your organisation. Keep in mind that surveys are like an MRI for your organisation – they’ll tell you where the problems lie, but won’t cure the disease. HCAMAG.COM 21


engaging solid performers



Awaken the



While the squeaky wheels and bright stars get all the plaudits and praise, how about showing the solid performers – those who make up the bulk of any organisation – some love? Iain Hopkins shows how to do it With so much focus placed on either end of the performance spectrum – the high performers at one end and the underperformers at the other – it’s hardly surprising the ‘average worker’ often feels neglected. Yet leaders do this at their peril. Lenore Lambert, director of The Interview Group, says it’s unrealistic to believe it’s possible to fill an organisation from top to bottom with superstars. Yet if we trust the bell curve as a true representation of performance of ‘the pack’, then our ‘solid performers’ are the bulk of our people. “They also take money, time and resources to replace so we want to keep them,” Lambert says. Stephen Hickey, principal, talent & rewards, Aon Hewitt, adds that this group is an untapped opportunity to improve both productivity and discretionary effort. “We know the best employer organisations, who engage around three quarters of their workforce, drive

substantially higher levels of productivity and discretionary effort by converting more of these people from passive engagement into a state of being highly engaged. They also concentrate on bolstering the solid contributors,” he says.


Putting aside the impact of ‘nature’ (the level of ambition the employee brings to the job on day one) and the impact of ‘nurture’ (the effect of everything that happens at the company), as they are difficult to separate anyway, one of the things that makes an ‘average worker’ average is mediocre management, suggests Rodd Wagner, vice president of employee engagement strategy, BI Worldwide. Average workers, Wagner says, get neglected because neglect is common across the board, among high, low, and middle performers. HCAMAG.COM 23


engaging solid performers

“Most companies have yet to discipline themselves to allow into management only those who are talented in and committed to managing people well. Most companies struggle to hold managers accountable and, more important, ensure those supervisors themselves are well managed and engaged.” In a culture of only occasionally great managing, those with the most and least ambition and ability will make issues of themselves. Should the middle get more love? Absolutely, says Wagner. However, it’s a lot easier to implement a general strategy for employee engagement than to chase problems throughout the range of performance created by the lack of that overall strategy. Wagner is also careful to steer clear of blaming the disengaged for their disengagement. BI Worldwide research shows that Australians are exceptionally responsive to great managing, a ‘cool culture’, meaningful recognition, and opportunities to take on new challenges. The level of Australians’ intensity at work runs along a continuum largely determined by the investment their companies make in those employees’ experience at work. “In other words, you get the engagement and performance you deserve,” Wagner says.


Everything starts with the individual. In describing the results of employee engagement research, Wagner says there’s a temptation to generalise – people want this, people want that. It’s a great starting point; “food for thought”, he says. But that same research, looked at under the magnifying glass, shows incredible variation from one person to another. “For example, we can draw a curve that shows the average levels of engagement year-by-year through the employees’ tenure. It’s an interesting pattern. But if you plot underneath that curve dots that show each individual in the survey, they fill the entire grid. There is every imaginable combination of tenure and engagement level, and every combination of underlying aspects that are driving the overall engagement level,” Wagner says. BI Worldwide calls its first New Rule of Engagement ‘Get Inside Their Heads’. “Nothing is more important, more foundational, than a great manager who individualises the company’s approach on behalf of that employee. And yet, only 9% of Australians strongly agree their managers understand them. Nearly one in four disagrees or strongly disagrees. That’s not an issue of money or promotion. That’s an 24


issue of managers doing their jobs,” Wagner says. Mark Royal of Hay Group notes that the individual manager, being closer to the employee, may have a better sense of what a particular employee is looking for and what is going to motivate him or her. But the immediate manager also serves as a bridge to the broader organisation when it comes to helping the employee make sense of what’s happening regarding organisational changes and their implementation for the employees. “If the manager is aligned with organisational leaders, they will be enforcing the broader organisational messages,” Royal says. And when it comes to helping those who are interested to progress with their careers within their roles or beyond, the immediate manager plays a function as a sponsor or a mentor, someone who connects people with opportunities and can secure the right resources and approval to make it possible. The concept of enablement (detailed overleaf ), also frequently comes down to manager interventions. “Defining clear performance expectations, making sure that general worker teams and processes are aligned with objectives, managing cooperative relationships within the cross-team, providing people with adequate resources – all of that is the basic blocking and tackling of managing people, but it is also part and parcel of creating an environment that enables high levels of performance from people who are engaged,” says Royal. Hickey says it’s critical that managers understand that everyone in their team will have different points of motivation, different triggers that will drive their discretionary effort. “The best managers will know what the personal motivators are for each person in their team, and will then align their skill development, engagement, performance management and reward accordingly,” he says. Rebecca Wallace, MD of Launch Recruitment, points to research by Drive author Dan Pink. Pink focuses on three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. “The study of great modern organisations reveals management provide vision and direction and allow the individual to work autonomously, learn and grow and be part of a larger effort. Before designing an engagement and retention plan, management would do well to HCAMAG.COM 25


engaging solid performers A plan of attack



No one likes being branded and placed in a category, but is it possible to define an ‘average worker’? Lenore Lambert notes that it might be worthwhile separating these people out from those who do a good job but not a stellar job. Yet even those doing a good job are not homogeneous. “Assuming the constant among them is ‘solid performance’, they vary on two important characteristics: potential and appetite for growth,” says Lambert. Consider the matrix below.

Appetite for growth Potential in current career path
















Appetite for growth Lambert notes: “The A’s still have headroom in terms of their capacity to contribute, and they’ve also got the desire to grow. So these people need to be given a development path that helps them bridge that gap. This will keep them motivated. If they are ignored and left to just keep on plodding, at some point they’ll find another employer who can see their potential and help them reach it.





“The B’s are probably already performing at or near their best, given their potential; however, they still want to keep learning and maybe



progressing in their careers. These people will need a combination of honesty about their prospects in the current career path, as well as some on-the-job challenges to keep their appetite for growth satisfied. Where their career aspirations outstrip their potential, they will either need to change careers or find an employer whose definition of good performance is more lenient. “The C’s are often the ‘who moved my cheese?’ folk. They like predictability and are happy with their station in life. As long as you’re C providing them with this and they’re feeling valued for it, that’s often all you need to do. However, it’s still important to be in touch with them as individuals to make sure you’re ticking the boxes they need ticked to keep motoring along happily. “Your D’s are the most sensitive cases to deal with. They often need some help aligning perception with reality in terms of their D abilities and their aspirations. These conversations are often difficult but they can be life-changing. It’s a real gift to have someone sit down with you and, coming from a place of care and good intention, to be honest about where your strengths are and the gap between this and what your career path demands. Often these people have chosen the wrong careers. The exception to this is where they are happy to satisfy their appetite for growth outside of work. In this case, if they are performing solidly, then, like the C’s, make sure you know what boxes need ticking to keep them going, and they’ll probably be happy.”

consider the three elements that drive us as individuals,” Wallace suggests. She adds that the list of motivations is broad: status, flexibility, recognition, financial reward, variety, social service, challenge, security, personal growth, potential for management, creativity and aesthetics, harmonious team environment, competitive environment, opportunity for adventure, opportunity to be an expert, etc.


Hay Group research suggests that almost as important as engagement is enablement. Engagement, of course, is all about commitment and motivation and inclination to do and deliver more; it is the ‘want-to’ in organisations; whereas enablement is the ‘can-do’. Enablement is concerned with whether employees are aligned with roles in such a way that their roles allow them to do what they do best and leverage the full range of capabilities, skills or experience they bring, and also whether the work environment is supportive and conducive to high levels of performance, rather than a barrier to performance. This means, at one end, ensuring employees have what they need – the tools, equipment, resources, supplies, information,

collaborative and supportive co-workers – but also that the organisation isn’t interfering with performance through talks that are not value-adding, or imposing procedural restrictions or anything that can get in the way of a motivated employee being useful. Knowing the interconnection between engagement and enablement and their impact on motivation can be beneficial. Royal suggests considering the typical ‘average’ worker. They are probably happy with what they’re currently doing and generally are not pressing for more. And when it comes to engaging those individuals, “nothing succeeds like success”, Royal says. By that Royal means it’s important to create conditions in which employees who fit that profile can go to work, put in a good effort, achieve results, and leave at the end of the day feeling they accomplished something – at the very least that they were able to go about their work efficiently and effectively. “It tends to be a recipe for keeping them motivated and engaged,” says Royal. “On the other hand, where organisations seem to be introducing obstacles that make it difficult for people to get things done, they will likely see motivation erode over time.”

DID YOU KNOW? According to Aon Hewitt’s 2013 research, 36% of a Best Employer’s population is highly engaged, compared to 16% in other organisations. The reverse trend is also true: Best Employers have just 7% of their workforce actively disengaged, whereas other organisations have 20% actively disengaged.



engaging solid performers Five ‘must have’ conversations At any given time you will have employees who are either more or less engaged due to personal circumstances, projects that they may be working on, disagreements with managers or co-workers, or any number of other factors. But these situations come and go. In order to maintain a consistently high level of engagement across the board, Kim Seeling Smith recommends monthly conversations on five topics, including: FEEDBACK: Giving them the chance to have their say, as well as using it as an opportunity to give praise where praise is due. Accountability: Check in on their KPIs. How are they going? Are they going to meet their deadlines? If not, why not? Do they need more training and resources? More of your time as managers? Currencies of choice: Those intrinsic motivators that truly inspire people to do their best work. Career development: Rated the number one engagement factor by Aon Hewitt for several years running. It’s not just about vertical career advancement but about the opportunity to learn, grow and develop. Strengths: Are your staff able to recognise and play to their strengths? How do they manage or mitigate their weaknesses?


Of course, many solid contributors have mastered their professions and are quite happy being technical specialists. This does not mean they are disengaged. “Mastery and engagement are separate aspects,” Wagner confirms. “Certainly being an expert in one’s field and having a job that matches one’s abilities are an important part of engagement.” This is confirmed by BI Worldwide statistics, which indicate that two thirds of Australians find a strong fit between their jobs and their natural abilities. They say they are working harder than those without such a strong fit. Yet for reasons apparently separate from mastery of the job, about one in five of those whose jobs fit them well wish they were working somewhere else. Wagner notes that if the job becomes monotonous and boring, if a person’s manager takes little interest, and if the company doesn’t seem to care whether the employee achieves more in their career, that person – no matter how adept – will not be engaged. Professionals can also be a challenging group to engage due to their multiple loyalties. That is, they see themselves as scientists or researchers or doctors or IT professionals or programmers, and they have a commitment to the discipline or the profession, along with hopefully a commitment to the organisation, but sometimes there is a push-and-pull there. “If the organisation is a good platform for advancing professionally, commitment is high; if not, the profession is a stronger motivator than the organisation,” says Royal.




Promotions and pay increases are the traditional means of retention, but what happens when these can’t be offered? Hickey says expectation setting is extremely important, and that’s another critical conversation that managers need to have with team members. Managers also shouldn’t be making assumptions about what motivates people. It may well be that it’s not so much the vertical promotion that’s important to someone but rather the development of new skills – and that can be facilitated by a range of different tactics, over and above a promotion. “All staff want to learn, grow and develop,” says Kim Seeling Smith, founder and CEO of Ignite Global. “Not all want to climb the proverbial corporate ladder. Or if they do, they may not want to right away. By brainstorming ideas with the staff member on how they can continue to develop, in lieu of a vertical promotion, and how they can continue to feel well paid, in lieu of a pay rise, you’d be surprised at the very simple

solutions that can solve what you might otherwise think of as a very complex problem.” BI Worldwide research shows that aspects such as meaningful work, leadership transparency, being a cool place to work, work-life balance, chances to lead (even without formal promotion), recognition, and a sense of accomplishment – especially when combined – can be powerful motivators for a person to stay and work intensely. In fact, among Australians, money is a relatively minor motivator on a day-to-day basis compared with other aspects of work, and it remains so right up to the point when another company offers a juicy raise. BI Worldwide gathers reactions to a range of statements in its research, one of which is, ‘I believe I can accomplish more at my current company than I could somewhere else’. The answer to that statement is a strong predictor of whether an employee plans to stay or go. “Executives need to ask themselves why their people would agree or disagree with that statement,” suggests Wagner. “If they can’t create increasingly compelling answers to agree, they should not expect to hold on to their people.”

Nothing is more important, more foundational, than a great manager who individualises the company’s approach on behalf of that employee – RODD WAGNER



case study

More than

words on a page Induction and onboarding is a critical time to engage new recruits, yet handing someone a cumbersome employee manual or referring them to a staid intranet page will no longer get cut-through. Here’s one company that has exploded traditional norms



Does your employee handbook quote rocker Frank Zappa? Perhaps it includes Hulk comic strips and provides a handy definition of what a geek is? Such is the case with IT firm Ecetera, which recently launched The Ecetera Employee Handbook. Written with tongue firmly in cheek, the 25-page document sums up work at the IT start-up, which now employs 100-plus people in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. While there’s an undeniable sense of fun at play, there are some serious underlying messages as well. Human Capital talks to the chief ‘HR overlord’, Olivier Lambel, Ecetera’s head of talent exploration, about the project.

Human Capital: Your employee handbook is a nice way to reshape traditionally dry induction/orientation type documents that new employees might be given on arrival at a new company. What sparked it? Olivier Lambel: Because we are unique and wanted to break away from the traditional, boring and non-personable way that most handbooks are written. We wanted to write a story that would communicate our culture, and share our way of thinking that is probably somewhat different from most organisations. HC: What was the underlying message you wanted to convey in the document? OL: That we are different; we are a flat-planet ecosystem where you are free to do the work you want – where you have no boss, apart from our customers and yourself. We wanted to strongly communicate that the secret of our success lies in our belief that the company of tomorrow does not necessarily need hierarchy. HC: There’s a sense of fun at play here. Do you think employers underestimate how important fun can be at work? OL: It’s a geeky sense of fun, and we rely on it in our day-to-day job. We actually kind of excel in it. Probably employers forget that we spend the majority of our time at work, and it is probably impossible, and sad, to expect people to be highly serious all the time. A bit of humour and not taking ourselves too seriously help us to deal with pressure, demanding deadlines and daily stuff. Fun needs to be part of the essence of an organisation’s culture. It’s the core of our daily enjoyment and fulfilment. HC: There are nonetheless some serious underlying issues here, like shared responsibility, autonomy, and turning traditional management models upside down. What impact has putting these down ‘on paper’ had on staff? Does it turn it into something more real? OL: It definitely sets the tone. And it’s an ongoing challenge and a reminder of the world we live in. It’s not easy to break away from traditional cultural norms, but it’s here that we are trying to make a difference. Challenging the status quo. Our ecosystem gives everyone the opportunity to do awesome work with cutting-edge technologies. Our difference starts with our business – rare, niche, super-specialised, like our souls. This is fun – we want our future souls to understand that we are not interested in bureaucratic processes or egocentric command and control systems. You are the one accountable for your own success; we are here to support you and provide you with the necessary platforms to get where you want to be. We ask you to have a collective responsibility and be fit for collaborative initiatives. We are certainly not perfect and

Employers forget that we spend the majority of our time at work, and it is probably impossible, and sad, to expect people to be highly serious all the time – OLIVIER LAMBEL are still working on this every day, but we definitely have this sense of freedom and we know it works. Our selection process is essential and quite robust. It is at that time we will identify future Eceterians. They will show the same enthusiasm as we have, promote their independence and self-sufficiency, and choose a planet full of grown-ups. It’s not fit for everyone and we accept that. HC: Can you outline what else you do to engage new staff members? OL: The engagement starts very early in the process, at the selection phase. We recently got rid of our probation period. We therefore spend quite a bit of time interviewing you, testing you (Tech & DNA Behaviour), checking you and explaining to you how we are; that once you are part of us we do not want you to feel that you will be tested, judged, and with your head on the chopping block. We have some handy tools to help you to integrate immediately. As soon as a new Eceterian comes on board, a buddy will contact him to share his sandwiches (not only), and I will be involved in helping them to design their 90 Day Integration Plan. HC: Career opportunities and learning opportunities constantly rank highly on the list of things that help to engage employees. Can you outline what your company does in this space? OL: In line with our ideals, our flat planet, our desire for autonomy, mastery and purpose, we provide clear support for getting better at what you do and developing your capabilities. Ultimately, you are the one who decides where you want to head. HC: Tell me how your recruitment process fits in with the overriding culture and philosophy of the company – obviously you take care to hire people with the right attitude and personality? OL: Ideally we like to identify talent who share the same



case study Workplace happiness Successful employees are happy employees, and vice versa. When workers are happy at the workplace, they want to work harder and smarter. They are also more creative and productive, less likely to leave the company, less absent, and have fewer conflicts at work, which ultimately means more money and better product. That’s according to Diane Lang, a psychotherapist, author and speaker, who offers 15 ways to make employees happy.

1 Appreciate your employees by recognising their small accomplishments with praise and appreciation. 2 Don’t wait for reviews/evaluation to praise your workers. 3 Show employees you care by paying attention to their small accomplishments. 4 Show your appreciation for hard work by giving compliments.

unique mindset and skill set very early in the process, and this might be one year before physically coming on board. We then have the time to fully engage with them to become one of our evangelists. So, pipelining and early conversations are essential to our talent management strategy. HC: Why do you think IT/tech companies tend to be more forward-thinking in their employee offerings than other companies, eg Google is constantly rated as a Best Employer, and other smaller tech companies make those lists repeatedly? OL: It is probably true with IT/tech start-ups. We forget that most of them started with one or two founders who had a unique, awesome idea. They surrounded themselves with mates to help them shape, finance and develop organically their uniqueness. Traditional structure was not the priority, but more forward-thinking, open and collective ways of working were, where collaboration, shared values and accountability were embraced, which then led to innovation. This is about having enough space and time to think and to make mistakes. 32


5 You can never say thank you too much; it says, ‘I appreciate your hard work!’ 6 Know your co-workers by name. 7 Be involved – say hello, ask them about their weekends, family, etc. 8 Socialisation is a key factor for happiness, so the more fun and social place the happier employees are. 9 Don’t micromanage your

employees! It lowers motivation, the mental health of the employee, and the overall morale of the department. 10 Even more important than money/getting a raise at the workplace is free time. Offer motivation to your employees by getting a paid day off, or offer a more flexible schedule. So instead of being set on the typical 9–5 hours, allow them to choose their schedule so maybe one day they come in 9–5 but the next day they need to pick

up their kids early so they work 8–4. Flexibility allows your employees to have an outside life and take care of family; workers are much happier if they feel their employer is family friendly and cares about their employees. 11 When a worker’s basic needs are met and they are healthy, they are happier. Support your workers’ happiness by setting up an outside area to eat and walk so they can get their vitamin D and dose of fresh air/nature. Can you offer a workout centre or have a deal with a gym where employees can get a discount? It’s also important to arrange company activities that include socialisation and exercise: walk or run for charity, outside picnics and barbecues with outside activities like volleyball or frisbee. Offer lifestyle coaching or workshops for employees on wellbeing. 12 A healthy environment that includes good lighting, plenty of natural sunlight, a water cooler for plenty of fresh water, plants, etc. 13 Allow your workers to take small breaks where they can get up, stretch, and take a break from the computer so they can refresh, which will help improve their creativity and productivity. 14 Encourage holidays – workers come back happier, refreshed and motivated. Everyone needs a break. 15 Have weekly meetings going over the good news for the week. Most meetings go over what’s missing or bad events that happen. Switch it around to a ‘sharing the good’ meeting. “Remember moods and emotions are contagious, so be the happy boss! You’re the role model and mentor. How you act is contagious. Encourage the simple things like hello, smiles, and lunch breaks,” Lang says.



Ari Kopoulos is the National Sales & Marketing Manager at EmployeeConnect. For further information, visit

The neuroscience of engagement In Part 1 of a two-part series, Ari Kopoulos looks at how neuroscience can be used to gain greater insight into employee engagement Our understanding of the brain is rapidly expanding, thanks to new and novel imaging tools looking at how it functions in different situations. So it’s no surprise to find there is a neuroscientific perspective on everything from marketing to consciousness. Even the legal fraternity is exploring its contribution as a marker for predicting crime. Although we need to exercise care in taking an extreme, reductionist view of the cause and effect, neuroscience can provide insights into the neurological drivers of behaviour in the workplace. In fact, HR professionals and HR technology vendors can learn a lot from neuroscience about how to design and implement strategies for leadership, culture and engagement. Engagement is defined as the heightened emotional connection an employee feels that influences a greater discretionary work effort. It covers values, cooperation and motivation, and results in a behaviour typically seen as going beyond what is required. Neuroscience helps us understand engagement by offering insights and measures that can improve employee engagement across the systems and processes; specifically, by identifying the neural mechanisms that enhance and increase engagement, and the neural markers that might be used to more accurately measure engagement.


The neural basis of engagement is closely linked to the brain’s threat and reward function. When fully engaged, there is an activation of reward and self-regulation circuitry. Dopamine is released directly into the prefrontal cortex and associated regions. This positively affects a wide range of cognitive and emotional functions by

increasing brain resources and functional connectivity. When this system is activated, we receive feedback that the activity is good, rewarding, and enjoyable. By further pursuing these activities, the mechanisms reinforce the pleasure of activity by releasing even more dopamine. In this reward state, we experience increased cognitive resources, a wider field of perceptual view, and solve complex problems with insight and creativity and more actionable ideas.

The neural basis of engagement is closely linked to the brain’s threat and reward function SMELLS LIKE FEAR

On the other hand, disengagement activates the threat circuitry. It includes anything that is an ‘avoid’ response, including fear, sadness, anxiety, lack of safety and depression. In this threat state, serotonin is released into neural pathways that activate the hypothalamus, triggering the fight or flight response. Activation of threat circuitry has a profound effect on engagement and directs large amounts of brain resources to peripheral regions, and decreases the efficiency of attention that reduces working memory, narrows field of view and offers a generally pessimistic attitude.


Neurochemical pathways in our networks are critical in reinforcing how we feel and consequently respond to the situations we are exposed to every day. So the question is, what are the factors that create high levels of rewards or threats in an environment or system? A well-documented model is the SCARF framework proposed by Dr David Rock. This model identifies five domains of threat or reward and is a useful framework for understanding and influencing our interactions with others. It is based on the principle that we minimise threat, avoid stimulus, and maximise rewards, approach stimulus. These five domains are status, our relative importance to others; certainty, our ability to predict the future; autonomy, having choices and the degree of control we have over events; relatedness, the sense of trust and connection with others; and fairness, the perception of fair and equitable transactions between people. When all five domains are strongly contributing towards reward, you experience a high level of engagement with an element of resilience to stress. This is often seen in inspirational leaders and visionaries who are also successful at engaging others. Conversely, in compromised environments, you experience disengagement. Brain imaging and neurochemical analysis suggests that these negative neural responses exert similar responses to being threatened, hungry, sleep deprived and in physical pain.

In Part 2, we look at flow and how technology vendors utilise gaming strategies and tactics to enhance engagement. HCAMAG.COM 33


social recognition

Democratising RECOGNITION

While reward & recognition programs are commonly bundled together, employers are finding it is recognition that is benefiting most from the advent of social media



Any public transport commuter knows the scene: a sea of faces lit only by the glow of their smartphones, heads down as they intently read the latest updates from their social media networks. It’s no surprise, given the all-pervasive nature of social media today, that employers have taken note. Increasingly there is an openness to introducing elements of social media into business technology platforms. According to experts, the next area to take off is likely to be social recognition.


Peer-to-peer recognition has long been viewed as a successful way to bolster the involvement, engagement and enthusiasm of a workforce. It can have a positive impact not only on the person being recognised but also on the wider team, especially if the praise is done in public. This is a natural fit with social media, which by its very nature thrives when communities are built, comments flow, and ‘likes’ come from all corners of a network. “Recognition has the most potential for implementation of social media,” says Jairus Ashworth, partner, reward, at Aon Hewitt. “Making it solely a manager responsibility has proven to be pretty ineffective in most companies over the years, the classic example being the ‘Employee of the Month’ boards. There’s nothing more depressing that seeing one up on the wall that hasn’t been updated or used in months. That’s what happens when it just becomes another thing for managers to do – an administrative process. So democratising it is an excellent solution, and social media can play a role in doing that.” For Ashworth, the key is to extract the best use from what social media can provide. Recognition programs can integrate principles of social media to make the experience of recognising and being recognised more immediate, interactive and fun. Live and interactive recognition feeds, smartphone applications and digital recognition walls – the potential is limitless. Ashworth cites Telstra’s recently implemented ‘Zing’ program, which provides users with a live stream, similar to a news feed, showing who’s recognising whom, and

Because the manager is empowered to give a reward without having to seek lengthy approval, it has that immediacy – you don’t need to wait till the end of the week or month – YOLANDE FOORD why. “It’s about having good content,’’ he says. “If it’s just generic stuff like ‘John recognised Ellen’, that’s boring. No one will check that on the way home. But if you tell a story and have some fun with it, it’s much more compelling for people.” Indeed, Ashworth believes the single most important aspect of effective recognition is the behind-the-scenes story. Why was the person recognised? How did they go above and beyond? There’s no better way to create or reinforce corporate culture than through legends and stories. Ashworth cites an example from his own early career: “We did salary surveys, and back then you had them bound, printed, taken to the post office and sent to the client. It was a rainy Friday afternoon and we had to get this survey out to clients by Monday. This young employee stepped in a pothole crossing the Pacific Highway and broke his ankle. But he kept going to the post office to get the surveys out – and then he went to the hospital. That’s the sort of story that should be told.” Social media – especially when it’s constructed around a sound recognition program – is a platform to share those stories, so they become part of the culture and reinforce the organisational values. HCAMAG.COM 35


social recognition The communication purpose of social recognition should also be acknowledged. Used smartly, social media can keep users engaged in a program and informed of latest developments. “Most organisations launch a program with a big bang; they do roadshows and flyers and then it disappears. The nature of social media is it sucks you in so you come back, the same way people go in daily to check Facebook or LinkedIn,” Ashworth says. And any technology-based approach to recognition – not just those involving social media – means trends can be spotted and metrics extracted easily. “HR or whoever is monitoring the system can see which departments or managers aren’t using the system. At the end of the quarter you can say, ‘There are 800 managers in the company. Let’s target the 20 who barely used the system’. It may be about training or coaching,” says Ashworth.


Are there any downsides to this democratised approach to recognition? How difficult is it, for example, to put a structure around the sometimes rambling words of praise a co-worker may have for a colleague? How is it ‘ranked’? Ashworth says a common first step for organisations – and one they have embraced well – is aligning recognition with organisational values, for example teamwork or collaboration. “If you’re nominating a peer, often you have to align it to one of those categories, so it links to things the company values and is trying to reinforce.” But still the problem persists: how does one pass judgment on whether someone deserves a pat on the back and a gift voucher, or whether they are worthy of something grander like an overseas holiday? Ashworth concedes some sort of qualification structure is still needed, but social media and the number of ‘likes’ or uploads can be used as a way to democratise the qualification; for example, in order to qualify for the grand prize, the team member needs to have at least 50 likes, and then senior management will assess based on which ‘act’ or ‘behaviour’ they value the most. “We can’t absolve managers of leading by example,” Ashworth says. “Just because it’s been democratised, I think managers still have a responsibility to be big users of a program, as well as to drive and encourage people to use it. The technology does help in some ways, but it doesn’t absolve the organisation. Managers must still have the skills to recognise people and the tools to do so. It’s not a silver bullet in that sense.” 36



So how might a social recognition program operate in practice? Just over 10 months ago Telstra launched Zing, an electronic platform to facilitate a peer-to-peer recognition program. The program is based on Telstra’s three cultural pillars: a winning culture, customer service, and innovate and collaborate. “It’s simple,” says Yolande Foord, Telstra’s executive director, remuneration & benefits, HR. “Anybody in the company can nominate or Zing someone for displaying the behaviours that support those cultural pillars. They can tell the story behind the recognition, outlining what the person has done well. Once a Zing is sent it goes in an email to their manager, and the manager then has the authority to reward 50 points, which equates to $50, which is sent to an account for the individual. The employee can build up their Zings and then redeem them through our catalogue, similar to the reward points you would get through credit cards.” Each manager has a budget to work with, but Foord is confident of achieving the target ratio, which is four to five Zings for a reward. “Not that everyone needs to get five Zings before they get a reward – that’s completely discretionary for the manager – but we wanted to be more focused on recognition than reward. That’s the underlying premise of the program,” she says. How does it utilise social media elements? Everyone has a webpage, which is similar to other social media pages. A person’s page has a feed constantly being updated with who’s Zinging whom, and why. People can comment on it, and they can ‘like’ it.

Sustainable recognition Jairus Ashworth provides his top tips: yy Make it culturally and strategically aligned, so employees are contributing to or continuing to drive towards what’s important to the company. It should be values or behaviours that are recognised. yy It should be self-perpetuating – it must have ongoing momentum and not just be flavour of the month; it’s how we work here. Technology helps with that, but it’s not a requirement. yy Ensure it’s backed up with meaningful rewards. There should be the ‘pat on the back’ stuff, which is really important, but the best ones in my view also have some good prizes to shoot for as well, and hopefully they will forever equate their behaviour or action with the positive experience of the reward. yy Make it timely. Most programs are slow, possibly done at a once-a-year awards night or via an annual bonus. The time between doing something and getting not just recognition but a tangible reward for it is almost disconnected. Recognition has the beautiful ability to be quick and timely.

The nature of social media is it sucks you in so you come back, the same way people go in daily to check Facebook or LinkedIn – JAIRUS ASHWORTH The Zing platform is also used to inform employees of other recognition & reward programs on offer, which, given Telstra’s size, means communicating what other business units may have in place. “Zing feeds into that. It’s open to everybody; it’s across the company and everyone can comment and react to those recognitions so it becomes a lot more public,” Foord says. Foord notes there are several essential criteria required for a recognition program to be effective, and the social aspects of Zing have met these. For one thing, recognition must be immediate. “Because the manager is empowered to give a reward without having to seek lengthy approval, it has that immediacy – you don’t need to wait till the end of the week or month. If you see something you can go back to your desk and do it straight away,” she says. The second element is the public sharing of the recognition. “You’re thanking and recognising someone for doing well, but your team knows, your manager knows, the wider workforce knows, so there’s an immediate public recognition,” Foord says. And finally, Zing allows anyone to recognise anyone, meaning managers and even the CEO are not left out (a common oversight of recognition programs). “People recognise not just managers but people in other business units, which means it’s supporting collaboration and working across business units,” Foord says.


Foord says there was a business requirement behind the decision to take up the technology. “We had three or four different platforms in different business units with different providers which cost us quite a bit of money, and it didn’t cover the whole workforce,” she says. Telstra chose Grass Roots as the system developer, mainly due to their successful track record of utilising elements of social media in recognition programs. Was there concern about removing the hard and fast

‘structure’ around recognition (and reward)? Foord says there was initially, but now managers are clear on what’s worthy of reward, and know how to use their budget. They get an appropriate budget based on the number of employees who report in to them, and every reward has the same value, “so a manager doesn’t have to make an evaluation about how much shall I give this person – dividing up the pot”. And if a manager doesn’t give a reward, that’s fine too – it’s not necessary to reward each time, but the recognition is there regardless. “It was a big thing for us to do – this whole no approval and letting people decide how they recognise others. Plus the whole concept that it’s public and what happens if employees say inappropriate things. A lot of companies go into it worrying about those types of things, but what we found is that the trust has been wonderful. No one has made inappropriate comments or abused the system in any way,” Foord says. However, she concedes there is still some way to go. Not everyone in the company has used the platform yet. Currently around 70% of people have Zinged. The metrics to monitor usage include how many people have used Zing, how many people have been Zinged, and how many people have received an award. “It’s been received very well. It’s become part of the vernacular. We talk about ‘Zinging’ somebody and who’s been ‘Zinged’,” Foord says. And, as Ashworth suggested, the program is proving to be a rich source of data for Telstra. “It’s electronic, so we can monitor it and draw some analysis from it,” says Foord. “We’ve discovered, for example, that there are three categories of managers. There are those who store up their rewards till the end of the week or month and then go in and reward everybody. There are ones who do it immediately; there are ones who do it every third time. There are people who use it more frequently than others. Some people will send five Zings a day, but it hasn’t been to the extent that we can say this person abuses it. There’s an interesting dispersion of the reward behaviour.” Foord and her team are now focused on keeping the momentum going, fine-tuning the program, and looking at ways to improve advocacy. Systems improvements will hopefully see an app launched for the platform later this year, which will enable Telstra’s extensive mobile workforce to use it, even when not sitting at a computer. “Any new program which you launch needs ongoing commitment and support,” says Foord. “I was worried that nine months in we’ve been really successful but if we take our eye off the ball it will drop back. So we’re ensuring we keep it on the radar, keep improving it and ensuring it’s embedded and part of the way we do things.” HCAMAG.COM 37


reward & recognition

Customer feedback – the new fuel for your R&R program Engaged employees can certainly bolster customer experiences, but few employers recognise that the opposite is also true. Dave Jackson outlines how the voice of the customer can sit alongside the voice of peers and managers in an organisation’s employee recognition framework

Dave Jackson is executive director, Solterbeck. For more information, visit or phone (03) 9949 5900



Organisations pursue many concurrent goals, customer satisfaction and employee engagement being two of the most common and crucial. Yet strategies that integrate these two pursuits are seldom considered or orchestrated. While it is well established that engaged employees drive customer satisfaction, recent work by Solterbeck reveals that the causation works both ways. Customer satisfaction can significantly drive employee engagement – it can be the fuel to revitalise your reward and recognition program. Companies can capitalise on this insight by integrating the voice of the customer alongside the voice of peers and managers into an organisation’s employee recognition framework. It may amaze you to discover how much your employees are inspired and invigorated by making a difference to the day, life or experience of someone else. Research is showing that we are as motivated by the impact of our work on others as we are about direct benefits (pay, reward, promotion). This is proving true in diverse workplaces, from fast-food outlets and hospitality venues, to car manufacturers and medical companies. The voice of the happy customer is understandably highly effective where a life has been saved or quality of life improved. Volvo understands this and has accident survivors speak directly to their employees to relay their belief that Volvo’s engineering saved their lives. One of our medical clients illustrates personal customer stories via internal communication DVDs to prove the impact of their employees’ work. All customer stories need not be life changing to positively impact employee behaviour and results. Employees consistently demonstrate significantly higher motivation following direct reports of outstanding service in a whole range of customer service scenarios. Consider the impact on the business goals of a major insurer which was determined to ensure customers experienced increased ‘ease of enquiry’. With comprehensive support, training and direction in

place, the ‘ease of enquiry’ customer results reported back to employees grew from 38% to 80%. The direct impact on the bottom line of the business is demonstrated by a leap in customer loyalty to the organisation from 38% to 60%, and growing. A large client of ours was for many years primarily in acquisition mode and needed to make a necessary business shift towards customer retention. Rewarding their sales force specifically for customer satisfaction results proved critical to shaping new behaviours and new KPIs. Their R&R program has been the vehicle through which they have cemented these behaviours and prioritised a different return on investment. Another client in the hospitality sector has strategically moved from the traditional area of ‘upselling’ to establishing client satisfaction as the fundamental pillar for revenue growth. The customer’s voice is now ‘live’ for their staff on a daily basis, with sophisticated online technology sharing the individual experiences. Phil Prosser is CEO of Feedback ASAP, an organisation that has a proud reputation of facilitating the “world’s most actionable customer feedback”. Phil’s earlier expertise was fuelled by founding GAPbuster Worldwide, one of the world’s largest mystery shopping organisations. Phil advocates that integrating customer feedback with internal recognition means that you constantly lift the customer experience through the sharing of the thrill of providing great service. “Integrating customer feedback with internal recognition means that you magnify the strength of customer feedback,” he says. Phil warns that without an appropriate recognition system, customer service improvement efforts can stall. The feedback falls on ‘deaf ears’ and the client becomes a distant concept. “Integrating customer feedback closes that personal loop and ensures that employees are recognised for anything they do to support customer service endeavours,” Phil says. “Connecting the customer with the individual becomes a new power in inspiring improvement.”


employee motivators

OUTSIDE IN, OR INSIDE OUT? How is it best to develop the motivations and capabilities of employees? Mark Oliver suggests embracing the Universal Hierarchy of Motivation

Motivation combined with capability tends to lead to effective behaviours, and behaviour underpins performance. To get the right answer to the question above, it helps to ask the right question: how do we get our employees to perform better? If someone has the capability but not the motivation to perform, the necessary behaviour is very unlikely to arise and they will not perform; the same applies if someone has the motivation but not the capability. You need both motivation and capability for performance. The second question is: which is more important with regard to performance, motivation or capability? At first it would seem that capability is more important, and often great emphasis is placed on training in the workplace to enhance that. Appropriate training is important, and, after all, motivation is not trainable, so one might wonder what is the use in focusing on human motivation? But look more deeply and you realise that motivation is much more important than capability in the wider context of both professional and personal life. In short, this is because: 1. Motivation determines what you do; in many ways it determines the path you take at work (and in life). 2. If you do not have the motivation, your capability becomes largely irrelevant. Not surprisingly, motivation precedes capability and often leads to capability. Given all this, the third question becomes very important: 40


what can we do to increase motivation? To answer this you can split the factors affecting motivation into two types: internal and external to the individual. Internal factors. Internal factors include a personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s personality (values and beliefs etc). It is important to look at this is when selecting individuals. It is also wise to use good psychometric instruments to increase the accuracy of your decisions, such as the Universal Hierarchy of Motivation (UHM) Professional Report (see, especially as they are so cost-effective. External factors. A key external factor is the systems and structure of an organisation. But it is often difficult to predict how this affects motivation. Consider the real-life example of a daycare centre that encounters tardy parents at closing time each day. This situation can lead to anxious children and frustrated carers. A solution put in place by 10 daycare centres in Haifa, Israel, was to fine parents $3 if they were more than 10 minutes late. Rather surprisingly, this solution had the opposite effect, and the number of late parents more than doubled after the fine was introduced. It turned out that for those parents motivated to be on time by the guilt of being late, the payment of a small fine assuaged these feelings and they were less motivated to be punctual. A good model on human motivation helps us better predict better the actual outcomes. The UHM provides

What can we do to increase motivation? To answer this, you can split the factors affecting motivation into two types: internal and external to the individual

the basis for a complete understanding of human motivation so that you can accurately predict what behaviours will result from system or structural changes. For instance, many people still believe that bonuses make employees work harder and more effectively. Alfie Kohn, a teacher-turned-writer, found that the more you reward a person with grades or incentives, the lower the person’s productivity. In this context, individuals become less intrinsically motivated. Bonuses (extrinsic motivators)

UHM level

Motivational drive

Intrinsic motivator

Extrinsic behaviour




Grace (courteous goodwill)



Understanding (listening)

Feedback (not criticism)











Praise (genuine)










actually reduce people’s performance on complex tasks because they limit individuals’ capacity to fulfil the task by changing their focus to how to get the best bonus. American psychologist Edward Deci observed that tangible rewards inevitably reduce intrinsic motivation. “There is no question,” he stated, “that in virtually all circumstances in which people are doing things in order to get rewards, external tangible rewards undermine intrinsic motivation”.i (There is one exception. In jobs where there is little intrinsic motivation, with simple, repetitive manual tasks, rewards tend to increase output or productivity.) International studies have found that employees who were fully engaged in their work were almost 50% more productive in terms of revenue generation and 300% better at delivering value than their disengaged (disaffected) colleagues. The UHM levels in the table below are correlated with the relevant intrinsic motivator and extrinsic behaviour. ‘Extrinsic behaviours’ correspond to increasing levels of positive engagement, starting with the lowest: satisfaction at work. The UHM theory explains why paid bonuses at work are poor motivators, because they only move employees’ motivation to the level of pleasure, which renders them less able to deal with greater and more complex challenges that are best dealt with at a higher level.


To get the best performance (combination of motivation and capability) from your employees, it is critical that you provide structures and systems (including pay systems) that motivate them at the higher levels. To understand and predict what these are, you need a very good model or framework describing human motivation. Only when you have achieved this is it worth investing time and money in training your employees. If you do it the other way around, not only may your employees not use the new skills acquired in their training but they are more likely to leave the organisation, which means someone else is likely to get all the investment you have made in them! i

About the author Mark Oliver is the managing director and CEO of MarkTwo Consulting. He is also author of ‘The Seven Motivations of Life’, available at, or visit marktwoconsulting. com

See Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 125, pg 627




Women are still facing significant hurdles in their efforts to enter executive roles in Australia. Cameron Edmond outlines how mentoring can potentially help female employees rise to the top



One would hope that by 2013 our society would have come far enough that success in the business world wouldn’t rest on a person’s gender, but the sad news is that there are still a few mountains to climb if men and women are going to meet on equal ground in the corporate world. A recent report by Hay Group demonstrates that a staggeringly low 9% of all executive roles in Australia are held by women, with the number of women climbing to the top of the corporate ladder actually starting to drop. Hay Group’s research indicates that organisations with more female executives have access to broader talent pools and also experience greater innovation and better performance – benefits that many organisations are missing out on. The solution? Signs are pointing to mentoring. Hay Group found that 44% of women in high positions accredited mentors as a massive advantage in helping them break through the lingering glass ceiling. Similar results were recorded by leadership consultancy DDI in a recent survey. “Sixty-seven per cent of the people we surveyed rated mentorship as an important element of helping them to advance and grow their careers,” says Shannon Lawrence, principal consultant at DDI. In addition, Wendy Montague of Hay Group feels that establishing a mentor–mentee relationship can help retain women. “We have a problem in that you see women leave the workforce when they are at child-bearing age,” she says. Yet the friendship forged through mentoring is something Montague feels can keep employees who are away from the organisation connected, as mentors will be able to keep contact with their mentee during maternity leave or when they are otherwise away from the workplace. “It’s a powerful way to get over the leakage that we have,” she affirms. When bringing more women into mentoring programs, or setting one up from scratch, there are a few areas to consider...


It’s important to be clear on what mentoring is. Wendy McCarthy, founder of McCarthy Mentoring, views

Many women are endlessly advised to be coached by mature male managers, basically to be more like them, but mentoring is a different process – WENDY MCCARTHY mentoring as a holistic process in which the onus is on the mentee to establish where their problems might lie and what the possible solutions might be. “They should be able to lead their own learning, and by that I mean the mentee will be able to say to the mentor, ‘These are the things I think I need to talk about; these are the things I’m not confident about’.” There is, naturally, a huge element of self-awareness involved. “It’s about them finding their answers by having that reflective space. When people get into a situation where they talk and trust the person they’re talking to, they can explore issues that are difficult for them,” McCarthy says. McCarthy uses a swimming analogy: if you want to know what it’s like to be a professional swimmer and to imagine if that’s the path you want to follow, you might go to Susie O’Neill and ask, “What’s the life like there?” – not “What’s the stroke like?” “I think many women are endlessly advised to be coached by mature male managers, basically to be more like them, but mentoring is a different process. They learn to hear and trust their own voice; they learn to reflect,” McCarthy says. HCAMAG.COM 43


mentoring of advantages. “One of the strengths is that people are free to select their own mentor and probably have to seek them out,” she explains. “That may result in stronger matches between the mentor and the mentee.” However, McCarthy believes that formal programs are more effective – it’s disciplined, it’s structured, it’s manageable and monitored. While informal or ‘organic’ programs can still be effective, McCarthy says what typically happens is we mentor people like us, which means there’s lots of talent not identified as the beneficiary of a mentor. “That means if you’re a kid from the wrong end of town who’s made it on technical skills, everyone assumes that’s your natural reward and you She adds that, for many women, moving into an executive role is like doing the commentary on a won’t want to do any more,” McCarthy says. documentary without a script. “Probably no woman in Put simply, Lawrence suggests formal programs their family has done it, so there’s no implicit cultural ultimately result in larger numbers of employees being map around what they should do. I think that if they can mentored than when it is left up to chance, but this isn’t find somebody with whom they can build a confidential the only benefit. “If you are trying to drive specific relationship, they can ask the unaskable questions: how outcomes, such as you want high-performing or will I feel, how will I handle this, what will I do, should high-potential people to be able to face specific I even put my hand up?” challenges,” she says, “I think there needs to be some structure around that.” KEY CONSIDERATIONS When developing a formal mentoring program, the Those charged with developing a mentoring program key area that should be focused on is the training of to bolster female development will need to assess some would-be mentors. Providing training will not only allow fundamental structural questions. you to set the standard of mentoring you expect to see McCarthy believes the threshold decision is whether but will also bolster the confidence of your employees, to run a program with internal mentors or to involve making them more likely to put their hands up when the external mentors. In a perfect world, she suggests, chance to mentor arises. you would do both. “If you have external mentors you DDI’s study shows that while most organisations introduce a formal sense of discipline and respect around are training their women to be mentors, many are the process, and if you have internal mentors you’re more unimpressed with the quality of the training. Planning likely to build a more generous culture internally, a culture out a strategy for how to approach mentoring and guide of mentoring, a culture of respect, and a responsibility to talent through the procedure will likely lead to better help improve the careers of others,” she says. results. “Make sure they’ve had some training or at least An external mentor also has the ability to see things they are aware of what’s expected of them to fulfil that from a different perspective, or to look across companies role,” advises Lawrence. or industries at what’s going on elsewhere, which is What is important to remember is that the sometimes hard to do for internal mentors who have development of a strong formal mentoring program their own workplace stresses and strains to deal with. doesn’t exclude the alternative. DDI argues that situating It can be difficult to put your head above the parapet. mentoring as a key element of your organisation can “For me external mentors are about widening the increase informal mentoring as well. “It fosters a perspective,” says McCarthy. “It’s about looking cross silo, cross industry. For example, a CFO of a bank might struggle to meet the CFO of another bank for a casual coffee chat. But if I structured the relationship correctly McCarthy Mentoring has broken down the key issues discussed between mentor and mentee to I could bring three CFOs together and talk about what the following four: it felt like to be a CFO and the common challenges and so on. That’s a nice, generous sharing that can work.” yy Managing the transition to CEO yy Career development The next question is around informal or formal yy Strategies to deal with workplace issues: managing the programs. Beginning with informal mentoring, not board, navigating office politics, improving negotiating putting a stringent system in place can help uphold the skills, how to raise your profile or reposition yourself yy Combining work and family commitments more casual culture that some organisations strive for. Lawrence argues that informal mentoring has a number

It’s an opportunity to grow your network and understand a bit about what is happening in other parts of the organisation


Common themes



development-oriented culture, where the leaders are thinking of offering their services, and others are more inclined to seek out a mentoring relationship,” says Lawrence.


While adopting a ‘women-to-women’ mentoring policy runs the risk of leading to office-place segregation, there is something to be said for providing women with a mentor who has had similar experiences. A primary attribute of a good mentor is wisdom. More than likely, a woman mentor will have faced similar hurdles and pitfalls as their mentee. “They understand from a very empathetic way that the men can’t,” Montague says, while highlighting that the next generation coming through isn’t quite the same. The change in the make-up of some families has seen men and women share similar challenges, so Montague feels the generation of men currently coming in could be just as helpful. “They’ve just gone through that stage; they’ve just gone through that ‘small-babies phase’, so they could be great mentors,” she says. Gender similarity should be considered part of the overall process of finding a mentor, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only factor, especially given the current climate. “Because of the scarcity of women in senior-level roles, it’s just harder to find a female mentor,” Lawrence explains. McCarthy has long held the view that the most effective mentoring comes from someone who is not in control of the mentee’s pay pack or their promotion. She adds that being a mentor is as much about the road travelled as it is about being a good teacher. A good mentor is, above all, an adviser. Mentors and mentees are forming relationships, and an important aspect of any relationship is trust. The relationships between mentors and their mentees are often quite complex, but Lawrence believes it boils down to the core needs and wants. “What are the developmental needs of the mentee, and who might be best placed to support them with those?” she says. “For example, if a person really just needs more exposure outside of the part of the organisation they’re working in, a mentor who is from a different business line is probably a good thing.”


When it comes down to pairing an employee with a mentor, the problem doesn’t always lie in reluctance to be schooled; the aversion sometimes comes from the potential mentor. Becoming a mentor can be a big ask, and there are a plethora of reasons why mentors may be

Take five... The process of finding someone a mentor may seem daunting, but asking yourself a few of these questions can help make the process smoother: yy Why does this person need mentoring? yy Do they need help making a transition? yy Should they be looking at another part of the organisation? yy Are they having difficulties with work-life balance? yy Would they benefit from someone similar, or a bit different?

unhappy to take someone on. The biggest consideration that women who are asked to mentor have is the amount of time it may take up in their lives, primarily citing family commitments. Other areas of concern can include office politics and competition, expertise in the mentee’s area, as well as the mentee’s position. However, the desire to help their fellow employees often outweighs any concerns mentors may have, with DDI reporting that 71% of women state they will always accept an invitation to mentor when asked. Montague sees a vast amount of incentive for employees to take on a mentoring role. A diligent and dedicated employee might see being asked to mentor as an indication of their own skills. “Giving them the opportunity to share some of that expertise can be quite complimentary,” she says. The most prevalent and useful incentive for a mentor is the prospect of expanding their professional reach. Montague explains that mentors will often, through their mentee, be given access to levels of the organisation they may have lost contact with. “It’s an opportunity to grow your network and to understand a bit about what is happening in other parts of the organisation,” she says.


Is mentoring the silver bullet required to solve the problem of gender inequality at Australian executive level? Of course not, but it’s a start. “I think you have to take the long view on this, and the long view is women are now better educated in their peer group. Nearly 59% of university graduates are now female, and they’re not being delivered equal pay, and make up only 12% of positions in the top 200 boards and hold 8% of CEO positions in the top 200 companies. So, clearly, there are cultural obstacles at play,” says McCarthy. “Coaching can’t do much to change that, but mentoring can. Mentoring can give women the strength to challenge some of those notions and to understand it’s not about them as individuals; it’s about systems and culture.”




Mind over body

HC talks to Belinda Huckle, managing director, secondnature, about the essential traits coaches and mentors must have, and why there are benefits to retraining the mind – and the body

Human Capital: When it comes to coaching and mentoring, two separate but interlinked skill sets, how essential is the ability to provide meaningful feedback? Belinda Huckle: Coaches and mentors need to be extremely skilled at providing incisive, constructive and very practical feedback. The saying goes, ‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions’. The critical component of this is understanding that different people like to receive feedback in different ways. Some like it blunt and to the point; others like to take time and reflect and absorb; others like lots of detail, while others prefer to join the dots up for themselves. HC: What else would you consider as essential skills? BH: Coaches and mentors also need to be exemplary listeners and to be able to vary their listening modality from active to empathetic, depending on situations. This enables them to build trust, which is crucial to developing effective relationships, but it’s also the 46


listening that allows them to shape their approach to meet the needs of whoever they’re working with. HC: You have a particular passion for helping senior executives transform their presence, authority, impact and gravitas as presenters and communicators. Do you see a connection between your passion and improving the gender bias we currently see at executive level? BH: Much of our work at secondnature does involve coaching women to become more impactful and influential communicators and presenters. For us it’s not only about ensuring they have a seat at the table, but very importantly they have a voice at that table, and it’s a voice that is heard and respected. We don’t subscribe to the view that women must compete with men for this right. Instead we believe it’s important for everybody to find their own voice, a voice that reflects their natural personality and their personal brand. HC: How do you help someone find their voice or natural state where they can be themselves? BH: We get asked this question a lot, and it depends on the individual. For example, if we’re working with someone who is naturally more introverted – they’re quiet, not a chest-beating type of person, male or female it doesn’t matter – for us the question becomes how do we harness that person who comes across as naturally a very considered, thoughtful type of communicator and leverage that in a positive way in a boardroom setting. That is not as difficult as it sounds, because once people are comfortable with that style we can help them emphasise that, and it brings something different that is perhaps not already there at that table. Having that difference can be very powerful. HC: Faced with a male-dominated boardroom, it must be human nature for a sole female to feel intimidated. How can your training improve things? BH: First thing is, feeling unnatural in that position is in fact completely natural. That’s because it’s human nature to always want to be part of the tribe, and when we’re different – being the only female on a board, for example – it’s completely natural to feel unnatural in that situation. But remember tribes aren’t homogenous. Rather they’re actually made up of individuals with very different backgrounds, abilities, styles, approaches. Our coaching focuses on making sure women know that firstly they have a right to be at that table, and secondly that they have something of value to contribute. Often women go into that situation believing they don’t have a right to be there. How we help them to do that is by asking a series of questions – questions like why do you think you were invited to join this board or this executive team? What are the skills, experiences, expertise that you bring to that? Then we get them to understand and think about the issues facing the business at the moment, where they’ve been in the past, where they’d like to be in the

Feedback is the breakfast of champions – BELINDA HUCKLE future, and how can their skills, expertise, etc., help the organisation overcome those issues. Then we encourage them to realise they’re not necessarily alone in that tribe, so what allies do you already have – everyone will have someone at that table who wanted them to be there in the first place – and how can they be proactively leveraged? Then to be very clear on who might not be on your side and what are your options for converting them into advocates rather than dissenters. HC: It’s about changing an individual’s mindset? BH: It is. It’s all about changing the mindset and rebuilding the mindset from being ‘I don’t know if I’ve got the right to be here’ to ‘You know what? I can bring something valuable to this table’. Once you’ve reset the mindset, you’ve then got a very powerful platform from which to help people develop their presentation and communication skills. That’s, if you like, the physical side. HC: Do you find the physical flows from the mental? BH: It flows to everything: your voice, your body language, your eye connection, your capacity to engage at an authentic level and to be yourself. It’s not trying to compete with other people in the room; it’s about creating your own rules that work for you, rather than having to kowtow to rules of others. HC: What’s the key to effective executive communication? What do people value the most? BH: Transparency, clarity and authenticity are extremely important, but it’s also critical for people to understand the needs of different audiences. We see time and time again technical experts presenting to exec leadership teams, and they start drowning in detail that completely confuses the listeners. Likewise we’ll see senior leaders talk to people on the shop floor about incredibly complicated strategic objectives on a worldwide scale, which leads to people going, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’. If people took a bit of time to think about the people they’re going to speak with, and how they can tailor what they will say so it actually resonates and has some relevance to those listeners, you’ll then be 90% of the way towards engaging those listeners. At the end of the day it’s the ability to engage others that really does define how effective we are, or not, as communicators. HCAMAG.COM 47


peak end theory

Peak well and end well Dr Adam Fraser explores how Peak End Theory can improve job satisfaction and your employer brand



Anyone in HR knows that job satisfaction is a key predictor of whether someone will stay in his or her role or not. Job satisfaction also affects that very important metric called employer brand. There are many factors that create our employer brand. One of the most powerful is how our employees and ex-employees talk about our company to others. Therefore, how satisfied our employees are determines our recruitment costs and whether we attract the best people into our organisation. But the real question is how does an employee determine if they are satisfied or not? The good news is that it is far easier to make people satisfied in their jobs than you think. Prominent psychologist Daniel Kahneman is the founder of Peak End Theory. This theory proves that, when people reflect on an experience, they remember the peak moments (either good or bad) and how it ended. What people do not do is look at the experience as a whole and average it out. We don’t measure pleasure or pain by how long it lasts; rather, by the most intense feeling experienced and the impression left by the final moments of the experience. Your decision to repeat an experience or buy a product associated with it is controlled by whether the experience had any peak pleasurable moments and how it ended. An experiment was done in which people had to place their hands in painfully cold water under two different conditions. First, they immersed their hands for 60 seconds. After their hands returned to a normal temperature, they repeated the test but this time held their hands in the cold water for 90 seconds. However, for the last 30 seconds the water temperature was increased by one degree. When asked which experience they would go through again, the majority of people said the 90-second trial was the one they would repeat. Why? The ending was more pleasurable (or less painful). The same relationship has been seen in various medical procedures. During a colonoscopy, patients rated the quality of the experience by the peak moments of pain and how it ended. The duration and total pain was not a factor. Some people whose procedures lasted over 30 minutes said they could come back next year for the same treatment as it had ended with less pain than in the beginning, while other patients whose procedures lasted a mere eight minutes said they were not coming back because the experience had had high peak moments of pain and ended painfully. I saw this first-hand recently. I had been coaching an MD of an organisation on his presentation for the company’s national conference. We worked for two months on his presentation, and on the day of the conference he nailed it. The feedback was amazing, and one of the most frequent comments was how funny he was. But the interesting thing was that there were only four funny moments in the one-hour presentation. This was deliberate as we didn’t want the presentation to be all humour and no substance. If you looked at the whole

We don’t measure pleasure or pain by how long it lasts; rather, by the most intense feeling experienced and the impression left by the final moments of the experience presentation, it wasn’t that funny, yet people remembered the funny moments and the humorous ending. This theory is the reason why you can have a series of good experiences with a company, but that one rude staff member is the one you remember (peak moment of pain) and causes you to never deal with that company again.


The University of Brunel asked if this theory affected someone’s desire to stay in their job. Turns out we do not average out the good or bad experiences over the entire job; instead we recall peak moments (good or bad) and the most recent interactions. When we think, am I happy here, what comes up are things like ‘My manager was really kind and supportive when my mum was sick’, and ‘In front of the whole team my manager made reference to a strategy I implemented and how it was innovative and genius’. Conversely, we might remember negative peak moments such as ‘My manager belittled me in front of other people’, or ‘They yelled at me when I made a mistake during a presentation’. The study showed that peak moments of satisfaction were twice as powerful as any other variable in the person’s decision to stay in their job. How do you run your performance reviews? The traditional way is to tell an employee all the great things they are doing but then finish with ‘here are all the things you are terrible at and need to improve’. What do you think they are going to remember? It also pays to think about how we treat staff when they leave. So often we create a love fest when they join the company. We have induction programs and treat them really well. However, when they decide to leave we ignore them or remind them of the hard situation they have put us in. Peak End Theory tells us that we need to treat people like gold even when they leave. Why? Because that is the memory that will inform their opinion of our company and determine if they come back one day or recommend our company to anyone else. As a manager, aim to create peak positive moments for your staff and love them even when they leave. In every interaction you have with your employees, start to explore how the Peak End Theory can get you a better outcome. Ensure that you peak well and end well.

About the Author Dr Adam Fraser is a leading researcher and expert in human performance. He has worked with elite athletes, the armed forces, and business professionals at all levels. Visit HCAMAG.COM 49



Hungry for

change From hospital halls to the helm of one of Australia’s best-loved media outlets, this is one HR director who doesn’t take the easy road. With a palpable energy and zest for the role, Melinda Tunbridge of SBS talks to Stephanie Zillman about her passion for authenticity Her skills and self-evident passion preceded her: headhunted for the role of director of HR at SBS in January 2010, Melinda Tunbridge isn’t an HR professional who chooses the easy road. Here was an organisation in a time warp. Until 18 months ago, payslips were still being hand-delivered, in hard copy, to the workforce numbering some 1,000 employees. With a siloed workforce guaranteed pay rises every year despite underperformance and an ‘entitlement’ mentality, Tunbridge took over the reins when her predecessor retired after 20 years in the role. “I really was and am a fan of SBS,” she says. “I’m a massive cyclist outside of work, do a lot of travel, and have a lot of interests that coincide with the SBS content. And from an HR perspective – the seven interviews I had – it



was explained to me that they were looking for someone to come in and really shake things up and make a real difference here, and that was really attractive to me. I’m not an HR director who looks for maintenance roles.” The term ‘high-performance team’ was thrown around by the executive team when Tunbridge came on board, but looking beneath the surface it soon became clear that this was an organisation at a crossroads. It wasn’t sure what it wanted, but there was at least a realisation that change was necessary. To get there, a change management strategy needed to be implemented. “They knew they needed something, but they weren’t sure what exactly that thing was. Essentially, what they were looking for was an increase in collaboration. We had a siloed workforce, so we were looking for an

MELINDA TUNBRIDGE ROLL OF HONOUR MBA, Applied Science (Nursing) – Cumberland College, 1994 Masters HR – Charles Sturt University, 2001 Masters IR – Charles Sturt University, 2001 MBA – Charles Sturt University, 2004


HR at SBS IN HER OWN WORDS Advice to other HR professionals? “Run a mile?! No, that’s not true. I would say be authentic. Ask ‘can I still be myself in this role?’ Make sure that it’s fun and that you’re passionate about it. I think it’s a great job; it’s taken me to some great organisations and having some really rewarding conversations. But it’s an incredibly rewarding job to be able to play a part in people’s lives and careers, aspirations and their happiness at work.” Describe yourself. “Pretty straightforward. What you see is what you get with me. I’m fun; I’m energetic; I’m passionate; I’m loud – just ask my co-workers! I’m absolutely results focused. I have to feel as though I’m moving forward and I have to feel like we’re achieving something; otherwise I just get bored really easily. Looking back at my CV, it’s roles that have needed work and change, and I guess once this role becomes a ‘business as usual’ function it’ll be case of needing to look elsewhere for some cages that need to be rattled.” Where do you see the future of HR heading? “I get really frustrated by HR professionals saying they don’t have a seat at the table. Because I think, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you should be asking ‘what can I be doing differently to make sure I do?’ I think the future of HR is in our hands. We have an obligation to add value, a return on investment, and maintain relevance to whatever organisation we’re working for.”

increase in collaboration; people working on virtual teams. The culture was very ‘public service’, very entitlement focused, and so being able to achieve collaboration and keeping up with those changes was really about looking at the people that we had, and what makes these people tick, and making decisions about the teams that we’re pulling together,” Tunbridge explains. Values-based leadership soon became the order of the day, and Tunbridge says this wasn’t a huge departure from the culture already in existence at SBS. “We are an inherently values-based organisation. We have an altruistic sort of feel, and that not-for-profit sense of ‘we’re here for the greater good of what we’re trying to achieve in the community’. It was about tapping into that and bringing out the best in people,” Tunbridge says. Increasing collaboration was the starting point, closely followed by re-examining project management and implementing a firm change management methodology.


In order to execute this properly, change had to start from the ground up. All of the pre-existing systems were looked at and the question was posed: is there a 52


better way of doing this? “We have even changed the way we have meetings. We’ve gone into Outlook and changed everything so that meetings run for 45 minutes, instead of the hour. Most people’s meetings run 9am–10am, then they’ll have another one at 10am–11am, and the problem with that is you need to be ready to start at 10 o’clock, therefore you need to have been finished your last one at 9:45,” Tunbridge says. Yet it’s not just systems that have changed, and Tunbridge says that upon returning from maternity leave last year it became evident that, just as importantly, people’s hearts and minds had changed as well. “Even just being out of the business for that six months and coming back in, [I noticed] the changes in terms of language in the hallways,” she says. The culture at SBS remains one in transition, but massive inroads have been made. Pointing to blue strips that run the length of the meeting room, Tunbridge says these simple visual cues – that conduct must stay above the line – are evidence in itself that things are on the move. “The current culture is one in transition now. We have moved significantly from where we were to where we are now, and we know that through formal measures like our EOS scores, our engagement surveys, and entering the Great Places to Work survey, which is another ‘pulse’ survey to see how we’re going. I do think it has changed,” she says. SBS is also an inherently fun organisation – reflected in the quirky content it creates and delivers – and Tunbridge says it’s important not to take it all too seriously. “While also a lot of the time we are dealing with serious issues, we’re also working with people who are inherently creative, and they are bringing their passion to work. A lot of our workers are Gen Y, so you’ve got to ensure they’re having fun, because if they’re not, they’re not going to hang around. And I think

that having fun is part of our mantra at work,” she says.


From an HR perspective, there will continue to be significant change. Tunbridge pulls no punches: the HR team has not yet arrived at being true strategic partners with the organisation. “Is HR at SBS a strategic partner? No. It’s not even close. When I arrived, HR was still a very reactive, very transactional group of people. We had 11 people out of twentysomething who were dedicated to producing a fortnightly payroll, in-house,” Tunbridge says. The HR people at the time simply didn’t know what they didn’t know. “It’s not a criticism; it’s that they weren’t aware the HR industry had moved on. They were in a time warp! So they’re smack bang in the middle of their own learning curve, which is very steep.” This, she says, is precisely the reason why it’s so important to have some fun along the way. “[Now] we’re right in the middle of restructuring HR. We’ve outsourced our payroll; we’ve brought a technology platform in-house to do our rostering and timesheets. For the first time we now have a solid HRIS offering, which we never had before. And so, while sadly we had to make a lot of people redundant, those savings have allowed us to move towards a more strategic HR workforce,” she says. At this juncture, communication is key because there are parts of the organisation that simply do not know what to do with a strategic HR workforce, or what it really means. “They know they want and need help with people issues, but they’re just not sure how to engage with us. So a large proportion of time over the next 12 months is going to be teaching the business what [strategic HR] does, what they can’t do, and saying ‘you know, we’re not here to fill out your performance management plans; we’re not here to

I’m not an HR director who looks for maintenance roles – MELINDA TUNBRIDGE have that difficult conversation for you, but we are here to advise, coach, mentor’ – all those things you would expect from a strategic HR workforce,” Tunbridge says. The goal is no mean feat. Up until very recently, HR at SBS was still the place to go for people problems to be sorted out, and those days are coming to an end.

Personal file: Melinda Tunbridge


Tunbridge cites her biggest career achievement to date as delivering on consistent employee feedback, and getting a new enterprise bargaining agreement over the line. “We negotiated based on the feedback in our EOS surveys, which was that we were consistently hearing that ‘we’re sick of tolerating mediocrity’ and ‘I’m sick working my guts out and the person I sit next to leaves at 4:59pm on the dot every day and gets the same pay rise as I do every year’. There was no consequence for underperformance,” Tunbridge says. The new agreement is by no means a witch-hunt; it’s a fair, values-based systems in which, at the end of the day, the people decided that underperformance was not going to be tolerated. “It’s not about penalising people. It’s about drawing a line in the sand and putting a plan in place so that if you’re not performing, we will be able to help you. But ultimately, there’s got to be some metrics around this. It’s a delayed pay rise, and so people can come to a point where they improve, and they get their pay rise, and if they don’t, a time may come where we have to part ways,” Tunbridge says. With the initial phase of the change management strategy starting to bear fruit, and alongside the full support of the managing director and the executive team, there is an air of hunger in Tunbridge’s voice. “We’ve already been through one really solid phase where we’ve introduced to the business that this is a plan; it’s serious. So the appetite and the expectation is high, and it’s really about delivering on that over the next 12 months. And certainly from a leadership perspective we’re going into that leadership group of the top 250 leaders to look at what makes an SBS leader tick and ask: does that align with the culture and the values and strategy of the business? Traditionally we’ve just let those leaders exist. So there is a massive agenda for the next couple of years.” More industry profiles at:

Family: Married with a gorgeous 14-month-old daughter, Eloise Favourite sports: Ironman triathlons and marathons Hobbies: Exercise and a healthy lifestyle Favourite movie/TV show: Heston’s Feasts Best piece of advice you’ve received: “Keep it in perspective. We’re not curing cancer, and no one is dying” First job/worst job: Cleaning out cat cages in a cattery – eeeeow! If not in HR: Professional athlete of course! If that didn’t work out, forensic investigator...



the lighter side WEIRDEST CO-WORKERS

Alison Green, aka blogger Ask a Manager, recently asked her readers to submit descriptions of their weirdest ever co-workers, from which she selected her favourite 10 for publication. Some of them were brilliant:



Fictional film character Derek Zoolander may approve, but if offering a dating site that only ‘attractive’ people could use didn’t seem risky enough, one controversial website is now trying their hand at recruitment services., a dating site for ‘attractive’ people only, has expanded into recruiting. Proclaiming “an attractive face is always a great first impression for any business”, the new offshoot of allows members to engage in both sides of the recruitment process: posting job ads and browsing through the ‘attractive’ applicants. The website uses a voting system in which potential members must be voted on by the community before being granted access to the site. Greg Hodge, managing director of, said in a statement that ‘honest’ employers will admit that having good-looking staff is a benefit, making better first impressions, impressing clients and earning more. Is it discrimination? Although ‘attractiveness’ is not mentioned in any anti-discrimination acts, elements that are often equated to it are – predominantly age and physical disfigurement, with ‘physical features’ mentioned in the Victoria Equal Opportunity Act 1995. Employers beware!


Nothing stays secret anymore, and the Twitter page GS Elevator Gossip (@GSElevator) is proof of that fact. Thanks to this page, anyone can send in what they hear in the elevators at Goldman Sachs. Some posts bring into question the culture of the organisation; others offer a good chuckle or even the odd pearl of wisdom. And some are extremely politically incorrect! HC’s top bites of gossip from the GS elevators are: • There’s no such thing as a hopeless situation, just hopeless people in situations • Anyone can pretend to be serious, but you can’t pretend to be witty • For every action, there’s a social media overreaction • If you need an alarm clock, you need a new job • The only thing more impressive than my accomplishments is my resume • The most and least successful people all share the same trait: thinking they’re never wrong • A lie is not nearly as bad as the insult to my intelligence

As of last month, the Bank of Korea started hosting weddings for their staff. The venue they are offering? A large ‘fortress-like’ auditorium in which portraits of former bank governors hang. Despite security concerns in the past, the 200-capacity auditorium will be open for employees to be wed as it was during the 1990s. “I had to spend hours explaining why the bride’s waiting room had to look nice,” You Hyoun-joo, a consultant hired to help prepare the auditorium for weddings, told The staff of the bank had “little clue what to do” when it came to preparing a venue for a wedding, You said. While getting married at your workplace might seem a bit strange here in Australia, it is a growing trend in South Korea. More and more organisations are encouraging their employees to have their nuptials at the less costly and more low-key workplace venues.

A compulsive liar: “We kept a list of crazy things she said, like one time Bill Clinton tried to seduce her, another time she was on a boat with U2 and Elvis Costello and the boat capsized, and that she was responsible for inventing a number of famous products.” The Craigslist devotee: “He was two cubes in front of me and all day long (literally 6–7 hours) he would yell out anything he found of interest. ‘Anyone interested in a kayak, it’s free on craigslist’ or ‘Anyone interested in a pile of bricks, it’s free on craigslist’.” A backscratcher lover: “In my first office job, there was a guy who carried a briefcase every day. Inside the briefcase was a plastic fork taped to a pen, and nothing else. He’d used it as a back scratcher, loudly proclaiming his pleasure as he shoved it down the back of his shirt.”


Human Capital magazine issue 11.07  

The magazine for people who manage people.