Five Minutes With...Ariane Aeschimann-Forbes, HR director, Xchanging Australia

by Human Capital28 Aug 2014
1. What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice I have ever been given was by a previous manager who taught us the need to be comfortable with ambiguity, ie resolving an issue when the issue itself or the solution isn’t clear. He purposely withheld information to help us learn to make decisions or come up with solutions when things weren’t fully clear. According to studies, the vast majority of problems of middle managers and above are ambiguous and the higher you go, the more ambiguous things get so his preparation put me in a good position for more senior roles. This advice is something I try to instil in my team members because I believe that the inability to deal with ambiguity can stall your career. 

2. What are some of the biggest challenges that HR deals with?

Some of the biggest challenges that HR deals with are the need to deliver results that are aligned to the overall business strategy and therefore adds value. Essentially, HR initiatives must be business initiatives. The key is to have the backing of the senior leadership who then champion initiatives and practices from the front and importantly support investment. At Xchanging, we are doing that very well. The senior leadership team has a strong commitment to engagement, talent and career development, which has enabled us to deliver nationally a 27.5 per cent increase in engagement and fill 60 per cent of vacancies internally. The buy-in came from a combination of leadership development and seeing the results of early initiatives. It comes also from our customers who want to see a progressive approach and demonstrated results in capability, leadership and engagement.

3. How do you see the role of HR changing in the future?

There is scope for HR to move beyond the strategic and business focused to a transformational and anticipator role. The benefits of the transformational role are that it supports the change that must happen and increases the success of the company. The anticipator role however, foresees what change must happen and aligns practices accordingly. HR needs to be highly skilled in change management, an expert influencer and to be thoroughly business savvy. 

4. What’s your favoured style of coffee?

Latte in Australia; black with cream in Europe.

5. If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would that be and why?

I have a strong interest in all things Latin American because they are vibrant, colourful and unpredictable, so I would go for a Latin American theme dinner party and invite writer Isabel Allende to tell imaginative stories, Ricky Martin to play upbeat Latin music and a South American chef to cook a feast. 

6. Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in HR, I’d be…

A florist, a humanitarian worker or I’d renovate houses.


  • by Narelle 14/10/2014 12:59:49 PM

    I like the way you think, especially regarding HR being transformational. Florist's work hard and it is a production line not playing with flowers like people expect. I used to be a florist before HR.
    Although, we could manage to find similarities. Thanks, for your insight.

  • by Steve 13/11/2014 6:16:01 AM

    Your HR accomplishments/knowledge are impressive. You have come a long way from the Jamboree at Wollongong. Glad to see you have done well with yourself. ChouChou

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