In one of the more unusual paths to a career in HR that Human Capital has heard, Naomi White, executive general manager for HR, commercial insurance, Suncorp Group, studied film production at university and had intentions of becoming a documentary film maker. It was only while on a working holiday in the UK that she “fell into” a HR role and she hasn’t looked back since.
Although she concedes that she might return to film making one day, for now she’s enjoying the diversity of HR. “Every day feels like an adventure. We have such an enormous influence on the way people work, the culture of the organisation and the way we approach change. We sit at the table in the business and we have input on everything relating to the business, not just HR-related aspects – so it’s incredibly diverse and interesting,” she says.
It’s perhaps this inherent streak of creativity, of thinking outside the box, that has enabled White’s Suncorp business unit to embrace two significant HR initiatives: the first around flexibility; the second around L&D.
If the well publicised multi-million dollar compensation pay out to a Telstra employee who slipped and fell while working from home left employers scrambling to update their risk and OHS policies, it’s made Suncorp more determined than ever to ensure its flexible work options are not only attractive to employees, but also cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in terms of risk mitigation.
Suncorp Group, a house of brands split into distinct business units (commercial insurance, personal insurance, Suncorp Bank, Suncorp Life, Vero New Zealand), and supported by corporate and shared services divisions, has around 16,000 employees across Australia and New Zealand. One business unit, commercial insurance, introduced flexible work practices 18 months ago in response to strong employee demand, which became particularly apparent during enterprise agreement renegotiation.
Flexible work practices available include work-from-home, flexible work hours, job share and part-time/reduced hours (2-3-4 days a week, during school hours etc). White says a significant 17% of the workforce use the part-time working option, which can be taken up with formal or informal arrangements.
“When employees want regular work-from-home arrangements, we put a formal work-from-home arrangement in place, but a lot of people use it on an ad-hoc basis as well.”