My Brilliant Career: HR at CUA

by 09 Nov 2011

Human Capital: What drew you to an HR role initially?

Dawn Tsoubos: By chance initially. I started my career in the finance sector at the grass roots level – a teller in Frankston, Victoria. The way people received job offers internally back then was a quiet word in your ear to see if you had any interest. I was approached to work in Training and Development, actually training other tellers, which required me to travel up to one and a half hours each way for a very small pay increase. I did this as I saw a great opportunity to develop a career in the finance sector, not necessarily HR at the time.

HC: What is your current role and how did it come about?

DT: CUA general manager, human resources. I was invited to attend a discussion regarding an opportunity in the finance sector. Knowing there were not many opportunities in Brisbane for this level of role, I took the opportunity to have a 'chat'. It progressed from there to be a very thorough recruitment and selection process – great to see that was the case! The opportunity to be part of something really different in the finance space was very appealing, a genuine focus on our customers and customer-owned banking was a key driver, along with a very strong focus on our employees very much supported by the Board and Executive team – and I haven't looked back once!

HC: What do you consider to be your biggest career achievement to date?

DT: A couple of things spring to mind: At CUA we very recently negotiated a transformational Enterprise Agreement, which resulted in a 85% ‘Yes’ vote, a great result, and more importantly a great vote of confidence from our employees that CUA has their interests at heart. In a former life I also had a great opportunity to work on a transformational change program for ANZ. I had the opportunity to deliver major change across Australia, South-East Asia and the United Arab Emirates. I did that whilst having a young daughter and completing my undergraduate degree!

And one more for good luck: the opportunity to present to senior HR delegates at a conference in Paris around quite an innovative program that we were implementing with some of the top teams in ANZ, around Business Driven Action Learning, inspired by the work of Reg Revans.

HC: What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

DT: Demonstrated capability – your business will just expect you to know, to keep up to date. To be seen as a credible and valued resource, we need to speak with the business about the business and how HR can help enable them to achieve their goals.

HC: What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

DT: Take every opportunity to develop your capabilities across the broad spectrum of HR, a solid grounding in the generalist space is a must, before you specialise. Network and network more.

HC: Describe yourself in a few key words?

DT: Outgoing, social, team oriented, family focused, supportive, passionate, excited by life and the opportunities it can bring with the right mindset.

HC: Do you have any role models professionally or personally?

DT: Absolutely. My former leader at ANZ, on a professional and personal front, provided a great foundation for my career development, [and was] absolutely supportive, but drove me hard. She worked part time (so did I at the time), juggled a family and a career and was by far one of the most results driven people that absolutely achieved them.

HC: CUA has an impressive range of gender diversity statistics. What is your top tip for building an inclusive workforce?

DT: I’m not one that specifically believes in quotas. It has to be about the right person, based on merit – that means their experiences, results, performance, cultural fit and their potential. So ensuring that this message is driven from the top is important. Therefore 'inclusive' is the key word, ie everyone. So it’s not specifically about gender diversity; it’s focusing on getting the right people.

HC: How have you made flexibility work at CUA?

DT: We have successfully achieved flexibility across certain areas of our business and to see this success translate across the entire organisation will be a key focus area for us over the coming 12 to 24 months.

HC: What’s the biggest HR challenge CUA faces and how do you plan to overcome that?

DT: Ensuring continued engagement of our employees as we work towards achieving our strategic vision, which will see changes in our work practices, our systems and processes, improved efficiency and increased productivity. Ensuring that they feel truly valued and their contributions are recognised. Continuing to provide relevant, timely and purposeful communications in showing how they support the achievement of making customer-owned banking more relevant to Australians.

HC: Where do you see the future of HR as a profession heading?

DT: Very much around aligning HR to the business, not just for today, but having a clear line of sight to the strategic intent. The HR profession has come a long way from the days of the personnel department, but there is still a long way to go. We might now have a seat at most tables, but what we do with that and how the business views that is still very varied. HR is absolutely an enabler for the business, but we often let ourselves down by not having the level of commercial acumen or delivery focus that our peers have. If we get that right, we can be a phenomenal force in any business. 

Australian HR Awards

Finalist: Australian HR Champion (CEO) – Chris Whitehead


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