The art of constant adaptation: HR at ninemsn

by 16 Apr 2012

Managing creativity

A notoriously tricky aspect of managing creative workers, where output can be subjective and not necessarily tied to rigid KPIs, is performance management. Does Parcell feel there are significant differences in how these employees are assessed? “The challenge is to remember that while you’re taking people through a career path in an organisation and they’re doing a job, that you’re tying that as much as you can to the individual and not creating a rigid HR process structure – or box checking process – for each person.”

Parcell says that it’s not just restricted to employees with a creative bent. She finds the same principles apply to technically skilled employees such as ninemsn’s data mining experts, for example. “They have very different perspective on the world as well,” she says. “So our frame of reference is more around having individual conversations with people rather than one holistic framework. Each role and each function will be different, and that means a level of agility is required by the HR team in order to cope with that. There also needs to be the overlay of some form of consistency so there are no equity issues across the business.”

 Change agent

In a young and dynamic industry, quick reactions and constant change are expected. Parcell says her life has been nothing but change – “I’ve almost stopped talking about change, but rather I frame it as a constant adaptation to what’s happening environmentally and organisationally”.

She cites one recent example: an overhaul of the company values, which were changed due to the realisation that the existing company values did not resonate with employees in a meaningful way. After consultation with employees and brainstorming sessions amongst executives, the company has moved away from “corporate speak” values to several that are simple and concise: being brave, smart, humble, and giving a sh*t about what people do every day. “That last one is very un-PC for a P&C department,” Parcell laughs. “But it resonates really well with how we approach work, everyone gets what it means, it’s different and we live and breathe it every day.”

HR’s future

Looking to the future, Parcell believes there will be two significant shifts in her profession. The first revolves around L&D: “I believe there will be a shift in looking more towards harnessing employee strengths rather than always focusing on deficits from the development perspective. I often see talent plans that have the development area clearly marked rather than focusing on some of the strengths people have and how they can utilise those strengths in a variety of ways, rather than perhaps using it in the traditional manner,” she says.

Secondly, she believes HR will increasingly have more meaningful relationships with their CEOs. “Mark sees the culture and the people piece as both of us working together. We own that together. From my perspective that means that while I’m responsible for ensuring the nuts and bolts of HR tick over, I will have absolute support from the CEO to implement things, to change things, and to shape things with himself and the executive team.”

Her tips for working more effectively with the CEO? “You’ve got to listen, sit back and really understand where the CEO wants to take the business; understand what it is you’re trying to create. Secondly, HRDs need to do their due diligence on their CEOs before they start to work for them. Understand what’s important to the CEO. Is the people piece important, and how do their values match with yours? If you have a misalignment in values there will be a clash and it will be hard work.”


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