Last word: Q&A with Allison Harvey; fun facts; and more

by 31 Oct 2011

5 minutes with...

Allison Harvey, Human resources manager, Wood Mackenzie

What is the greatest HR lesson you’ve learned so far? 

I’ve learnt to treat everyone equally and apply a consistent approach to everything I do, regardless of who I deal with, whether they are in management or not. Consistency and fairness is key, while integrity in HR is paramount.

What is your view on gender diversity and gender balance as it plays out in a strongly masculine industry?

Many organisations that operate in the mining industry have struggled in the past to attract women applicants for a variety of reasons. This is however beginning to change. Each year more women apply for our research and consulting roles and we see more female applications submitted to our internship programs. There definitely is a greater acceptance of women’s capabilities and contribution.

 What are your favourite people-management tips? 

Understanding your partner group is vital. Invest the time getting to know your business and their needs. Without that foundation, HR cannot be effective in our roles. We need to build trusting relationships and adapt our style to the people around us to strengthen communication.

What career advice would you give ambitious HR professionals? 

You don’t learn HR skills in University or at TAFE. It’s a people business which you only learn over time with experience. The best career move I ever made was finding a great mentor who could guide and challenge me. Get into an organisation that will give you a chance to gain a well-rounded understanding of all generalist HR aspects.

 What is the main challenge currently facing the HR industry right now?

Finding, engaging and retaining the right talent is a continual challenge. Online resources such as LinkedIn have changed the way we find talent. Any organisation can now covertly attract an employee even if they are not unhappy and did not actively submit an application.

 How can they overcome it?

Proactively monitor the market to understand what our competitors are paying in terms of salary and benefits. Appreciate and take care of our people while they’re working for us, rather than play catch up after they’ve received another offer. Ensure people are doing work they find fulfilling so another offer is less likely to be seriously considered.

Fast facts

  • Men who are disagreeable at work earn 18.3% more than men who are agreeable. Disagreeable women, on the other hand, only earn 5.4% more than their more agreeable counterparts. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • In an Australia & NZ version of their 2010 Employee Engagement survey, results indicated that at 37%, Australia has one of the highest engagement levels in the world at 31% global engagement. (Source: Blessing White)
  • In a study of 260 leaders designed to understand power and leadership, 94% rated themselves as being moderately to extremely powerful at work while 28% of those leaders agreed that power is misused by top leaders in their organisation (Source: Centre for Creative Leadership)

Can you believe it?

An annual Career Builder survey revealed some memorable statements. One candidate listed her dog as a reference. Another included ‘versatile toes’ as a selling point. A third candidate was fired from different jobs, but included each one as a reference. (Source:

Quote of the month

“Don’t ask for power. Seek influence. It lasts longer” – EM Forster