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Executing a successful HR strategy has never been more important as Australia faces an acute shortage of labour. Research by MinterEllison, the country’s largest law firm, showed 481,000 job vacancies as of May 2022, up from 227,400 in February 2020. Unemployment fell to 3.4% in July 2022, its lowest level for 48 years.
For some years now, innovation has been synonymous with using technology to transform systems and processes. While the winners of our Innovative HR Teams awards lead the way with cutting-edge tools and capabilities, the overriding theme is using tech for the benefit of their employees – finding new ways to support them and address their overall wellbeing. Sometimes it is creating new technology. Sometimes it is applying tech differently.
Halcyon Knights, a technology sales, IT and digital recruitment agency and one of this year’s winners, is an excellent case study. Remote working is still a new concept in many organisations.
“Since 2016, we’ve been operating a ‘work as you will’ arrangement,” explains marketing manager Kara Porter. “We provide our employees with the hardware, technology and tools they need to set up shop anywhere with an internet connection. Continued tech development is also high on the agenda as they continue to automate more and uplift capabilities. Particularly, they’re exploring how AI and blockchain can create opportunities for sharing information in secure and interesting ways. They have also invested in online tools and enhanced capabilities to provide better support wherever their people choose to work.
Innovation for Halcyon Knights, whose head office is in Melbourne, also means embracing all of their staff.
“We recognised long ago that our business is stronger when more of our team are thinking about how to improve it,” Porter adds. “Then, in sequence, we recognised that we needed to provide a platform for ideas and innovations to be evaluated and debated, to mature and take shape and, ultimately, be executed. HK Innovation Lab, which we launched in 2021, has provided that platform. Now innovation is part of our DNA and embedded into everything we do.”
Innovation doesn’t have to be about reinventing the wheel. Security and defence contractor QinetiQ continues to increase the efficiency and scalability of its systems across their five offices nationwide, yet it was a simple Summer Hours program that has been a game changer.
“This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but we believe we’re one of the first businesses in our industry here in Australia to implement such a program,” says Jessica Ciccozzi, general manager, people and capability.
“We’re compressing the working week to enable employees to leave at midday on Fridays for the duration of summer. Eligible employees will be able make the most of their summer weekends and enjoy the wellbeing benefits of an extended break,” she said.
Their internal analysis has determined the concept has improved the sense of wellbeing and satisfaction in their workforce.
“Innovation is hampered if psychological safety is lacking”
Sarah Hutchings, TSA
Customer experience solutions provider TSA has 4,000 employees and counting. The company, whose HQ is in Perth, has flipped the standard top-down hierarchy, eager to draw on insight from all parts of their operation.
“From our executives attending frontline team member training to our HR manager assisting with technology asset management, we understand that innovation comes from collaboration and that every process can make a lasting impact on our people. Our leaders forego any sense of hierarchy to work with our HR team and be proactive in raising opportunities to improve and innovate our ways of working and enhance our employees’ experience,” explains Sarah Hutchings, national people operations manager.
“We cultivate an environment where every member feels comfortable and confident to speak up.”
Similarly, plumbing supplies company Tradelink has made a concerted effort to innovate its learning and development function over the past two years. They have over 220 national locations and a product range in the tens of thousands, and felt creating a fit-for-purpose framework knowledge to support a flexible capability lift was critical.
Learning and development manager Nadia Golenkova says, “To do this, we had to consider and then adopt different perspectives outside of the traditional retail education model. We’ve made some great inroads, but the journey is not done yet.”
Tradelink also uses technology to make information more accessible for its geographically dispersed workforce.
“We’re particularly proud of our Learners Central platform, which was purpose built by our team,” Golenkova says.
“By integrating this with our capability framework and learning management system, we’ve been able to simultaneously enrich and simplify the range of development options for our people. We’re immensely proud of the learning team for embracing a radical change to their work and quickly adapting to new technology, new ways of working and new deliverables, all during a highly disrupted period of time.”
“Since 2016, we’ve been operating a ‘work as you will’ arrangement. We provide our employees with the hardware, technology and tools they need to set up shop anywhere with an internet connection”
Kara Porter, Halcyon Knights
Labour shortages are an issue faced by employers around the world, but Australia has a severe situation.
The independent consultancy service Corinna Economic Advisory reported there were 224,000 fewer 15- to 34-year-olds in May this year compared with March 2020, when the borders were sealed.
“The result of this for many companies is an increase in employment costs, turnover costs and operational disruption. With this kind of market competition, staying still is not an option. So, to put it simply, the next 12 months for us are centred around making us smarter, faster, and better,” says Ciccozzi.
This view is echoed by Paul Bloxham, HSBC chief economist in Australia, who said at a conference, “We’re on a recovery path but we have hit our capacity constraints.”
TSA plans to deal with the challenges by continuing to focus on wellbeing.
“Innovation is hampered if psychological safety is lacking,” Hutchings says. “We will continue to listen to the feedback our employees provide and take action to address what is most important to our people. This could range from large-scale global initiatives to small, local-based ideas. We’ll also dig deeper to see how we can build on organic employee connection, given our growing size and work flexibility, as our team understands that, to feel connected to a role and sense of purpose, we must have a sense of togetherness. OneTSA is one of our core values – it’s a sense of working towards the same goals, inclusivity – no one’s bigger than the team.”
Halcyon Knights remains committed to holistic wellbeing linked to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at work.
“Care, trust and commitment are the values we live and that underpin our behaviour and strategies both internally and externally,” says Porter. “We choose to believe in the good of people, which allows us to deliver outstanding results for our clients and engenders respect and inclusion within our own team.
“Our resources are first class, we have industry-leading tools, our employee benefits and offerings are continually advancing, and our award-winning brand is well recognised and well regarded. But our focus remains solidly on our team, our clients, our candidates and how we can continually evolve as both a talent partner and an employer of choice.”
The Innovative HR Teams 2022 report recognises firms that are breaking boundaries to move the HR industry forward in what has been a tumultuous year — whether that’s by taking a progressive approach to recruitment, introducing new technology or rolling out a ground-breaking reward and recognition strategy. The report offers HR teams a unique benchmarking opportunity to see how their initiatives compare to those of the profession at large.
Readers were invited to submit entries showcasing HR teams that have agile, bold and forward-thinking people strategies. Nominations focused on areas including talent management, diversity and inclusion, health and wellness, and HR technology. Initiatives introduced and results achieved in 2021 were highlighted.
HRD Australia objectively assessed each entry for detailed information, true innovation and proven success — along with benchmarking against the other entries — to determine the winners.