Australian HR Awards 2021: First look at virtual panels

Take a sneak peek at this year's virtual panels

Australian HR Awards 2021: First look at virtual panels

The highlight of the HR calendar is fast approaching and this year, the Australian HR Awards will showcase a series of virtual panels, featuring the insights and expertise of industry professionals from across the country.

It’s been another monumental year for HR leaders. Navigating snap lockdowns, hybrid working and the fierce war for talent, HR professionals have led their organisations into the future of work. As we prepare to celebrate this year’s deserving winners and excellence awardees, it’s the perfect time to reflect and share lessons from the last 12 months.

Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors has returned as event partner for the second year. Ahead of the big event, HRD takes a look about the panel topics making a splash in the HR world.

Panel: Building a strong and effective HR team

HRD: How has HR’s role – and the importance of having a strong and effective HR team – changed as a result of the pandemic?

William Prest, senior manager for Hays Human Resources: As HR divisions have adapted to a new era of working it’s clear to see the landscape has had some significant changes. The pace of change has accelerated far quicker than we could have ever imagined and as leaders we need to pivot our HR teams so they’re best equipped to respond to the new challenges as we emerge from cyclical lockdowns. It’s more important than ever to build a strong and effective HR team fit for purpose in this current climate. We will explore the recent HR challenges in building a high performing HR team with specific focus on culture, new technology and systems, recognition and reward initiatives and attracting and retaining staff in this market.

Panel: Creating a strong, high-performing culture

HRD: Why is a strong culture so important in this time of lockdowns and dispersed teams?

Nigel Ward, CEO and director, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors: Right now we are working in a drought, and if you have a sound culture you have water in the well to draw from. I think everyone is currently drawing down on their culture to some extent.

Culture is hard to develop and maintain without real and effective proximity so I suspect most businesses will see some level of cultural fraying right now. If you started on a low base, I imagine you are in or heading for trouble in terms of retention and performance.

One of the few enduring truisms of workplace relations is that people excel and perform for reasons associated with emotional engagement not rational engagement and the key to this is culture, and how it emanates from managers and teams. This fact has endured all the new management philosophies as they have come and gone.

Panel: Successful diversity and inclusion strategies

HRD: How has the pandemic impacted D&I in the workplace, and what’s HR’s role in shifting the dial in a positive direction?

Kelly McFadden, general manager, people and culture, Ceridian: The pandemic has caused division across the world, and with a distributed workforce, where the lines of work and home are blurred, and isolation and mental health issues abound, it has become more challenging to create diversity, inclusion and belonging strategies and programs.

 HR leaders need to take an active role in innovatively adapting their diversity, inclusion and belonging programs to the environment and create opportunities for people to connect with their colleagues enabling a sense of belonging. When people feel like they belong at work, they are more motivated, engaged, productive and much more likely to contribute to their fullest potential. 

Panel: Meet Australia’s most courageous and inspiring CEOs

HRD: Why are traits like courage and authenticity so important for leaders in 2021 and beyond? What does a great leader mean to you?

Nigel Ward, CEO and director, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors: Frankly, these traits are as important as they have always been; in the past, now and into the future. For me a great leader is someone who makes decisions based on values first and interests second rather than simply interests. From here you usually see someone playing a long game balancing obligation, respect and performance. 

Health and wellbeing at work – new strategies for a new era

HRD: How has the importance of health and wellbeing at work changed as a result of the pandemic and the new era of remote work?

Emma Baxter, CEO/founder, YOUtax: It’s no secret that the pandemic has created a sense of urgency for employers to support the deteriorating well-being of some of their teams. Restrictions and remote work have blurred the boundary between work life and home life, with many employees juggling back-to-back zoom meetings with caring for their loved ones, while also overseeing their children’s remote learning program. With each day looking much the same and very little capacity for self-care, the mental health of our workforce is a real concern.

While important, mental health isn’t the only aspect of wellbeing that employees are struggling with. Financial pressure is building because of the increase in the household running costs when subject to stay-at-home restrictions, not to mention many families dealing with reduced hours, pay cuts, and job losses. As accountants, we see first-hand the increased cost of working from home, from acquiring enough devices to ensure everyone can fulfill their work or study requirements, to creating a safe and comfortable workspace, to upgrading the internet plans to enable faster speeds, and more reliable connection.

YOUtax is proud to be able to alleviate some of the financial burden by educating employees about work from home deductions through our webinars and helping them to get the best possible tax outcome with our personals advice and lodgements. YOUtax also alleviate the confusion surrounding technical tax issues with employee share schemes, residency issues and other investment advice. We are the reassurance Australian employers are looking for when recognising the need for tax and financial services as an essential element of employee wellbeing programs.

How to achieve HR excellence in 2021 and beyond

HRD: What skills and attributes do HR teams need in the current climate, as they support employees in lockdown, overcome a tight talent market and embrace flexible working?

Paul Bridgewater, Regional Leader, APAC, pymetrics: Organizations and HR functions have seen soft skills emerge as the real driver for quick recovery and future-proofing of their workforces. Soft skills are the cognitive, social, and emotional characteristics inherent in people that are indicators of behavior and potential; examples include attention, focus, risk tolerance, and generosity. A focus on soft skills will help HR teams overcome the tight talent market by focussing on potential rather than experience. Soft skills can also be paired with hard skills giving companies more data to make informed decisions on strategies for flexible working or cross-functional return to the workplace.

To see the full list of panel sessions and register for your place at this year’s Australian HR Awards, click here.

Read more: Flexible working: Is it given or is it earned?

Read more: Workplace COVID-19 vaccinations could begin in September

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