HR in the hot seat: Simone Shugg of Foxtel

We talk to Simone Shugg of Foxtel about change management, practicing what you preach and her favourite part of the job

HR in the hot seat: Simone Shugg of Foxtel
What is your current role and what brought you into it?

I am executive director of people and culture at Foxtel. I have been here for nearly two years. Prior to working at Foxtel, for seven years I was at Carnival Australia. I thoroughly enjoyed my role at Carnival Australia, but when I was approached by Foxtel I did not hesitate because I always wanted to work for and always will work for companies where I am really passionate about the brand. Foxtel is an iconic Australian brand and a fun, exciting and entertaining product. So I can really stand behind it with pride.

Also, what really gets me out of bed of a morning with a skip in my step are roles where there is a major transformation agenda. Certainly with Foxtel the role is very much a transformation role because Foxtel, like all media companies globally, is experiencing challenges that have never been seen before in the industry.

The media and television landscape even in the time I’ve been here is transforming and nobody can say what the end is going to look like. In particular, it’s around the way we are accessing, watching and consuming content. Gone are the days when you sit down with your family at 7:00pm to watch the news. People now want to watch what they want, when they want and on what device they want.

So the industry is changing rapidly and the requirement on the organisation to evolve to lead that transformation is incredibly exciting. That’s really why I joined - great brand, great products and a huge transformation agenda.

What are some of your current HR challenges?

In terms of the current HR challenges, we have got a very clear people strategy and a huge transformation agenda coupled with delivering business as usual.

So while we are trying to transform the business and keep the business going at the same time, it’s been absolutely critical that we have aligned all of our people - from CEO down to the frontline -behind our 20/20 strategy. We want to make sure that every employee knows what they have to do in the next 90 days to deliver on their organisational goals.

We made a very brave decision over 12 months ago to switch off our online performance management system. We have traditionally done what a lot of other organisations do. You set your goals for the year and put them in a cupboard and come back a year later and then see how you went. We made the decision to align everyone behind the strategy and make sure people are really delivering the things that make a difference.

We want to focus all of our energy into upskilling leaders to lead in a 90-day rhythm and manage their team to achieving goals in 90-day rhythms. The success of that really comes down to leadership.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I don’t think there are many jobs where you get paid to watch television. Obviously we are surrounded by entertainment, television and telling great Australian stories. It is in the Foxtel DNA and it’s in the DNA of every employee.

So one of things that really gets me excited every day is the fact that I get to be involved in some way in creating amazing Australian content because very few of our competitors are making some of the Australian content that we do.

And a really good example of that was on display at the Logies. We won 17 Logies and two of the shows we are particularly proud of are Wentworth - an iconic Australian drama we have now broadcast internationally - and A Place called Home.

What attracted you to a career in HR?

I was always planning to work within business. My background is in economics and commerce, and it was quite clear to me during university that what excites me about how organisations operate is the people part of it. I always knew I wanted to work within a corporate environment. For me, there are many leavers you can pull to drive success within an organisation and it’s the people part that I find fascinating. That’s because you can control a lot of things but influencing through people is one of the most challenging parts of the business and I love that challenge.  

What’s one piece of HR related advice you would offer?

Without a doubt, I say it to all of my team and I say it to everybody - practice what you preach. What I mean by that is that in our role in HR we are continually giving advice, coaching and counselling people throughout the organisation on all things relating to people. I think to get real credibility means you are going to be able to really influence and drive outcomes within an organisation and to get that you can’t just talk it, you have got to walk it.

And that comes down to the way you lead both directly and indirectly, the way you communicate, and the way you provide challenge, insight and feedback to people. It comes down to all aspects of HR - the way you are having conversations with your direct reports, how are you approaching remuneration within your own team, all of that. I think nobody would ever go to a personal trainer who doesn’t look like they are practicing what they preach.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of HR?

I am an avid watcher of television. I am a big watcher of Foxtel and I watch a lot of shows on Lifestyle because I also love to cook and I love to garden so the Lifestyle Channel for me means that I can merge of all my passions.

Simone Shugg will be speaking at our HR Summit in Melbourne. To register, click here.

Related stories:

HR in the hot seat: Georgina Boyd of Amadeus

HR in the hot seat: Helen Fraser of Aecom


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