HR Summit Melbourne: Openpay HR lead on leading teams virtually after global expansion

The fintech has taken virtual leadership to the next level

HR Summit Melbourne: Openpay HR lead on leading teams virtually after global expansion

HR leaders from across Australia are preparing to share their lessons and experiences after an incredible period of change for the industry. Kicking off in July, the HR Summit Melbourne will bring panellists and speakers from some of Australia’s biggest employers together under one roof.

The event line-up features talks and panels covering the most pressing issues facing HR today, such as the rise of hybrid working, supporting mental health virtually, and building people leadership skills in uncertain times.

HRD spoke to Marcus Waterreus, chief people and culture officer at ASX-listed fintech Openpay, and speaker at the upcoming HR Summit Melbourne. Discussing the historic shift to remote working that took place last year, Waterreus said the focus now is on creating an environment that enables people to work at their best – wherever that may be.

“The outbreak really changed things, not only for us but I think for every organisation,” he said.

Read more: Virtual onboarding: How to get it right

Waterreus said over the last 12 months, three groups of employees have emerged. There are those who can’t wait to return to the office, those who have thrived by being remote, and those who want a mix of both office and home working. Having fully embraced flexible working arrangements at Openpay, he said now it is about ensuring all employees have the same experience, whether remote or in the office.

“We don't want team members to feel as though they’ve got the empowerment to be at home but they don't have the right equipment to be able to work as well as those in the office,” he said. “So we’re really looking at what technology we have in place and introducing new forms of technology to enable the team members to connect virtually if they're not going to be in the office for a meeting.

“One example is that now every meeting must be done virtually to cater to those who are remote, as well as those in person, and so they're not excluded from that human connection.”

Openpay recently expanded into the US market earlier this year, and Waterreus said the people leadership lessons learnt here in Australia over the past year have prepared the team for leading remote workers globally. With fully remote employees across America, as well as Columbia, India and Auckland, the expansion has put the company’s virtual leadership to the test.

“This is where the flexibility really comes in because otherwise if you're working over three time zones and expecting immediate responses, employees would never sleep,” he said.

“It’s about having respect and understanding that people will respond and work when it best suits them and only urgent issues require urgency – you can’t expect people to be operating 24/7.

“That’s something we mastered very well in Australia at the beginning of Covid and now applying those learnings across the world for our team has really helped. It's shifted that mindset of always being ‘right here, right now’.”

Read more: Foxtel's Talent Acquisition head reveals key learnings behind virtual hiring

By taking a “talent first – location second” approach, the company has been able to field world-class talent from across the globe. Closer to home, embracing flexible working has allowed them to recruit from outside the traditional tech talent hubs of Melbourne and Sydney.

As well as offering benefits in terms of diversity of talent, it enables potential employees to live in areas with better housing affordability and creates high-value jobs in areas where in the past, candidates may have been overlooked.

To see the full line-up of panels and speakers for this year’s HR Summit Melbourne, as well as register for your place, click here to visit the event website.

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