HR leaders share insights at HR Summit Melbourne

Speakers from Boeing, ANZ Ericsson, T2 Tea talk about range of topics including recruitment, inclusion, corporate culture at annual event

HR leaders share insights at HR Summit Melbourne

‘Seek’, ‘speak’ and ‘listen’ – these are key habits Boeing managers are encouraged to have to foster inclusion, according to general manager, human resources, Kelly Knowles.

It’s a concept developed in partnership with the NeuroLeadership Institute.

“So [it’s about] seeking out ambiguity, noticing challenging moments, being able to be present and aware of those moments,” she told HRD Australia.

“Providing an environment where people feel comfortable speaking up, but also… driving transparency into your team and driving truth about why we do things, to build an environment where team members trust their leader. And then of course listening; the whole concept of ‘two ears, one mouth’ — spending more time listening for the gold and listening for what is not said.”

Knowles was one of the panel speakers at this year’s HR Summit in Melbourne, with the topic on strategies for retaining employees in a competitive market. Fellow panellists included:

  • Ilka Hoffmeister, head of workforce strategy and transformation, Network Operations, ANZ Ericsson
  • Adam Oosterhoff chief people officer, enabling units at NAB
  • Dr. Marnie Gibson, global director people, T2 Tea

Social media key to attracting younger workers

With T2 Tea having a predominantly younger workforce, Gibson explained that to attract and retain this demographic, the key is to go where they are – social media.

“They're all on Instagram and TikTok and Pinterest,” Gibson told HRD Australia. “And to get content on there, it's not a job ad. Where we've really started pitching our branding is around ‘We’re unique and different, you're unique and different’. And that's where, societally, young people are going; everyone is now being celebrated for uniqueness.”

While “you can’t retain everybody”, Hoffmeister said, she believed in the importance of HR teams working with finance teams to identify the key strategic workforce capabilities that the company needs to invest in “so that when the talent with those critical capabilities says, ‘I just got another offer and they offered me 30% more’, there is some budget maybe for a retention,” she said.

“Do everything you can around culture, leadership, career. Because people – if they see a future and you're investing in them and they are talent and they know what that means in your organisation – they are more likely to hang around.”

Bold HR strategies for an evolving workplace

The broader theme of this year’s HR Summit was “Bold HR strategies for an evolving workplace” and delegates listened to discussions on topics such as:

The keynote address was made by former world number four tennis player, Channel Nine commentator and bestselling author Jelena Dokic. She discussed her journey as a professional tennis player, which was marred by the challenges she faced off-court — from being a refugee dealing with poverty to being bullied to the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her father.


“Even through the darkest times, a part of me always believed that I can get through anything and I was never going to give up,” she said at the conference. “Also, our resilience, our strength, our perseverance, and our self-belief play a huge role in what we're actually capable of achieving and getting through.”

Dokic also detailed the impact of the abuse on her mental health, and emphasised how speaking about her experience can help others feel like they’re not alone.

“It's not every day that you can help and raise awareness about something that can actually save lives,” she said. “Speaking up is the way to create change, start conversations heal and grow.”

And for HR leaders, Dokic believed in workplaces having different resources available and having empathy when it comes to mental health.  

“Workplaces… ultimately do need different things around wellbeing because it is so important to take care of your workers and your coworkers and your teammates and your family,” she said.

Playing a role in the company culture

Also in attendance at the event were various companies such as Medibank, Origin 360 EV and Reward Gateway. Plus, there were workshops on issues including emotional intelligence, understanding the impact of leadership styles and thriving in the face of talent shortages.

During a fireside chat, Australian Retirement Trust’s (ART) chief people officer, Helen Jackson, shared her tips for undertaking a cultural shift in a workplace. It comes after ART was formed from a merger between Sunsuper and QSuper – one of the largest  superannuation fund mergers in Australia’s history.

“Everyone has a part to play in not just formulating what the culture is and how we talk about it and the language we use but having the language to call out behaviours or circumstances or areas where we're not congruent,” Jackson said.

Other important elements Jackson mentioned were having leaders who are engaged in the conversation, and who listen and understand how workers are experiencing the culture. Jackson’s final tip: “just have some fun”.

“Everything is so full-on and this world just keeps throwing stuff – it doesn't matter where you are and what organisation,” she said. “But celebrate and have some fun.”


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