HRD talks to SEEK’s Group HR Director about how the company is evolving to achieve business priorities
The key HR objectives for SEEK are to evolve to achieve business priorities and to create an environment where people have a phenomenal experience at work, according to SEEK’s Group HR Director, Kathleen McCudden.
McCudden told HRD that there is no shortage of interesting work to do in the HR space and the real test of a great HR function is lining up the work that they do with what the business needs to achieve.
Moreover, creating an environment where people have a great experience at work can be challenging to achieve because as SEEK continues to grow it’s becoming increasingly clear that different segments of the workforce want different things.
“It’s important to offer a real range of options and flexibility in terms of how people come to work, their career paths and their relationship with their manager,” said McCudden.
“All of those things are really important ingredients so people feel like they are working at the very best place. One of the reasons why I feel we have such low attrition is because SEEK really is an excellent place to work.”
McCudden has been SEEK’s Group HR Director for the past three years, and in that time there has been some immense changes.
Indeed, the company restructured last year after coming to the realisation that because they operate in 18 different countries (seven of which are in Asia) it was apparent that they were all solving similar problems, particularly from a strategic nature and in the product and technology areas.
“There is a lot of variation across our businesses because there are different cultures, different employment market places, etc.,” added McCudden.
“However, a lot of the big problems to solve were similar in nature and so we realized that it made more sense for us to run our business in a more consolidated way and leverage the strategic, product and technology skills that we had.”
Consequently, SEEK are solving problems consistently across the business as opposed to each different team working on similar problems and there being a lot of duplicated effort.
SEEK now have an operating business called Asia Pacific and American which involved a massive reorganisation and restructure, including putting in place a new layer of leadership.
“Our HR and communications teams were instrumental in guiding the business through the change management, the appointment of the leaders and the communication out to the business,” said McCudden.
“We are now more than 12 months on and we are still working through where it makes sense for us to harmonise and have consistency across Asia Pacific and Americas.”
This also includes looking at where SEEK wishes to remain local, bespoke and nimble, and allow the local businesses to operate independently.
“From a people point of view, we have clear objectives under attraction and retention so doing things like making sure all of our leaders across Asia Pacific and Americas are on consistent renumeration structure and incentive plans because we had some differences there,” she added.
“We are moving more of our resources around globally because it makes sense to have more teams sharing resources. We had to set up a global mobility function and anyone who has ever done that knows that it is very complex because there is lots of considerations around immigration and around terms and conditions.”
Moreover, another area that’s really important priority for SEEK’s HR strategy is succession planning.
“Having the right leaders in place and then making sure we are developing them and addressing any risks or gaps we have in the right way has also been a very important to us,” said McCudden.
In terms of culture and engagement, SEEK found that because of the way that it has grown there is consistency and commonality across the different businesses but there is also a lot of differences.
Due to the fact the SEEK Aus/NZ business is more mature and runs at very high levels of employee engagement the company felt that was a model with “plenty of the right ingredients”.
“We have been working with the other businesses - in Asia, Brazil and Mexico in particular – helping them understand what are the ingredients to drive really strong employee engagement to promote innovation and strong trust between employees and management, said McCudden.
“That’s another strong area of focus for me and my team, so we are on an education journey. For the very first time we will run one consistent employee engagement survey across the entire SEEK organisation - whereas previously we had been running them separately.”
SEEK is also educating leaders and teams on how to work together across cultures because the reorganization has meant many teams are working virtually and do a lot of video conferencing
The company has developed a number of programs to educate and bring people together so that they have a better understanding of different business practices and valuing cultural diversity rather than it being potentially a point of difference and conflict.
Moreover, because the company is evolving at such a fast pace SEEK needs to constantly look at how they are challenging the status quo with some of the work we are doing in HR. This involves looking at whether it is still fit for purpose and also whether they have got the very best talent in their HR and communications functions across the globe.
“So, I spent quite a bit of time on that myself personally, as do my different HR directors in their various locations,” she said.
“A good example of that is at the start of the year we refreshed all of our policies and practices and that’s because over the years SEEK had just added different policies. We haven’t had an end to end review so what we did is go out to market and benchmarked our policies and practices against other Australian companies we thought were doing great things.
Now SEEK has new policies around flexibility because that’s one of the things people really value about working for an organisation, according to McCudden.
In particular, it’s about making sure that work fits around the employees lives as much as possible and recognizing that separation between work and life is getting more and more blurred.
“That’s just one example of how as a HR and communications function we need to be challenging the status quo.”