Australia's Best HR Teams

by Iain Hopkins10 Sep 2013
HR LEADER:  Alec Bashinsky, national partner, people  & performance, Deloitte 
Approx. 100
520 partners, with close to 6,000 people
At what point does the structure of a corporate team cease being an academic aspiration? Is there any place for the academic formats of the Ulrich model and its ilk in business? Alec Bashinsky says that most HR directors over the years have flirted with outsourcing and insourcing, and have dabbled with various structural fads, but a model like that espoused by Ulrich is just that: a model. 
“Things like the Ulrich model are robust from the research point of view, and I’m still a big fan of his, but I’m a little bit concerned that whenever the fad suits he’ll change the research and sell another book. I’m losing perspective on that. I think there are lots of smart people who aren’t writing books. The business case studies around the Procter & Gambles, the Googles, specifically [Google global HR executive] Laszlo Bock – that’s what’s shaping the way we’ll work in the future.”
To that end, Bashinsky is an advocate of building “super-efficient HR and talent systems” that allow for improved workflow, and automate the front end and back end. 
“HR now should be working on how do we provide insights to business leaders and how do we start to work on the predictive elements of talent data. Anyone can look at data with a past perspective, but how do we understand what’s going to happen in the future? So the ideal structure for me – I’ve been around and seen it – is automating front and back and then looking at what works in other parts of the business.” 
For Deloitte’s Australian operations, the HR team operates in three centres of excellence: a talent acquisition and mobility team – they are specifically involved in attracting the right talent, and in graduate recruitment, building the value proposition, looking after social media and local and global mobility; the second is talent development and diversity; this looks after all the leadership development and talent identification, all soft skills and e-learning, along with looking after the diversity portfolio; the third group is classified as talent solutions and advisory, and this incorporates a shared services group of 12 based in Hyderabad – they focus on everything from onboarding to remuneration, employee relations, and some of the transactional processes.
The remainder of Bashinsky’s team works in the business units, across all states of Australia.
What’s the key to holding a team together across vast geographical distances (the Deloitte team operates in 16 locations around Australia)? 
It’s all about communication. “I do a monthly comm call across Australia where I talk about the business, our strategies, what new things are happening, and enable a two-way conversation. We do regular updates, as in once every couple of months we bring every member of the team together in Sydney and Melbourne and elsewhere and we talk about business issues – not just me but other members of the leadership team.”
Then there are open forums making use of the latest technology platforms: Yammer and YamJam. “Effective  communication isn’t necessarily the old tools of email and voicemail – it’s the live interaction, be it through a link-up or in person. They’re the things the team gets good  feedback from,” Bashinsky says.
Observing the HR function over a number of years, Bashinsky is seeing the biggest strides being made in capability and focus. “The first issue is lots of simplification and automation of HR transactions – if organisations are not doing that now, their teams are being wasted. This has enabled my team to do more coaching, influencing, facilitating within the business,” he says. 
Bashinsky believes the entry point in any business, it doesn’t matter what role, is by showing credibility. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing or finance or business development, you need to understand the business and understand it intimately. The very fact my teams are demonstrating that certainly brings them into the conversations, but then their input is valued and I think that is the distinguishing thing that makes my team special: their input is valued by all the businesses we work in.”

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