Meet one of our newest Principals, Joanne Allen who joins the growing A-HA team bringing with her international experience at MD level within the financial services sector having worked in the UK and Hong Kong. Jo is a global thinker with a strong commercial mindset and a savvy approach to porblem solving. Read more about Jo in her own words…
“It is the job of HR to be agile and pre-empt the impact industry changes on the workforce to enable organisations to face today’s threats and those that haven’t even been invented yet. ” – Joanne Allen, Principal
First a little bit of fun, can you describe in six words or less what you do (without using your job title)
Helping organisations and people to thrive
How did you get started in HR? And what attracted you to the profession?
I started university with a plan to be a Pharmacist. After choosing Psychology as a subject in my early years, I became fascinated with how and why people think and behave as they do. I was hooked! Understanding performance drivers and human motivation led me towards a career in industry and I have never looked back.
HR has given me the opportunity to have a global career. The more I travel and work with people from different; parts of the world, industries and job families; the more convinced I become that we are essentially all motivated by the same things – recognition (not always monetary), a sense of contributing to the bigger picture and a desire to learn and grow.
What’s been your greatest achievement in your career so far?
Wow – this is tough. I have been fortunate to work on many incredible projects and with some kick-ass people. I have led award winning-HR teams in Health and Wellbeing as well as Learning and Development. I have worked on mergers and acquisitions in a number of regions which are always challenging but fun. I have revamped regional graduate programs, redesigned regional businesses and coached some incredible executives to greater levels of success. I am incredibly proud of all of this.
The work that I am most proud of by far is helping organisations to positively shift the needle on gender diversity and inclusivity metrics. Setting measurable gender goals for business managers and working with them to hire more women, especially senior women and then making it attractive for these women to stay and to flourish.
Supporting talent development and growth and retaining a high percentage of women who have returned from Parental Leave have been key achievements. Making a sustainable and positive difference to business, people and workplace culture is what I am all about.
What do you think could be done differently within the current HR space?
The view that people have of HR, is only as good as the HR person or people they have experienced. HR does not generally hold the same level of credibility as some of its partner professions such as accounting and law. The industry body are working to change this by introducing structured accreditation and over time this will make a difference. It will ensure those who move into HR are more skilled, capable and professional and not simply moving into HR because they have failed at something else.
In the meantime, HR must learn to capture and interpret better data and then use these metrics to inform strategy and initiatives. We must hold ourselves to the same level of scrutiny as our colleagues who carry P&L responsibilities and we must account for the decisions we make and the advice we give based on reliable analysis, metrics and always with a commercial mindset.
Any HR words of wisdom?
The best advice that I can give is to check your energy and your attitude before you walk in the door at work. Shake off negativity and always bring your “A Game”. I understand that no one fires on all cylinders all the time, but you never know who is watching. You want to make sure you put your best foot forward. In my experience, one of the drivers of success at work is having a collective of positive sponsors and advocates. The great news is achieving a strong and supportive network is in your control.
Why do you believe HR is essential in 2017?
People contribute discretionary effort when they are motivated, energised and inspired. HR can work with leaders and managers to create workplaces where employees want to be at their best. As specialists in people management, HR can bring a different perspective to leadership challenges and this is vital in 2017. HR can help develop workplace cultures where innovation, change readiness and the ability to meet disruption early are inculcated. The job of a leader in modern business is very demanding and so having a commercially-focused HR function that is keeping an eye solely on delivering outcomes through people is essential now more than ever.
What HR trends do you see emerging within Culture, Diversity & Inclusion or Leadership that you see having a big impact for Australian organisations?
I have spent a significant proportion of my career working in Financial Services. This industry has gone, and continues to go, through monumental change. On the back of the Global Financial Crisis, where some institutions had to fight to keep their doors open, regulatory reform and stringent risk mitigation policies are now BAU. Ask any leader in this industry and they will have a story to tell you about the amount of time they spend on governance and compliance. The safety and security of financial institutions is constantly being challenged by hackers, fraudsters and money launderers who are out-manoeuvring internal protection systems faster than these can be developed.
Artificial Intelligence and automation are replacing jobs at a staggering rate. As you can see, a plethora of opportunities here for HR. HR must equip leaders with strategies to respond to these business challenges and help them adopt a growth mindset to facilitate culture that supports innovation and learning. Attracting and keeping the best talent is always a priority. It is the job of HR to be agile and pre-empt the impact industry changes on the workforce to enable organisations to face today’s threats and those that haven’t even been invented yet.
What does the future of HR look like to you?
It sounds corny to say, ‘the future looks bright’, but I really do believe this. HR is uniquely skilled to understand the complexities of workplace dynamics and to get under the skin of the organisation to unlock opportunity and potential. The bar has been raised on HR and this is a good thing. I believe we will see HR practitioners who are more in tune with the commercial realities of the businesses they support and therefore as a function, we will have greater relevance and impact.
Strong change management discipline, informed decision-making and strategy backed by rigorous analytics will help us achieve this. The numbers matter but we must never lose that which makes us human – social contact and being a part of a community. We must provide positive employee experiences for the betterment of our talent and the companies we work for.
What’s been the strangest thing (workplace practice, conversation, behaviour etc) you’ve encountered so far?
I’m sure you’ve heard the old English expression “there’s nowt so queer as folk”. I’d be willing to bet a dollar or 2 that every HR practitioner has an entertaining story to tell…..here’s one of mine. The HR function is often thought of as the place where employees go when they are unhappy or disgruntled in some way. You know, the general dumping ground for negative emotion and dissatisfaction. One of my favourite stories from the battlefield comes from my days in London. I received a call one day from an employee in a building across town informing me that he had seen a rat in the kitchen and was wondering what I as his HR person was going to do about it! Isn’t that a classic! In my very polite and diplomatic way, I explained that ‘Rat-Gate’ was an issue for building maintenance and not his (ever patient and long suffering) HR Manager. Enough said!