What’s Good (or Great) HR? From the Outside In #AHRINC

Nicholas Barnett CEO of InSync talks real evaluation of what’s proven to work in HR.

The research has only been completed in June (the report is due in the next two months). Nicholas is part of the AHRI Research Advisory Group and is also really active on various boards and with AHRI.

The rapid pace of change as has been an ongoing theme throughout the AHRI National Conference… Nicholas continues the (shocking) discussion around how quickly this is happening. He references Uber (surpassing taxis), airbnb (taking over InterContinental)… these companies weren’t around a few years ago.

So we need to be future focused


Let’s be more outward looking, let’s be more customer centric. We can’t have this session without talking about leadership – this is also absolutely critical to the success of HR.

REAL leadership (relationships, exemplar, ambitious, live an inspiring vision) – this is the model of leadership Nicholas follows (awesome stuff!).

We’ve got to be ambitious to really nurture a high performance culture (this echoes Gary Pert’s great session on high performance teams). Nicholas comes across as incredibly passionate about living with an inspiring vision.

The research surveyed over 800 HR professionals (I’m really glad to be able to say that I took part in this study). The AHRI Model of Excellence is really great (and will become more and more important as accreditation becomes the standard).

‘My Contribution’ (are all 17 attributes) – Dave Ulrich talked about this being one of the most advanced models for HR in the world (awesome work AHRI!).


  • HR/CEO’s and Execs all rated these similarly in importance (and performance). So we’re not greatly out of step with what business is seeing as critical HR skills (phew!).
  • HR are self-aware regarding their performance (similar to where execs rated them) – HR rated themselves as slightly more adept
  • Overall the study found that performance was lower than importance (common in a bi-variant survey)
  • Behaviours were seen as being more important than capabilities in HR (is this true for everyone? Great question from the audience: Nicholas says in his view of leadership it is yes – but all 17 facets are important)

This session is fascinating. I highly recommend anyone reading to get a hold of the AHRI research when it’s released to see the information in more detail.

  • The gaps (something is important and we’re not performing well) according to HR are: credible, future oriented and influencer. Interesting. The gaps are smallest in understanding and care, critical and enquiry thinker and professional.
  • The exec view says that the biggest gap is in culture and change leader, stakeholder, mentor and coach and strategic architect.

Are we changing fast enough? The room doesn’t think their organisations are!

The largest opportunities for improvement:

  • Be future focused, be a culture and a change leader
  • Remember your context is rapidly changing, and is really different organisation to organisation and industry to industry 
  • Gender differences: female execs say that the importance is higher and the performance is lower (it’s not a huge difference, but it is there). This is also true of female HR professionals. Male execs say the opposite.

Above image: Differences in industry perspectives. Does the life/death and competitive nature of these environments justify the increased view of importance over performance for healthcare/social assistance and finance/insurance executives?

Cultural change is tough in big companies – a lot of nods around the room of the data that indicates this (higher view of importance in companies 5000-1000)

So how do we be more future focused and more forward looking? How do we carve out time to make sure we do that in HR.

  • Carnegie’s story of writing down 6 things each day to do each day (just the 6 most important) – he then sent a cheque to the idea’s guy for 25000 pounds as that’s how much he thought the idea was worth. How do we ensure that we do this?

Work: Today & Tomorrow #AHRINC 


Natalie Slessor (Head of Workplace, Lend Lease)

Susan Ferrier (National Managing Partner, People, Performance & Culture, KPMG)

Helen Lea (Exec Director, Enterprise Services, Telstra)
Natalie Slessor


Work is now happening outside the box… what do we need in the workplace – let’s stop and think about that and then design what we need.

Now we can work anywhere it’s more important than ever that our workplace captures an idea – and communicates it effectively.

Susan Ferrier


Many organisations are unable to embrace new ideas at speed and scale. We aren’t just designing office space – we’re designing every aspect of our business with every aspect of this 21st Century employee in mind. Agile leadership is front and centre. At KPMG they are upping the ante on collaboration. Solution focused customer interactions are critical. Feedback needs to be listened to instantaneously: this is centred on people.

Connection, Edge, Freedom, Conscience (focus point for KPMG).

Pilots to achieve this are working: productivity remained the same but engagement increased.

We need to think, act and deliver differently. Everything is personal, it can’t just be business.
Helen Lea

OMG she started with if you have an issue with Telstra come and speak to Helen after her session (shock and horror – what a way to begin!)

Organisational purpose: create a connected future for everyone.

They are really using technology at Telstra to encourage real technological mobility (e.g. their CYOD policy which is offered to 20,000 employees and partner staff).

Real leadership on flexible work has been critical to it’s success at Telstra – this has now helped provide some great customer insights.

Telstra uses devices to access intranet and systems access (e.g. e-learning as needed) – testing the bounds of security and identity registration in new ways (and leading the way for their own customers).

Telstra has a 4 month preparation for when moving people into new ways of working: 1400 people are in the new environment using all of these new technologies.

Lessons learned include: combine business cases, consider people. place and tech together, be bold (plan for success), leadership counts, ground the work in your purpose and values. 


Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Talks the Dark Side of Confidence #AHRINC

I’ve been really excited to hear this one. The room is very full (yup, everyone’s here after such an amazing Gala Dinner last night bright-eyed and bushy-tailed).

If people were self-aware there would be a strong relation between confidence and competence (but there’s really not). 

Dr TCP kicks off the day confirming that this will not be a motivational talk… if anything it will be a de-motivational session (love it!).

Why do we all think we’re better, funnier, smarter, better lovers… than we really are? The Dunning-Kruger Effect represents this by a u-curve (i.e. idiots and geniuses estimate their intelligence in very similar ways). More men are overconfident in comparison with women (e.g. additions, stock companies that have more women will often do better).

Our desire to maintain positive self image is greater than our desire to understand reality.

Hogan measures positive traits, as well as the negative ones (bold, mischievous, colourful being the ones that corporate managers will often display those in excess). 

The impact? 

What else is going on?

  • Link to disengagement or lack of engagement.
  • Large market of passive job seekers (e.g. LinkedIn) in the industrialised world
  • Self employed economy (estimated 2020 the USA will have 40% of the workforce being self-employed)
  • Start-up activity rates have been increasing greatly over the past 10 years (but only 5% of start ups succeed)

“When selection fails there’s always training & development”

We should disentangle the issue of self-promotion from competence (i.e. men have more self belief – therefore that is why we have so many incompetent male managers).

We’re stopping using negative language i.e. ‘this candidate has a lot of potential development opporunitites’… (he’s getting a lot of laughs here!)

The criteria hasn’t changed to be seen as a leader/politician… successful women in this arena often out-do men in negative traits. (Comparison between Argentina’s HOS and Angela Merkel in competence vs. confidence.)

What can we expect for the future?

The narcisistic epidemic:

  • millennials will soon comprise the majority of the workforce
  • science says that generational (rather than age) differences reflect that narcisism is increasing drastically
  • (The only thing that’s increasing that much is obesity rates!)

Guardian article coming up “the public masterbation of self-image’ – must keep an eye out for this. This guy is amazing, am absolutely going to follow his stuff in the future.

Dr TCP talks Kim Kardashian and the evolution of narcisissm in popular culture… (love that this is a topic of conversation at the HR conference) – Donald Trump is another example.

We end on Freud “Most of the things we say today are just footnotes to Freud… he saw narcissm and self-love as the psychological manifestations of our survival instincts” (ie. what’s the point of survival if you don’t love yourself)

He also had the hedgehog analogy… and the implication on teams and leaders in the workplace.

If people/society keep going down this path then it will become harder to create and maintain high performance teams and cultures.

Wow! Food for thought from this one!


Elizabeth Proust: Myths & Realities in Managing a Woman’s Career #AHRINC

31 of the ASX top 200 boards have no women on the board.

Woah. Australia, what’s happening? Norway mandated (and acheived) 40% board membership by women in 7 years. 7 years!

23 of ASX 500 companies have no women in their executive. In small busineses women do much better (are we getting sick of corporate culture). At the current rate, we’ll get equality in 177 years on boards and in in execs.

This isn’t just an equity issue, it’s a waste of talent.

Over Elizabeth’s career (3 decades across a variety of sectors) she’s learned:

  • The need for lifelong education and training (her mother missed out on her last year of school due to her grandfather’s attitude towards women’s education) so as a child/teen Elizabeth was encouraged not to focus on domestic tasks so she could do homework. Advice to women? Have at least one domestic task you can’t, or won’t do. (Love it!)
  • The need for supportive relationships (whatever that means to you). Choosing partners/relationships wisely is critical. Elizabeth shared details of her supportive, equal partner (she married very young – but her husband supported her in her career seeing it as equally as important as his).
  • Networking is critical – especially when it comes to more senior roles this becomes more and more imporant. Women sometimes (says she is speaking generally) that hard work and long hours = promotions, it doesn’t always
  • Nave a go at a job you think you can do. (Tells the story of a role in the late 80s where of over 100 applicants were all men – the line manager requested that women apply and Elizabeth encouraged someone to who then went on to get the role)
  • Take risks. Her career success has largely been due to moving outside of organisations (rather than being promoted within them). A good network is critical to this.
  • Women tend to question their own competence. It’s hard to put aside those doubts.
  • Mentors are critical. All of Elizabeth’s mentors have been men – goes hand in hand with networking. It’s a myth that women don’t help other women. Elizabeth is a mentor in the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
  • Don’t jump to board roles too soon (Elizabeth took her first position at 55). Having battle scars helps a huge amount (although she’s open to being questioned about this in the Q&A). 
  • Get as much experience as you can in your company, in other roles (just HR isn’t generally enough) – but a variety of experiences is key. Boards are getting smaller (it’s not just a cost issue).

If you have an attitude that you can acheive anything – go for it.

Question Time (With Peter Wilson AM, National President & Chairman AHRI)

  • If you are the only woman on a management/leadership team it can be tough
  • Peter asks Elizabeth about how to engage and communicate effectively as a woman in a leadership position: don’t defer to men, prepare (know what you’re going to make a point on and what you’re not)
  • What about dealing with buillies? Speak up for others – tell the bully what you thought, why the behaviour is offensive and inappropriate (otherwise it becomes “how we do things around here”)
  • Stepping up in your career – what were some of the issues you had to confront to rebalance? For Elizabeth this came earlier (e.g. advisor to Minister, there was only 3 of them and at least one of them had to be at Parliament) so a lot of long work hours = a big dislocation of normal life.
  • What makes you successful in this role doesn’t automatically make you successful in the next (especially when going from managing small teams of people to large teams of people)
  • To get gender equity right at exec ranks: get the board to set targets (include that on the board score card), and hold execs and other HR professionals accountable for striving to do better in this space

Audience Question Time

  • Natural lifespan of a board role? Possibly 9-12 years? There is no magic in it – it’s what is right for that person and that organisation
  • Targets – no targets = it won’t get measured = it won’t happen. Be careful with boards though (don’t want to deplete exec ranks to fill boards as it’s the exec and management that set the culture of the organisation)
  • What does the emphasis on moving organsiations mean for organisations who want to keep their top talent. Some organisations do it well. Elizabeth gives the example of Nestle who are great at developing women’s careers (although they do need to be mobile). Companies’ timescales (for promotion etc.) can be different to what your own timescales are (e.g. them saying you can have a great job in 3 years… when you can’t think of anything worse than staying for another 1).
  • Language (Chair-man) – Elizabeth doesn’t have an issue with it, although notices more people calling it ‘Chair’
  • How do women champion gender equality? Argue it on economic grounds: it’s bad business to not use all your talent.

What an inspiring (and practical) session.


Julia Gillard: Leadership in the Asian Century: Opportunities Abroad, Lessons at Home

When Great Britain industrialised it took 70 years, in the last 25 years Asia has done it (and more of it). Julia Gillard kicks off her talk with a few really funny anecdotes (the Prime Minister of Italy in makeup…)

First thoughts: Julia Gillard is funny! #ColourMeSurprised

So what does this drastic growth in Asia mean for Australia? Australia’s attitudes to Asia and it’s rise have changed drastically.

What this means – Australia’s traditional source of heartache (distance from the world) – is now it’s biggest advantage. Beneath the economic churn (stock markets, demand and downturn of the requirement for Australian resources etc) there is a longer term growth which we need to be in a position to engage in.

Currently there is a summit in Sydney to discuss reform and the way forward to prepare us for this. The US is our ally – while China is our biggest exporter for Australia’s goods. Never before has Australia’s history depended on neither an ally nor a democracy.

HR is in the bsuiness of interconnections between people. For our industry Asia’s rise is the opportunity of a lifetime. Technological change will be the constant disrupter. 

Technological change is rapid (Julia (because we’re on a first name basis) great stories about the first time she used a fax machine here) – “how smart can these walking talking machines be?”. Julia introduces us to “Watson” who was created to play Jeopardy – he beat the best 2 human players ever.

Whaaat? Watson the computer has now enrolled in medical school. 


The rate of change is exponential – we’re running up a very steep curve.

So what will the future of work look like?

More and more is being done by machines (factory work, reading resumes, accounting work)… we’ve got to adapt HR people!

Machines will never be innovators. Never be ideas creators.

People-people that will succeed will be the ones that can adapt and change. Be crystal clear about what you want to do, who you want to be, what you want to change. 

Technology means it’s harder to manage the important over the urgent. Give yourself the time.

Maximise the talent around you free from stereotypes. Success and likability are positively correlated for a man and not a woman.



This is awesome #AHRINC 2015

What a great start to the day!

Epic first key note from Ram Charan (#gotmybooksigned) and now am sitting in waiting for Gary Pert (CEO Collingwood Football Club) to speak about creating a high performance culture (something I blogged about recently on the AHRI National Convention Blog).

I’m very excited to hear what Gary has to say about the lessons he’s learned on the sportsfield and how they’ve been applied to a successful organisation.


From Gary Pert’s intro I’ve learned he has done a lot of very impressive stuff… a lot. He isn’t here to convince us to be Collingwood supporters (“good” says a lot of the crowd).

In Gary’s initial takeover of the CEO at Collingwood FC role he realised that self belief was great… but they hadn’t won a permiership in 20 years, membership hadn’t changed from 40,000 in years, in recent times they’d also not been making huge financial gains either.

In assessing the figures he realised that they just didn’t make sense. They owned the Beach Hotel and the Diamond Creek… income against rent just didn’t play out to their advantage.

First meeting with Westpac – Gary was told (at the start of the GFC) that if they were a normal organisation Westpac would have taken the keys… so things were grim!

But crisis is a great reason for change – and the fundamentals for creating high performance teams in those environments are the same.

These fundamentals are:

– establish and create a vision for the club/organisation: “To be the biggest and best sporting club in Australia” (BRW named them the biggest sporting franchise for the last 5 years)

This then drove everything the CEO and the exec has done in the last 8 years

– create our purpose: “To win AFL Premierships”

Gary asks us all to make sure we can write down the purpose of our organisations (I’m happy to say I can do this in working at YMCA Victoria 🙂 )

– our mission & clarity within the organisation (to give a counterbalance to that drive for performance) – this is what sets us apart. “To create a club where players, staff and supporters can live their dreams and ambitions”. Asking staff “are you living your dreams and ambitions working us here at the Collingwood FC”

Best memory was when Gary took the cup to a retirement village and they had their kids and grandkids there. Gary had a long drive back to Melbourne – a son and daughter asked Gary to take the cup to their mother in high care (the son and daughter we in their early 70s). The whole family was in the room, they asked for a photo with the cup – the family had been told that Mum was going to pass away and they believed she stayed for this event because she was such a big Collingwood supporter. Gary had a call on the Monday saying that the Mum had passed away that night.


– who are our key stakeholders? 

1. Supporters

2. Players

Could your exec articulate who their key stakeholders are? Gary thinks that’s because poor decisions are due to the key people not knowing the difference between parterns and stakeholders. Partners = AFL, media. Stakeholders = the people that you build your strategy around.

“Our people are our most important thing” In a high performance environment you can’t build your strategy around your current people (because if you do you will never do better than those people can do). You need to set goals that are in excess of what your people can do. That will create change. In footy you often understand how/why people need to be ‘superceeded’ 

– create your leadership proposition

Collingwood FC’s values: side by side, excellence, discipline, relentless, community.

Big organisations often say… I’m big on values, but our people won’t embrace the values. But when the exec/board were asked to write down their values – none of them could. Out of the 7 values, the average they got right were 2.5. 

99/1 rule – as a leader you get judged on the one.

Gary asked the Captain to set the values with the team. Critical that the players (or team) are on board with what the values are and why they’re recognised as being important.

“Those five words aren’t where the power sits” – it’s in everyone living the values through real accountability. If you can’t or won’t live the behaviours then you’re not welcome in the team.

The first part of the induction for new staff members is with Gary, the CEO, saying how critical the values are at Collingwood. They promote those who live the values, reward them with bonuses etc. 

Once the leadership proposition was set then they set their goals. (Which were all unrealistic and unacheivable)



A lot of excitement @ the #AHRINC 2015

I’ve just arrived for the kick off of the AHRI National Convention 2015 in Melbourne. Already hard truths have been had…

  • Why did I not bring my phone charger?
  • Why did I not think my iPad/keyboard was a necessity for all sessions, not just the full days?
  • The Melbourne Convention Centre is ENORMOUS – I will get lost here. Must make a note of the meeting points and landmarks
  • There are puppies here! (Anyone who had read my Twitter bio knows I am something of a puppy  connoisseur). These puppies can be found at the HR Onboard stand and are from Guide Dogs Victoria. Well played @HROnboard, well played
  • The conference book rocks (mad respect to anyone who can provide me with a pretty good sized conference booklet with all the necessary info & space to write notes)

I know I’ll take away more valuable learnings than just where the puppies are held – but I’m counting this event as a success already!



#AHRINC 2015

I’m pretty excited about the 2015 AHRI National Convention – not only am I lucky enough to be one of the event bloggers (do you think I’ll get a special lanyard?), but there is an incredible calibre of speakers on show!

My plan is to share learnings while at the event including tweeting away (like you could stop me) and posting updates on my blog as I attend different sessions. If anyone has any questions please get in touch. As always you can reach me on Twitter @ReneeRoberz or you can contact me via the ‘Ask a Question’ page here at Engage Learn Build.  


Leadership, Thinking differently

The Truth About ‘High Performance Culture’: Is It Just Buzz?

If I had a dollar for every time a manager said to me “I want a high performance team” I’d probably be on a beach somewhere…

Each time I hear this statement a few things run through my head (as I know they do other HR professionals):

  • How would you define a ‘high performance team’
  • Do you actually mean ‘I want to build a high performance culture’?
  • Do you know what you want that culture to value?

As with any buzz phrase in business, sometimes really worthwhile endeavours (like building a high performance culture) get lost in soundbites and false hopes of a ‘quick win’. Gallup research identified six key ingredients to achieve a high performance culture (HPC) and they are anything but quick fixes:

1. Implement an effective performance management process
This can be built using a merit based system to define high performers, setting clear standards and expectations, and articulating shared goals and objectives.

2. Create empowerment and authority
What you really need to make this work is trust and accountability as a good base to be able to respond to the market and drive innovation.

3. Increase leadership capability at all levels of the organisation
Think communication, communication, communication! Organisations with the highest levels of employee engagement share a common mission and purpose with accessible and visible leaders.

4. Develop a customer-centric strategy
How well do the organisation’s leaders connect to the wider business (including brand, people, mission & purpose)? What do they do to ensure everyone is engaged with a customer-centred worldview?

5. Increase communication and collaboration
How critical do your leaders believe people management is to their role? Or do they see themselves as operational managers with people management ‘add-ons’? For organisations to achieve effective communication and collaboration there must be two-way communication throughout the organisation and real intent by leaders to be truly engaged with their people.

6. Enhance training and development
Prioritising ongoing learning for individuals and the wider organisation is critical to continuously improve as a collective. Setting up employees for success is the best way to create a HPC and comprehensive learning and development plans that complement the organisation’s overarching objectives and direction is critical for this.

I’m really excited to hear from Gary Pert (CEO of Collingwood Football Club) speaking at the AHRI National Convention about creating a HPC because working as a team is a critical (if not the most critical) element of a successful sports club. In a sports team you know you have to have a HPC otherwise you may as well hand the win over – so what lessons can we embed in our organisations from those that do it well?

Whether you’re managing a netball or a marketing team (or you’re a HR professional who constantly has to field the question ‘how do I do this?’) what do you need to think about to embed a HPC?

  • Make it a priority. In sport you want to win right? So what do you want to do in your organisation? Is having a HPC essential to getting there? Yes? Prioritise it.
  • Define what a HPC means for you. Is it winning every game? Reducing complaints by 50%? Becoming an employer of choice? Once you’ve defined where you want to go it will be easier to zero in on what you need to focus on, whether it’s up-skilling your people, managing your environment or investing in a specific function.
  • Once you know what a HPC means then look at who is doing it well; suss out the competition, look within your ranks – what makes them a success? Is it replicable? Do they display the behaviours you want to embed? How do you emulate them?
  • Are you being realistic about what you’re already doing well? Have you identified a ‘high performing team’ that is actually just a team with a couple of superstars? If those people leave then what do you have left? Luck does not equate a HPC.
  • Plan. Plan. Plan. You can’t do everything at once and a HPC doesn’t happen overnight so where do you want to focus? How are you going to get there? Who do you need involved? How long is it going to take?
  • Get buy in. There are multiple times throughout this process where stakeholder management is critical but if you’re going to change focus or make changes ensure that you’ve got the right people on board. Your shareholders, directors, managers, clients or your fans – they can either support the change or destroy your efforts.

Reference: Gallup 2013 research on High Performance Cultures.

The author will be a guest of the AHRI National Convention and has been asked to write up her thoughts on the event.

This article was originally published on the Australian Institute of Human Resources (AHRI) website.

Leadership, Personal brand, PKM, Thinking differently

Psych Assessments and Personality Profiles: Worth It?

This week’s post is a result of a question submitted through Engage Learn Build. It’s a question I get asked frequently in various forms – from executives looking to evaluate their team or a new hire, managers who feel they should be using psych assessments but don’t know where to start, right through to friends who are wondering what on earth the correlation is between a seemingly random request for a psych assessment midway through the recruitment process.

My response to these questions varies greatly on the why:

  • Why is the decision maker wanting to engage in a psychological assessment or personality profile?
  • Will the tool that is being suggested actually help answer that question? (Quite often the answer is no…)
  • And finally, does the decision maker actually know how to interpret the results, or do they have someone on hand to walk them through the process? (Again, quite often the answer is no).


Hey Renée, as a leader, the most valuable learning I’ve done has been about myself. Tools like MBTI,  360 feedback mechanisms and TMI profiles (IE creator / innovator, concluder / producer etc) have all made me much more aware about how to get the best out of others, but most importantly made me much more self aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and helped me out plans in place to compensate.

How do you rate the different tools out there for leaders looking to be more mature and self aware in their approach to leading others and what traps and pitfalls should they look out for using those tools?

– Damo


I totally agree, I think there is a time and place for these tools (which I geekily love) and I get heaps out of them too. I think for me the key is context. If you’re someone who can go out and take what they need from these types of tools, apply it etc. then it is less important, but I often see people engaging with tools (either themselves or with their teams/organisations) and then not contextualizing it and making it mean something for the individual/group.

Most people don’t naturally do this (it is a skill highly related to EQ) – but as a leader, when engaging others in this space, the context is everything. Ideally these tools should help inform a broader plan rather than be the plan. As for preference I personally have gotten the most out of 360’s, especially when it is a goodie. The Human Synergistics LSI tool is pretty decent and I really like Facet5. Although if you’re looking at team dynamics rather than individual development I’d lean more towards personality trait profiles (MBTI, DISC are all much of a muchness in my opinion) because they’re easy to understand and focus people on understanding how they relate to others – and others relate to them, which when you’re trying to get a team to work together is pretty critical.

The big trap is the idea that any one tool (or often, consultant selling that tool) has all the answers. While most tools are supported by good theory there is a lot of room for error and an element of subjectivity in analyzing results. Some assessments have been developed with sales people in mind for example, where extroversion is an asset – where someone who is trying to cultivate a collaborative leadership style might rate badly but actually still be really effective in their substantive.

My readers might have differences of opinion when it comes to some of the psych and personality tools I’ve listed. But I maintain the most critical part of the equation is the ‘why’, and if the organisation or the manager concerned hasn’t got that figured out then I’d suggest that any of these tools are next to useless.