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Deloitte’s HR team reveal how they make work meaningful

The HR team at Deloitte Australia believes work should be purposeful. As individuals, that means setting the standard for their profession.

If you don’t have a plan, it’s easy to get lost. This is as true of work as it is of anything else. Organisations veer off-course chasing growth, revenue and prestige, which is why you need a mission statement. Individual employees get lost chasing security, praise and KPIs – and it’s one reason why HR needs to have a people strategy.

At Deloitte Australia, one of the HR team’s strategic pillars is to enable the company’s culture of purpose-led work. They want each employee to find their work meaningful, and part of that entails not dictating what that meaning should be. This approach has proven to be successful for the professional services firm; in an engagement survey 83 per cent of staff said they felt a sense of purpose and meaning at Deloitte.

The senior HR members must be in that majority, because when asked about their individual philosophies, they don’t miss a beat.

“My philosophy from an HR perspective is that we can’t always control what happens, or what decisions are made, but we can certainly control the ‘how’,” says Sam Sheppard, CHRO and national partner. “So my purpose as an HR leader is to ensure that we support the commercial growth and success of the firm, but we do so by managing our people with dignity and respect.”

Connie Hansen FCPHR, partner, people and performance, has a pragmatic streak to her HR approach. “My philosophy revolves around the business. Really understanding and making sure that the people strategy aligns very closely with where the business is headed.”

For Tina McCreery, partner, people and performance business units, it’s helpful to think about Deloitte’s people as consumers. “Like you would if you were a product manufacturer. So asking, ‘How do we ensure our culture, products and services attract and retain them?’”

These personal philosophies have influenced the business. Dignity and respect are present in their AHRI Award-winning inclusion 50 LGBTI Leaders Initiative, which highlighted LGBTI role models within and outside the firm, and reached millions of readers through the Australian Financial Review’s BOSS Magazine and social media.

They’re also there in the firm’s parental leave – which is inclusive of same sex, foster, surrogacy and adoptive families – and its return- to-work training program for people who have had significant career breaks. Of particular note is the recruitment of a mother who spent nine years out of the workforce.

All of this aligns with Hansen’s thoughts around keeping the people strategy moving alongside Deloitte’s direction. The firm’s employer brand has been helped immensely by the positive press around its inclusion efforts – it has moved up seven spots to third on LinkedIn’s ‘top companies to work for’ list.

Beyond the superficial

All of Deloitte’s programs look and sound nice, but they are more than just ornamental, as they can be in many organisations.

Parental leave, for example, is frequently offered but men in particular assume they’ll harm their reputation by actually taking it. That’s why the firm actively encourages men to take time off by having senior partners speak openly about the positive impact parental leave has had on their own lives, and by creating a support group. The team can see it’s working. Forty-two per cent more men accessed parental leave this year compared to last year.

The whole team’s approach to programs reflects a sophisticated view of HR. A process of feedback is applied to everything from recognition schemes to wellbeing initiatives.

Appropriately it’s McCreery, who tries to think of employees as consumers, who explains this.

“We have design and ideation sessions with our employees; we get them to help us craft the experience. That’s the thing with working in professional services. Our people go out and consult with clients, and so they have an absolute expectation we’ll consult with them.”

But simply offering benefits is like ticking a box. To be truly strategic, it needs to feed into your wider goals. “Programs are just actions that bring your strategy to life,” says Sheppard.

“A program wouldn’t keep me at Deloitte,” says Hansen. “Every organisation has programs, but the essence of why I come to work every day is a sense of purpose.”

A broader legacy

Perhaps the strongest evidence for the team’s belief that work should be meaningful is its desire to not limit that meaning to Deloitte.  The firm is one of the first Australian companies to identify AHRI’s HR certification as an internal standard. It aims to have all senior HR leaders certified by the end of this financial year and the plan is that any new hire above the senior manager level will get certified. It’s also trialling a more top to bottom approach, by supporting several mid-level managers through the AHRI Practising Certification Program.

“For us it’s about getting consistency and raising the bar, both internally and also contributing to the profession more broadly,” says Hansen, who is already certified.

Sheppard says Deloitte’s development goals could be achieved internally, but for her, team certification is about something more profound. It’s part of their plan to make work meaningful.

“We talked about it together. If certification is a legacy we can leave for the HR profession in Australia – not just HR at Deloitte  – then that’s something we would be very proud of.”

This article originally appeared in the December/January 2019 edition of HRM magazine.

Use AHRI’s online HR Certification Pathfinder to find the pathway that best suits your skill level and HR experience.

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