AHRI’s annual awards night saw the best in the people profession gather to recognise their outstanding peers.
Last week 600 talented HR professionals gathered for a gala dinner in Melbourne’s spectacular Town Hall to celebrate those putting their own touch on the people profession and taking enlightened steps in leadership, diversity, organisational talent and workplace wellbeing.
As you would expect of such a crowd, a key theme was the centrality of people. AHRI’s CEO Lyn Goodear set the tone in her opening speech, touching on the tumultuous year that has been. Using the Banking Royal Commission as an example, Goodear said the problematic times call on the HR profession to “truly distinguish itself though informed expertise and exemplary standards of practice”.
“Some CEOs are acknowledging that their financial achievements may have dulled their senses to signals that might otherwise have alerted them to non-financial risks… now I’m seeing the reference to “non-financial” risks as another way of talking about people and human behaviour.
“But, of course everyone in this room already understands that organisations in their own right don’t create sustainable market value, rather it’s the people within our organisations, when bound together via a positive and productive culture, that ultimately drive reputation and market value,” said Goodear.
A lighter note
For some, the party didn’t stop until the stroke of a new day; a well-deserved celebration after what has truly been a jam-packed year.
Notable funny man, and MC for the evening, Peter Berner regaled the crowd with his token dry wit, while keeping the hundreds of guests engaged and ensuring acceptance speeches were short and sweet – by no means an easy task.
Well known show tunes (think Wicked and Les Misérables) were performed by a phenomenal live choir. It’s also worth giving a shout out to the truly sensational organ housed in Melbourne’s Town Hall; the organist played a piece from Phantom of the Opera which literally sent shivers through the venue. I mean, look at this magnificent beast!
The calibre of this year’s 84 finalists was impressive, resulting in eight individuals and 20 organisations winning a prize, including two joint winners for the LGBTIQ award and the Indigenous Employment award.
Taking home the coveted Lynda Gratton CEO award was Masonic Care Tasmania’s CEO and board director Daniel Findley, who was recognised for developing creative programs to serve the masses, and his unwavering commitment to the organisations and communities he works with.
ICC Sydney’s director of human resources Mathew Paine was delighted to win the Marshall Goldsmith Talent Development award.
“To put us on the map as Australia’s best in talent development has always been a dream of mine,” he said.
It’s easy to see why this has been a burning passion for Paine. ICC’s ‘My extraordinary journey’ initiative puts learning pathways in place for every single employee in the company. This allows employees to gain full or part qualifications through their daily work; an opportunity that 1,000 ICC workers have already taken advantage of.
“As part of our Indigenous employment program, we took on a person that hadn’t worked in ten years. She had no previous experience or qualifications and now has been employed with us for more than 12 months.”
The clever part about this is that it plays on skills shortages in their industry, such as rigging, and turns it into an advantage for the business. They are creating their own talent pipeline.
Winning wellness approaches
Education company Pearson Australia were recognised for their efforts in employee wellbeing, scooping up the Allan Fels Mental Health Award. Their approach to mental health isn’t just run-of-the-mill, says VP Human Resources for Asia Pacific Simone Wright. Wright says it’s hard to talk about – not because she couldn’t think of anything to say, but because their approach is all encompassing. “I could talk about it all day,” she says.
“Of the three tier approach (sustain, reach and trust) we spend a lot of time in prevention – talking about it, creating the right conditions and putting wellness as a priority. We encourage people to learn more about their own physical and mental health; their holistic health.”
Their comprehensive approach is modelled from the top down, cultivating an open culture that celebrates transparency, vulnerability and encompasses both their internal and remote workforce.
“For us, winning this award shows us we’re on the right track and encourages us to go even further. We’re a learning organisation, we want to apply that to [our mental health initiative] Person Well. We will continue to measure, evolve and adapt the strategy.”
Size doesn’t matter
INS proved you don’t have to be a large, established corporation in order to model innovative flexible work options by claiming the Elizabeth Broderick Workforce Flexibility award. With their thirty strong team, the career management specialists were proud to take a win for smaller businesses, as their HR manager Kellie Grant explained.
“I’ve been a member of AHRI for a number of years, so I know how rigorous their process to select a winner would have been. We were over the moon to just be a finalist. In our category we had three other high-standard finalists. Honestly, I didn’t think our small little company had much of a chance. This recognition has been so fantastic!”
She said the INS approach to flexible work is that it’s available to all employees and because “everyone’s circumstances and needs are unique”, they work on a case-by-case basis when defining the specifics of their agreement.
One of the things that sets them apart from other businesses of their size, is an onsite crèche.
“When there were a few of us (including myself) who went off and had babies, our CEO said ‘I want these employees back and I want them to feel supported in the workplace.’ It’s not a thing in many small companies, and even large ones, and that’s understandable because it can be a challenge to put together but that’s how invested she is.”
Grant was also quick to point out that flexibility isn’t just about child care, noting that one of their employees is a playwright who, at times, will drop down to four days a week in order to spend a day working on his writing.
“It’s about providing opportunities for people to explore their other passions in their life. We understand that makes for better rounded individuals and at the end of the day, that’s going to be better for your bottom line,” said Grant.
“That’s just how it should be. It shouldn’t be a workplace benefit.”
One thing that was apparent when speaking with the winners was the sense of pride and gratitude they had at being recognised for their efforts. This pride is well deserved, because as Goodear said, HR has truly risen to the challenges that 2018 has presented. Here’s hoping it continues into 2019 and beyond.
Click here to view the full list of winners.
Get recognition for exceptional HR achievements. Express your interest in applying for the 2019 AHRI Awards.