Shelley Tate is a 20-year HR veteran who prior to working at Transfield Services has held HR managerial roles with The Fred Hollows Foundation, Origin Energy, General Electric Healthcare and Wesfarmers.
What has been your career strategy?
Your career strategy needs to support the brand that you’re developing for yourself. I’ve developed the ability to quickly study strategy in order to align my efforts and identify opportunities to make big contributions early.
Initially, I was working across industries purely for the challenge of trying out new things and pushing myself. I enjoyed the variety and decided to deliberately develop a skill set and reputation for being adaptable, fast-paced and capable.
To make it to the top in HR, how important is financial acumen?
Financial acumen is a basic leadership capability required across all disciplines. No one expects you to challenge the CFO, but you do need to understand the financial drivers of your business so you can align your HR plan to contribute.
How important is it for the HR profession to add value to business?
HR leaders often devote too much energy to defending HR’s performance and value. We don’t see finance leaders behaving that way. HR teams need to assume value creation then get on with delivering it. Data should be used in the service of investigation and continual improvement, rather than justifying what you’re already doing.
How do you create a work environment that makes it easy for people to achieve the best business outcomes?
I start by making sure the right people are in the team. I often bring in one or two new people early to spice things up. A small number of energetic, optimistic people who want to make a difference to the business can really give others a boost.
Then I think it’s about positive leadership, business driven planning and a very disciplined focus on a small number of initiatives. And of course, acknowledging every small step towards those wins keeps the team motivated, valued and moving forward.
What makes a successful people leader in 2015?
Authenticity and optimism – especially in HR. Our people know all the buzzwords and the theories but they still want to learn and make a difference. My experience is that people want to work with people who are authentic, so they know where they stand and where they can focus their development.
They don’t expect their leaders to know everything, but they do expect help to get what they need. They also expect their leaders to help them connect their efforts to the grand plan in an optimistic way. Everyone wants to know that his work matters and the future looks good.