CEOs championing inclusion and diversity change


This year’s joint winners of the AHRI Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award talk to AHRI chairman Peter Wilson AM (FCPHR) about the highlights and challenges of their diversity journeys.

Aurora Fonte, CEO, Assetlink

Peter Wilson: What does winning the 2014 Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award mean for you and Assetlink?

Aurora Fonte: It’s validation that we, as a company, are on the right track in relation to our people inclusion and diversity strategies. Personally, it’s a great achievement and recognition for our amazing teams that work relentlessly towards a more engaged and happy workforce.

PW: As CEO, what has been your mantra and approach in championing change in this area? And how do you continue to reinforce the business need for diversity?

AF: As a CEO, the most important thing I can do is ‘be the change’. That is my mantra, and it really does have a ripple effect throughout our business. It’s vital to model the right behaviour of care, inclusion and acceptance, and make sure this is instilled in every part of the business.

Naturally, this needs to be well documented and implemented throughout the business to ensure consistency of understanding. Having clear and living values, along with clear signature behaviours, helps reinforce the message consistently. It doesn’t need to be complicated at all – it just needs to be real.

PW: How do you measure the impact and results of diversity practices?

AF: The ultimate measure of success is high levels of people satisfaction throughout the business. We gauge this through the engagement surveys that we conduct. Our people retention is also very high, together with a strong living culture.

Another vital measure is high client satisfaction and retention. We measure client satisfaction regularly. There is clearly a connection between a happy, well-trained and connected workforce and a happy customer. This also leads to financial sustainability. It’s a great big circle. 

PW: How do you continue to drive your inclusion and diversity objectives? What does the future hold for Assetlink?

AF: We’ll continue to focus on cultural diversity and inclusion, extending it further to greater community benefits. Our mission is to be Australia’s most engaged workforce, and we believe we’re on the way to achieving this. We intend to drive this through simple yet effective programs of reinforcement and intervention where necessary. Continuously focusing on people’s needs is what will ultimately make us better at what we do. This will require a continued commitment and focus. However, the results will be self-perpetuating.

Lance Hockridge, CEO, Aurizon

Peter Wilson: What does winning the 2014 Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award mean for you and Aurizon?

Lance Hockridge: It means a tremendous amount. I’m humbled to receive the award and proud of the extraordinary contribution people in the company are making in this area. We’ve worked hard over the past two years in particular, to challenge the status quo of a historically male-dominated workforce, and we’re making some real headway.

Many of our leaders and employees have been proactively involved in a wide range of initiatives, so it’s great for them to receive this recognition.

PW: What have been the highlights so far from your inclusion and diversity journey?

LH: Personally, to have high-performing women work with me on a four-month rotation in my office, experiencing the full range of activities a CEO encounters, is a priceless opportunity that we all gain so much from. Aurizon’s partnership with UN Women Australia and the series of panel discussions I participated in earlier this year was a standout.

PW: As CEO, what has been your mantra and approach in championing change in this area? And how do you continue to reinforce the business need for diversity?

LH: If you ask my employees, they’ll say my constant messaging of ‘not treating an inequality equally’ is continually reinforced. What I mean is that, once we acknowledge things are out of balance – which is a fact, with only 14.3 per cent women in our workforce – then, if we keep doing things exactly the same, nothing will change.

PW: What have been the main resistance points and challenges, and how have you overcome them?

LH: Our company has been around for nearly 150 years, and with that history comes some strongly held views about the type of work we do. At Aurizon, we continue to constructively challenge old-school viewpoints.

PW: How do you measure the impact and results of diversity practices?

LH: Our focus is to attract and recruit a diverse range of applicants, develop and transition them through our leadership pipeline, and at the same time achieve transformational cultural change. It’s no mean feat and we need to hold ourselves accountable to achieve  this. It’s not a passing fad for Aurizon. To that end we have enterprise-wide diversity KPIs and each function of our business has diversity action plans that are progress monitored and evaluated.

Applications for the 2015 AHRI Awards open 20 March. If you would like to receive information about the AHRI Awards prior to this date you can express your interest by email.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Championing change’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

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CEOs championing inclusion and diversity change


This year’s joint winners of the AHRI Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award talk to AHRI chairman Peter Wilson AM (FCPHR) about the highlights and challenges of their diversity journeys.

Aurora Fonte, CEO, Assetlink

Peter Wilson: What does winning the 2014 Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award mean for you and Assetlink?

Aurora Fonte: It’s validation that we, as a company, are on the right track in relation to our people inclusion and diversity strategies. Personally, it’s a great achievement and recognition for our amazing teams that work relentlessly towards a more engaged and happy workforce.

PW: As CEO, what has been your mantra and approach in championing change in this area? And how do you continue to reinforce the business need for diversity?

AF: As a CEO, the most important thing I can do is ‘be the change’. That is my mantra, and it really does have a ripple effect throughout our business. It’s vital to model the right behaviour of care, inclusion and acceptance, and make sure this is instilled in every part of the business.

Naturally, this needs to be well documented and implemented throughout the business to ensure consistency of understanding. Having clear and living values, along with clear signature behaviours, helps reinforce the message consistently. It doesn’t need to be complicated at all – it just needs to be real.

PW: How do you measure the impact and results of diversity practices?

AF: The ultimate measure of success is high levels of people satisfaction throughout the business. We gauge this through the engagement surveys that we conduct. Our people retention is also very high, together with a strong living culture.

Another vital measure is high client satisfaction and retention. We measure client satisfaction regularly. There is clearly a connection between a happy, well-trained and connected workforce and a happy customer. This also leads to financial sustainability. It’s a great big circle. 

PW: How do you continue to drive your inclusion and diversity objectives? What does the future hold for Assetlink?

AF: We’ll continue to focus on cultural diversity and inclusion, extending it further to greater community benefits. Our mission is to be Australia’s most engaged workforce, and we believe we’re on the way to achieving this. We intend to drive this through simple yet effective programs of reinforcement and intervention where necessary. Continuously focusing on people’s needs is what will ultimately make us better at what we do. This will require a continued commitment and focus. However, the results will be self-perpetuating.

Lance Hockridge, CEO, Aurizon

Peter Wilson: What does winning the 2014 Inclusion & Diversity Champion CEO Award mean for you and Aurizon?

Lance Hockridge: It means a tremendous amount. I’m humbled to receive the award and proud of the extraordinary contribution people in the company are making in this area. We’ve worked hard over the past two years in particular, to challenge the status quo of a historically male-dominated workforce, and we’re making some real headway.

Many of our leaders and employees have been proactively involved in a wide range of initiatives, so it’s great for them to receive this recognition.

PW: What have been the highlights so far from your inclusion and diversity journey?

LH: Personally, to have high-performing women work with me on a four-month rotation in my office, experiencing the full range of activities a CEO encounters, is a priceless opportunity that we all gain so much from. Aurizon’s partnership with UN Women Australia and the series of panel discussions I participated in earlier this year was a standout.

PW: As CEO, what has been your mantra and approach in championing change in this area? And how do you continue to reinforce the business need for diversity?

LH: If you ask my employees, they’ll say my constant messaging of ‘not treating an inequality equally’ is continually reinforced. What I mean is that, once we acknowledge things are out of balance – which is a fact, with only 14.3 per cent women in our workforce – then, if we keep doing things exactly the same, nothing will change.

PW: What have been the main resistance points and challenges, and how have you overcome them?

LH: Our company has been around for nearly 150 years, and with that history comes some strongly held views about the type of work we do. At Aurizon, we continue to constructively challenge old-school viewpoints.

PW: How do you measure the impact and results of diversity practices?

LH: Our focus is to attract and recruit a diverse range of applicants, develop and transition them through our leadership pipeline, and at the same time achieve transformational cultural change. It’s no mean feat and we need to hold ourselves accountable to achieve  this. It’s not a passing fad for Aurizon. To that end we have enterprise-wide diversity KPIs and each function of our business has diversity action plans that are progress monitored and evaluated.

Applications for the 2015 AHRI Awards open 20 March. If you would like to receive information about the AHRI Awards prior to this date you can express your interest by email.

This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Championing change’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.

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