Didn’t make it this year? We’ve got your back. Here is our wrap up of day two of the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition.
The clouds parted and the sun shone on cue in Sydney as the AHRI national convention got underway. One of the most culturally diverse crowds seen in recent years gathered in the splendid surrounds of the brand new International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.
AHRI chairman Peter Wilson welcomed delegates in the beautiful Darling theatre auditorium, centring his address on the impact of new technology and how constant change is the new daily reality for organisations. Putting technology immediately to work, Wilson asked delegates to vote instantaneously on the reasons that brought them to AHRI’s national convention. Overwhelmingly, they responded it was the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and best practice.
And that’s what they got. The first keynote of the day, Dr Lois Frankel, President of Corporate Coaching International, focussed on the impact that individual in leadership roles can have in an organisation. She decoded what it means to have “executive presence” in an age of poor role models in the US and North Korea. Frankel, an engaging speaker, making a return to AHRI’s national convention, took a forensic look at appearance, communication and gravitas, giving HR useful tools to become more effective and influential.
Practical sessions for HR professionals, such as how to build high performance environments led by the charismatic Andrew Meikle, researcher and CEO at Elkiem, quickly filled up. The former Ironman offered a takeaway formula that HR can apply in their own workplaces, requiring delegates to think on their toes, debate and reach solutions for themselves.
In another session, occupants of the new Barangaroo office blocks (delegates have a clear view of the towers from the ICC) revealed how they transitioned their workforces into the cutting-edge spaces. These HR leaders – from Lendlease, PwC, KPMG and Wespac – offered key insights into the cultural challenges they overcame, the use of collaborative technology and flexible working that distinguish life in Barangaroo. Interestingly, all of them claim these open, connected buildings have meant fewer meetings, but enabled greater knowledge sharing.
After lunch, David Thodey, who heads the CSIRO and was former Telstra CEO, gave a thoughtful keynote speech reflecting on the volatility of our times. The disconnection felt in many societies is replicated in workplaces and a loss of control is compounded by the ever increasing pace of technological change.
Against this background, like Frankel, Thodey emphasised the important role of leadership. His vision of the kind of executives that will be leading organisations tomorrow are very different from those we’re familiar with today. Currently, many leadership development courses miss the mark, says Thodey and HR has much to contribute in helping to define leadership in their organisations, foster authenticity and innovation and help shape the leaders for a new digital world.
Trust was another central theme that came out of the convention. A lot of lip service is given to change, said Thodey but transformation is possible if organisations can move from a world of compliance, governed by rules and characterised by a lack of trust, to a culture of accountability. Trusting employees to make the right decisions has the added advantage of making organisations more agile.
Trust was at the heart of Rachel Botsman’s message, too, so it was fitting that her keynote speech was the day’s last. The globally renowned consultant has built a reputation on her ideas about “collaborative consumption”. It is “the currency that makes systems like Airbnb and Uber work: trust, influence, and what she calls “reputation capital”. But today she asked a question we’re all wondering about: what happens when a society loses faith in established institutions?
It was a presentation that had delegates debating long after the curtain fell.
(For more from Rachel Botsman, read our interview with her.)
The AHRI National Convention continues at the ICC Sydney, with the second day of the main convention program on Wednesday (23 August), and one-day workshops on Thursday (24 August). If you are in Sydney, drop by Australia’s largest and free HR exhibition (last day 23 August) and check out the latest in HR products and services.