A record number of HR professionals attended AHRI’s annual showcase event at the National Convention in Melbourne in August. If conversations among delegates are anything to go by, it’s a sign of how the profession is increasingly aware that it is standing on the brink of a great challenge and a great opportunity to reposition HR in the first half of the 21st century.
This was a theme that animated speakers repeatedly over the four days at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. The skills and capabilities that HR can bring are in greater demand than ever before said Peter Wilson and Lyn Goodear, AHRI’s Chairman and CEO respectively, in their joint opening introduction to the convention. The task for AHRI and every individual HR professional is to ensure that HR can deliver, show leadership and add value to their organisation.
The opportunity to set the bar through certification was applauded by Professor David Ulrich who spoke to a packed audience about what’s next for HR and the importance of cultivating an outside-in perspective of the business. HR professionals “are the architects and anthropologists, seeking the mysteries” within an organisation – and solving them, he said.
In a highly anticipated speech, Julia Gillard reflected how, in a world beset with economic uncertainty, complex international relationships and workplace change, HR can be both change-maker and a source of stability. HR is in the business of people connections, and there is no better time to seize this opportunity to develop that skill than right now, she said.
The transformation of HR was uppermost in people’s minds and so hearing about the Qantas experience first-hand from Jon Scriven, Group executive HR at Australia’s national carrier, was instructive and fascinating. It showed how HR can take a lead in cultural change and turnaround the fortunes of a company on the back foot.
Another popular and thought-provoking presentation came from University College London academic Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. His talk blew apart the myth of positive thinking and the idea that confident Alpha-individuals aren’t necessarily good for business, arguing that the ability to self-reflect and be self-critical are over-looked and more valuable for business.
Ram Charan personified the human in HR, abandoning the podium to mingle with the audience as he tackled the issue of the CEO and CHRO relationship and how to establish partnerships and add value to organisations.
Speakers urged delegates to get together between sessions, share their thoughts and exchange experiences. Over coffee and delicious buffet lunches, delegates didn’t need much encouragement to network and make new friends. All of which culminated in the evening gala dinner where an 80s theme brought out the shoulder pads and sequins. Guests were treated to the dazzling skills of magical act Soul Mystique, and Michael Jackson impersonator TJ and the King of Pop Show, before hitting the dance floor. Although dancing skills are not part of the certification program, from this year’s evidence, many HR professionals would score highly. Maybe next year.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the October 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘The way ahead’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.