Dave Ulrich HR Practitioner of the Year, Employee experience manager, RedBalloon.
What do you do?
I bring the six pillars of our employee experience framework to life to continually engage and inspire our team. People often ask why I’m the employee experience manager and not the HR manager and I have a simple explanation: It’s about how people experience organisations and not how they are used as resources within them.
Why do you think reward and recognition is so important to the HR function?
I worked as a generalist for eight years, mainly in retail/customer service-focused environments, but it wasn’t until I started at RedBalloon that I really saw positive employee engagement in action. Reward and recognition is so important because everything starts with really understanding who your people are — not just their job titles, but getting to know them as individuals. When you step back from all the theory and hype, it’s as simple as that.
Since you joined RedBalloon, employee engagement has jumped from 73 per cent to more than 90 per cent for three consecutive years. What’s the secret of your success?
When I joined RedBalloon all the basics of HR were in place, creating the perfect springboard to create an amazing place to work. Early on, I knew that our team leaders were the key to the success of our employee experience, so we invested in a Leadership Development Program to provide them with the tools they needed to motivate, lead and engage their teams. We are always open to taking chances, challenging what currently exists and creating something new. RedBallooners don’t come to work as a job title, they come to work as people. We create an environment that is more about achieving balance and less about trying to magically create work/life balance.
What is the most successful initiative you have introduced at RedBalloon?
Our GROW initiative, implemented in FY10, was all about empowering our people to be their own career personal trainers. Each team member was required to complete 30 ‘grow hours’ every four months. They had a variety of channels to choose from, such as Lunch’n’Learn sessions, the Leadership Development Program, coaching and mentoring, and reading/researching white papers and journals. Our targets were to achieve 10 per cent FY EBITA growth and 54 per cent growth in Christmas sales, but we achieved 107 per cent EBITA growth and 73 per cent Christmas sales growth. Our people grew, so our business grew.
Throughout the award judging your ability to be “generous with your time” came up again and again. What tips can you give others on time management?
Generosity is one of our values. We all live and breathe our values every day — it’s who we are at RedBalloon. Being generous comes naturally to me. It’s what I’m here for because everything I do is for our people. Also, I’m not a big fan of the word ‘busy’. Everyone’s busy, we get it. But it’s the ability to prioritise within the time you have that will give you the best results.