Lynne Ainsworth Director of Red Crane Consulting.
Tell us about Red Crane Consulting and how the name came about.
I’d been working in regional HR roles for quite some time, spending three to six months of the year overseas. With that level of travel, you tend to get burnt out, so I wanted something with more flexibility, focusing on the kind of work I most enjoyed, such as talent management, change management and cross-cultural integration. I launched Red Crane Consulting in 2011 – I’ve had a long-term fascination with China, so I wanted a name that was symbolic of the country and good fortune.
What inspired the move from accounting to HR?
I started out working in small companies where payroll and personnel were part of the accounting department. As I matured, I realised I was more interested in people than figures. I undertook a bachelor of business, majoring in HRM, then completed a masters in HRM specialising in international HRM, focusing on different cultures, managing and supporting expats, and international business.
How does HR in Australia differ to some of the other markets you’ve worked in?
I’ve come to realise there are three areas of HR that are fundamentally the same across all cultures: all employees want to be treated with dignity and respect; they want to undertake engaging work that is valued; and they want a fare wage in order to provide for their family. Outside of that, in China, for example, performance management is viewed very differently – it’s more relationship-based than performance-based and is viewed as indicative of your relationship with your manager. In emerging markets such as China and India, you’re dealing with rapidly increasing wages and high staff turnover.
What’s one of the greatest challenges you’ve faced while working with an overseas company?
I was working in HR integration in a joint venture between a Chinese and American company, in a remote part of China. We were merging two very different companies and trying to get everyone to understand each other’s culture. Conducting training in two languages through an interpreter proved particularly challenging. When switching between cultures, it’s important to be humble, and not to assume that what works in your country will necessarily work in another.
Do you draw on your HR experience in your pursuits outside of work?
I definitely did when I took part in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race – yacht racing is very much a team sport, and if you’re not a team player you shouldn’t be racing. You have to rely upon and trust each other, and if there are young crew members on board, you also take on a mentoring role. When I walked the Kokoda Track, I had to draw on inner strength, but I also had to form a team with the nine other people I was trekking with, drawing on my team-building, mentoring and coaching skills.