What do AHRI’s latest life members think about the state of the profession?
John Macy is the founder of competitive edge technology and a pioneer in HR technology and cloud technology
Tell us about your first job in HR.
Straight out of high school in January 1964, I was ready to start a career but had no idea what I wanted to do. Rather than go to university, I decided to take a job with a government department, which provided employment security. I joined the Department of Main Roads (now Roads and Maritime Services) and was assigned to the staff department as a junior clerk.
What was your most important career decision?
The decision to leave Qantas after almost 25 years. We’d gone through massive changes following the privatisation and merger with Australian Airlines, and I had finished implementing our global HR Information System. The time was right for a career change and to use my experience in an HRIS consulting role.
What’s the biggest change you have seen in the HR environment?
The impact of technology brought about the biggest changes. Starting in HR in an era of record cards and personal files, before serious computing began, has allowed me to experience all the technology changes.
The centralised mainframe computer era was a massive change to the way HR carried out traditional processes but the arrival of desktop computing with spreadsheets and Word documents transformed HR. I think all the other gradual technology improvements, including internet, email, social media and so on, have helped improve the services and advice HR is able to offer. Now with mobile access, improved networks and Cloud computing, we are entering another stage.
Corporate sustainability has been a major research interest of yours. Why?
Organisations exist to provide goods and services to society. As Gandhi said: “There is enough of everything in this world to provide for all our needs but not enough to provide for all our greeds.” Today we face the most critical challenges civilisation has faced with issues such as climate change and population growth. We must create organisations that contribute to a sustainable world rather than exploiting natural and human resources in a way that undermines the wellbeing of future generations.
What makes organisational change so difficult?
The rate of environmental change is speeding up as technological innovation proceeds at an ever-quickening rate. Those organisations that survive and thrive build in the capacity to adapt to rapid change. This involves creating transformational leaders who understand the environment in which they are working and have the ability to reinvent themselves and the organisation. Unfortunately, in many organisations those who hold senior positions are the most resistant to change. The most critical factor is to develop an executive team that models the kinds of constructive behaviours that encourage upward communication and innovation.
You are a published poet – how does poetry mix with the world of academia,research and consultancy?
Creative endeavours such as writing poetry, painting or sculpting are ways we can celebrate the joy of being alive and wrest some meaning from our experience of being here. Writing poetry is a form of transformational experience by which we struggle to bring the soul’s deepest fears and desires to the centre of consciousness and expression. For me, writing poetry is a life-changing experience.
How did your early career shape your views on HR?
I was motivated to study organizational behaviour through reflecting on the people I saw working at IBM (my first job), and on my own feelings about work. I was fascinated by what made people do a really good job or simply coast along; what ininfluenced their decision to stay or leave an organisation; and what made them feel satisfied or dissatisified with their work. I left IBM to do a PhD finding answers to these three questions..
How can the HR profession support small business in people management?
HR is typically a large organization profession. HR is best placed to help people in small organisations who are part of the stakeholder network of the large organisation the HR professional works for. As part of the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement, some large organisations already extend training and learning opportunities to the smaller organisations that are part of their supply chain. Improvement of people management practices could be part of this drive to improve quality throughout the supply chain (and related value-adding services).
Why should HR practitioners concentrate on relationships outside their organisation?
In many industries, much of the value added is created by organisations and agencies that are not part of the core organisation, such as sub-contractors, consultants, service companies and government bodies. Improvement efforts must include all stakeholders, not just those who are on the permanent payroll. Also, I believe HR has much to offer sales and marketing, supply, and other organisational areas that manage performance-oriented relationships with people.