7 key take-outs from the 2016 HR Leaders Forum

This year’s HR Leaders Forum – of which, SEEK was a proud gold sponsor – revealed that the Australian workforce is undergoing a major transformation. As a result, HR managers are presented with the unique opportunity to lead business strategy like never before.

Here are seven key themes that were repeated across the two-day thought leadership event, held in Sydney 23–24 February 2016.

1. Be a culture vulture

Everyone in the room agreed – the role of culture in an organisation is of central importance. Culture is the glue that will keep a company together, focussed and moving forward in both the good times and the bad. But to be a real success, culture must be embodied by the company’s leaders, and connected to the organisation’s objectives and strategy.

You can get the ball rolling, at a relatively low cost, through things like good internal communications and training, but what’s most important is to be clear with the team about what’s going on and why, especially in tough times. Introducing a cultural component to employees’ performance management plans will help to make it more meaningful and enable them to feel personally connected to the business too.

2. Have an ever-evolving approach

SEEK’s own Head of Executive Search, Sarah Beck, discussed the need for organisations to be evolving how they’re attracting, managing, developing, motivating and retaining key people. Taking a targeted and proactive approach to attraction is key, and Beck walked through how SEEK has grown its product capabilities and attracted global talent to form a world-class team through segmented communications and targeted activity. Beck also encouraged HR leaders to look at how they’re integrating their talent strategies with the broader corporate strategy – something that needs to be unified.

3. Play Sherlock

Should the HR department be run like the marketing team? Yes and no. Speakers at the event noted that the top 10 websites in the world are all about discovery – ultimately proving that people love to play Sherlock, and discover new and wonderful things about the world. What’s more, traditional marketing is changing and you’re more likely to get a better response with social media, experiential and content marketing. So, here’s HR’s chance to use all the data at its disposal to target the right people and eliminate any wastage in recruitment investment.

4. Track down your target

High performers from the millennial generation will want and expect a creative approach to professional development. To keep high performers engaged (and to help keep turnover low), innovative and effective talent development programs should be customised and made distinct from the traditional reward methods, such as study programs and leadership courses, which are now expected as fundamental development opportunities. Customised programs can be best thought of as ‘the art and science of talent management today’ and should be treated creatively and with an open mind.

The same goes for the way in which you communicate with people, both internally and externally. Targeted communications and the discipline of segmentation needs to be adopted and used daily by HR professionals – it’s the only way to stay relevant and keep people engaged.

Pay particular attention to the language used when looking to recruit. Gone are the days when you can send the same message out into the world and continually get the right candidate. Campaign-based recruiting is crucial to tracking down your target audience.

5. Pull up a chair

One of the big questions posed by speakers was ‘what is the role of HR in this innovation’? The answer: HR professionals are viewed as enablers of innovation, working to create an innovative culture from a bottom-up and top-down approach.

Right now, HR has the opportunity to pull up a chair at the innovation table to help create a space in which an organisation can thrive. Take a step in the right direction by challenging every process and assumption and ensuring each HR function within a company is directly connected to the jobs to be done. Be bold and recognise failure, as it only brings us closer to a solution.

6. Appeal to the next generation of workers

SEEK Employment’s Head of Strategy, Florian Dehne, also presented on the future of work, looking at the key features of tomorrow’s employment landscape. Dehne first spoke about the rise of the extended workforce, where the lines between permanent and contract staff are increasingly blurred, challenging HR to find ways to engage contract staff and include them in the culture of the organisation. Secondly, he spoke about the rapid and regular skill-set disruption, and the fact that knowledge will become old very quickly and more often than ever before. And, finally, he highlighted the real intensification of skill shortages. These will all inform the structure of work and be embodied in the attitudes and behaviours of the next generation of workers.

7. Become a behavioural scientist

The workforce of today will need to change and adapt faster than ever before. So naturally, the HR professionals behind the scenes need to do the same. Contract roles are on the rise, as businesses, too, need to change more quickly – posing a challenge for recruiters to keep them engaged in the same way as their permanent employees.

Technology is also contributing to change management. One example discussed was how to move 200,000 people onto a new payroll system. It’s a tricky business and today’s recruiters need micro-learning, along with new ways of engaging field staff and keeping them in a constant state of learning. The future is here, and speakers at the event said HR professionals are no longer ‘process people’, but have instead evolved to become behavioural scientists.
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Julia Tehan


Marketing Communications Manager – Corporate, Government and SME

Julia Tehan’s been marketing up a storm for over 10 years across three continents. Now back in her hometown of Melbourne, Julia spends her time creating and executing innovative communication plans for SEEK’s corporate, SME and government clients.

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