Leading across borders

The importance of cultural awareness

Did you know that in Japan the most senior person tends to lead the business conversations, and it is not uncommon for their colleagues to hardly speak at all.  Whilst in Australia communication is often friendly and relaxed, but it can be direct and to the point.

For a leader, being aware of, and understanding the national cultures of their team (and clients/ customers) will have profound impact on their success.

But what is culture?!  Hofsteade describes culture as: “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others” and that “National Culture cannot be changed, but you should understand and respect it.” (2) – an important message as too often leaders try to fight and change a way of doing things, rather than accepting, understanding and compromising.

Hofsteade’s model of national culture consists of 6 dimensions which represent independent preferences for one state of affairs over another that distinguish countries (rather than individuals) from each other. (2)

Source: https://www.cleverism.com/understanding-cultures-people-hofstede-dimensions/


How culturally aware are your leaders?!  Here are our top tips to being culturally aware to successfully lead across borders.  Share these with your leaders today!


  1. Develop your culture intelligence – make a conscious effort to understand differences in culture. Learn about other cultures, understand how business is done, how success is measured, how people typically behave – and why.  For example, in certain countries it is seen as disrespectful to disagree with your boss.  Which is very different from other collaborative cultures and can be challenging when you would like to get the honest opinion of your team.  There are different techniques and tools you can use to gain trust and seek the information you need.  It almost always comes down to relationships and acceptance that your team may not challenge you in the way that your own culture might. Being agile and flexible is key!
  2. Be curious with your team members – ask questions, make an effort and show a genuine interest in understanding the country culture of your team member. Relationship building is even more important with a different culture and when working remotely. Find something in common – food, sport, travel, work, family, etc.  Be conscious of certain cultural norms for example not eating certain food or drinking alcohol but don’t avoid – ask questions and show an interest.
  3. Cultural awareness training and support – undertaking cultural awareness training is essential.  There are many tools out there where you can complete online training and compare your culture with another or understand top tips for working in another country.  Team cultural training is invaluable in helping a cross cultural team to bond and understand how to work best with each other.
  4. Clarity of the ask – one of the biggest miscommunications that we hear of is when you ask someone to do X and they do Y. This challenge isn’t directly relating to national culture!  It is always good to clarify the ask – encourage your team members to repeat back to you what you have asked them to do and then work through any differences in understanding and give clear deadlines.
  5. Do your research – when running a meeting or workshop for your team, do your research. There are some great resources available which compare working styles and business etiquette in different cultures.  Or download our guide of questions to ask when exploring working with another culture. For one of our associates, running client workshops in China and Malaysia was both exciting and nerve wracking.  You can’t assume that what works in one country, will work in another.  Our associate did her research, spoke to local colleagues whom she had a relationship with and had back up plans to ensure interaction.  We recommend not only considering culture but also thinking about language (the workshop in China was in Mandarin!), learning style and communication style.
  6. Consider personality – now that you are culturally aware, it is easy to make assumptions that all people from a certain country will act in a certain way. Which is not the case!  Remember that everyone is an individual person with different views, preferences and styles.  Having this human centred approach to leadership will enable you to build strong relationships, bond and perform as a team.


We hope you find these tips helpful and share these with your leaders.



1 https://richtopia.com/effective-leadership/how-business-etiquette-is-different-in-different-cultures

2 https://hi.hofstede-insights.com/national-culture

Leadership skills for the future

2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all industries.  For businesses to survive, recover and grow; agility, digital transformation, creativity and strategic direction is essential to balance the needs of the business, the changing environment and the evolving workforce.

The pandemic has truly challenged what it means to be a leader.  The leaders of today, and tomorrow, will need to leverage and develop different skills.  This is something we are passionate about at KEASE.  We have outlined below our thoughts on the critical skills that leaders need to be successful.



If you research ‘skills needed to lead through COVID-19’, resilience is top of the list.  Psychologist Adam Grant describes resilience as ‘our strength and speed of response to adversity’.  It is not about how much resilience our leaders have but how do we provide the right environment for our leaders to build resilience and learn what does it take for them to find strength in a tough situation (1).  Chances are that we will not click our fingers and go back to a pre-COVID world.  With a pandemic comes disruption and with disruption comes challenge, opportunity, excitement and nervousness.

But how do you create an environment that enables your leaders to build their resilience?  Josh Bersin’s below captures what is needed to create a resilient organisation and individual resilience.



Leadership agility means being able to anticipate change. This means taking a proactive approach to business decisions, rather than a reactive one (2).

The pandemic has encouraged, or forced, many companies to re-think their purpose, focus and to be agile.  For example, in the construction industry many projects have been delayed or put on hold as many businesses are not in a position to invest in premises in the current environment.  Contracts have had to be managed, supply chains re-thought and schedules re-worked.  At the same time, governments are considering advance spending on infrastructure to reinvigorate the economy (3).  It is hard to predict what the future will hold and to keep businesses evolving and workforce engaged, agile leadership will be critical.

In addition to agility, creativity and innovation are key.  Whilst a leader may not always be the person behind the ideas, creating a culture of adaptability, agility and one that fosters innovation and change will be important. The market shapers—those that shape the future of their industry rather than adapt to it—will emerge stronger (4).


Human Centredness

‘A company is only as resilient as its people’ (5).  It is common knowledge that being a technical or subject matter expert does not necessarily make a good leader, and this is something that many industries such as utilities, construction and healthcare have acknowledged for some time.  Now more than ever leaders need to be human centred.

But what skills does a leader need to be ‘human centred’?!

  • Emotional and social intelligence – Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own and others’ feelings – in the moment – and use that information to lead yourself and others (6). Strong relationship building skills are important, as is empathy.  Brene Brown said that “Empathy fuels connection” (7) and connection is this new world will pull apart a great leader from an ok leader.
  • Self-awareness – of themselves (including how they react under stress!), as well as awareness of their team. Exploring this area further will enable leaders to build relationships based on trust, honesty and empowerment.
  • Leading with digital transformation – digital transformation has been on the cards for some time in many industries. Prior to the pandemic 70% of power and utilities leaders (6) were focused on recruiting or retaining talent for digital (8).  COVID-19 has fast tracked digital transformation in many ways and future digital transformation is critical for business growth.
  • Strategic vision – Leaders will need to be forward thinking, strategic and insights driven. Take the healthcare industry for example, which is fast paced, high risk and constantly evolving (even more so over 2020!). Leaders will need to have the ability to balance the needs of the organisation, customers and workforce – and bring their people on the journey.
  • PowerSkills – Leaders will need to leverage or develop the following skills for success:


Strong communication and change management

COVID-19 may fundamentally change the culture of the workplace and how leaders engage their people. Communication, in particular thinking through the why, who, what and how of communications is critical, especially throughout a crisis and in the months and years of recovery where there is likely to be further change and prolonged period of uncertainty.

Communication, collaboration, trust and transparency is essential for leaders to engage the hearts and kinds of their teams.  Leaders need to have good communication skills focused on empathy, resilience, reassurance and direction.



What can you as an organisation or HR team do now to invest in your leaders?   “To face the challenges of the future, we need to invest today in the people who will be the leaders of the future” (9)

Our leadership programs at KEASE are based on proven methodology (such as DiSC) and can be tailored to your organisation and your leaders.  Our clients have seen up to a 33% increase in engagement, staff retention and productivity after completing one of our programs.

Get in touch with KEASE to understand more about how we can help you.




  1. Adam Grant, https://www.linkedin.com/learning/sheryl-sandberg-and-adam-grant-on-option-b-building-resilience/the-importance-of-resilience
  2. Study.com, https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-leadership-agility-definition-elements.html#:~:text=Leadership%20agility%20means%20being%20able,the%20interworking%20of%20your%20business.
  3. Accenture, https://www.accenture.com/au-en/insights/industrial/coronavirus-engineering-construction-impact-response
  4. Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/covid-19/heart-of-resilient-leadership-responding-to-covid-19.html
  5. Arianna Huffington
  6. Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence
  7. Brene Brown
  8. PwC, https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/energy-utilities-resources/publications/powering-up-the-energy–utilities-and-resources-workforce.html
  9. Mandarin.com.au, https://www.themandarin.com.au/137058-we-cant-let-stem-skills-become-a-casualty-of-covid-19/

The future of work and leadership

futuristic woman

Experts have been predicting the ‘future of work’ for some time now.  And there is nothing like a global pandemic to fast track some of these predictions, or quite frankly completely turn them on their head!

Businesses that may have been thinking about remote working frameworks or leveraging technology/ AI have unwillingly had a crash course in new technology systems and ways of working.   What we now have is a more tech savvy, flexible, wellbeing conscious, global talent pool that have seen the benefits of a different way of working.  Going back to the ‘old way’ is not an option.

We love the below infographic that outlines the mindset shifts needed for organisation transformation to thrive in the new world.  And these mindset shifts need to start and end with your leaders.  So what will the future of work look like and what does this mean for your leadership? 


From Profit to Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has really shone a light on what really matters to people.  In the past the success of a business would typically be measured by the financials and how much profit they make.  How a business has responded to the pandemic, including how they have supported their communities and their people has really had a lasting impact.  The focus has had to shift from profit to survival to purpose and employee wellbeing.  Those companies that looked after their people will reap the benefits.

We have seen an influx of redundancies across Australia and the world.  Many enjoyed working for a corporate because of ‘job security’ which is hard to promise these days.  The rise in redundancies have given people the opportunity to re-think what they want to do, where, when and how; and as a result, we have seen an increase in gig and contingent workers.  Talent attraction, retention and development of the workforce (including gig and contingent workers) in the future is going to be different.  Employees, workers and customers will want to work for/ with a business that has a clear purpose, looks after it’s people and has values that align with their own.

For generation Z, it is not enough for their employers to simply have a compelling purpose. They want to see purpose lived out authentically through bold actions (1).  But it is not just Gen Z that have worked differently during 2020.  All generations have gone through a fast change and have had the opportunity to reassess their purpose, which will impact who they work with/ for in the future.


From hierarchies to networks

In the past there has been a focus on the person moving to a job – whether it is a daily commute or physical relocation.  When travel is restricted work still needs to be done.  Business continuity has been a big focus of business’ response and survival of the pandemic. There has been a trend towards ‘bringing jobs to people’ and savvy businesses are seeing the benefit of this. You need an academic or a scientist with a particular skillset in Australia?  What about looking at the talent pool across Australia, Asia Pacific or even the world.  Imagine the skills, ideas and calibre of talent you could have access to remotely. 

Businesses have also been planning for future talent needs and have recognised that they may not need a full-time employee based in Brisbane, and so the mindset is shifting further to a more contingent workforce.  

At KEASE we operate on an associate model – we have our business vision, goal and employees but supplement this with Associates who are experts in their fields, who want to be part of a team and who want to work flexibly.  And we have to say, it really works! 


From controlling to empowering

Gone are the days when everyone needs to be sat in an office working core hours, being watched by leadership and judged if they take a slightly longer lunch break or talk too long at the coffee machine.  For many leaders this was the biggest challenge in adjusting to working remotely – how do you know what your people are doing?!  The answer is – you don’t!  And that has to be ok.  Businesses that are going to thrive are ones where there is TRUST that people will get the work done.  There will be a focus on outputs instead of inputs – looking at productivity, feedback, completion of a construction project, engagement of a team as opposed to hours spent looking at a screen or being on site.  Reward and recognition will need to shift too, this should also be focused on the outputs instead of inputs.  Dolly Parton and her ‘working 9 to 5’ is no longer!


From planning to experimentation

The businesses that have survived the pandemic and will thrive in the future are those that have been agile.  For example, to succeed in the future of the utilities industry, the right balance between reinventing, growing its core business, and expanding into new business models and revenue streams must be maintained (2). 

A COVID-19 pulse of HR survey (3) found that:

  • 87% of employees felt that businesses must adapt and may not survive
  • 77% need more creativity to reinvent the business they are in
  • 61% need to reskill the workforce to grow and adapt. 

With access to a wider, adaptable talent pool, with fresh ideas and perspectives, and leveraging digital and AI there is huge opportunity for experimentation, growth and innovation. 

Even the best laid plans at the beginning of 2020 were ripped apart.  The future is uncertain, and leaders need to have flexibility, agility and innovation at the forefront. 


From privacy to transparency

If there is a benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of this could be the increase in openness and authenticity of leaders and their teams with each other.  At the beginning of lockdown, many would still get up and dress for the working day, use zoom ‘corporate’ backgrounds and maintain a high level of professionalism.  Fast forward a few months and jumping on a zoom call post morning run with kids and pets in the background and the washing hanging up is the norm.  People have let their guards down and teams have felt more connected with their leaders seeing the ‘human’ side.  To ensure the safety of the workforce and community, people have been willing to share event more personal data.  People have placed trust in their leaders and have been more transparent.

Being comfortable to be transparent with what is going on in their lives or industry that may impact the delivery of work, take supply chains for example, has created a deeper level of trust and empathy.  Leveraging this transparency, trust and deeper relationships to move forward is essential and the workforce and customers.

Businesses and leaders have already gone through huge mindset shifts but work is needed to ensure that this continues to happen.  At KEASE we are passionate about human centred leadership and creating the right mindset shifts.  To see how we can help you, take a look at our website.



1 https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/millennial-gen-z-talent-workplace-leadership/

2 https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/industry-blog/en-gb/cross-industry/2020/06/25/the-future-of-the-utilities-industry/

3 COVID-19 pulse of HR – PwC, joshbersin, cultureX and MITSloan

Employee experience and well-being

Employee experience and engagement has been a focus point for organisations and leaders for some time.  Organisations were thinking about how to create the right employee experience balancing human centredness with digital.  The COVID-19 pandemic has struck the employee experience at the heart.  The focus of many employees quickly shifted from career progression, personal growth and meaningful work to concerns about health, wellbeing, finances and job security – the base layer of ‘physical needs’ on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Forget about the ‘right next role’, many were lucky to have a role.



Organisations and leaders have had to adjust the employee experience in real time, with the focus on the physical needs and safety of their employees being at the forefront.  With 92% of individuals experiencing some level of anxiety as a result of the Coronavirus and 61% experiencing some level of financial concern, this reassurance, support and security is likely to be desired for some time.

When looking for the silver lining, 95% of organisations have demonstrated a sincere interest in employee wellbeing and safety, and 89% have put measures in place to ensure that people feel supported during this time.   76% say collaboration of overall organisation has improved significantly1.  Even the least human centred leaders have been forced to make a shift, which can only be a good thing.

So, where to from here?  See below for our top focus areas for your leaders on how to create the experience your employees need to thrive in the future:

1: Wellbeing – employee wellbeing should be at the forefront and will be a measure of business and employee performance (see CB Insights diagram below). Employee wellbeing should include both a formal program (e.g. resources and practical help) as well as creating a culture of wellbeing.  Checking in with your team, being comfortable talking about mental health, leading by example and recognising that many employees have undergone a priority shift in 2020 are all important.  Employees will want to work for an organisation and leader that supports wellbeing and demonstrates empathy, authenticity, inclusiveness and resilience.


2: Digital – The majority of the workforce have experienced some level of digital transformation in the way they work during 2020. Salesforce believe that technology needs to be an important part of the employee experience strategy.  They say that ‘today’s employees are consumers of the workplace and expect a personalised, digital experience’.   And that ‘organisations that trust their employees like premium customers, from the recruiting process through to the alumni experience, are best positioned to retain talent and see the highest performance in return’

3: Recognition – many employees recognise that pay rises and bonuses are unlikely in the current environment, but they want to be rewarded and recognised for what they do. Reward programs will need to shift – to focus on outputs instead of inputs, to show recognition in different ways in a virtual world and for leaders to recognise the importance of saying ‘thank you’.

4: Development and progression – in the past learning has been about formal learning classroom courses or online self-directed training. The future will be about learning in the flow of work, reskilling and exposure to new opportunities regardless of where they are in the country/ world.  Career paths will change, employees will drive their careers more and will need leaders that support and encourage this. See our blog on creating a learning culture.

5: Trust – 59% think that working from home policies will remain in place after the pandemic,1 with many employees seeing the benefits of a more flexible approach to work; spending more time with their families, getting regular exercise and cooking nutritious meals, for example.  Businesses have also seen the benefits of higher productivity in some cases and reduced overheads.  With the future of work being about bringing work to people; trust in your leader and trust in your team as a leader is essential.

6: Evolution – 31% of organisations surveyed their employees about the impact of COVID-191 which is surprisingly low.  To create the right future culture and employee experience, regular check-ins with your workforce is essential.  This can be regular check-ins by team leads but also by pulse survey.  Data gives you insights, and insights give you power to adjust and evolve the employee experience for the benefit of your workforce and your business.


Contact us at KEASE if you would like to talk about how we can help you to create your future employee experience and equip your leaders.

Creating a learning culture

Gone are the days when you stay in one line of profession for 45 years and pure experience is valued over agility, transferable skills and attitude.  Within many industries for example STEM, utilities and engineering, there is recognition by businesses and leaders that what got them to where they are now will not get them to where they need to be.


With the 100- year old life and the average shelf life of skills reducing substantially, the way an organisation encourages and facilitates learning and reskilling is critical for its survival, growth and success.  In Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 53 percent of respondents said that between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years (1).  This was before the COVID-19 pandemic!  

COVID-19 has already fast tracked the need for people in some industries to reskill.  In Singapore, for example, airline cabin crew grounded as a result of cancelled flights were assigned to hospitals as “care ambassadors” for low-risk patients after undergoing training in safety and infection control measures (2), and different ways of working have encouraged a behaviour shift from complacency to greater willingness to learn. 

The Thrive XM index 2020 found that learning was one of the top moments that matter for employee wellbeing and productivity.  Moments involving learning new skills found a 33% lift in engagement, 31% increase in retention likelihood ,28% lifts in work satisfaction and 21% lifts in perceived performance (3).  


Here are our thoughts on how to create a culture of learning:

1: Encourage the right behaviours – walking the walk as well as talking the talk is so important.  To develop a culture of learning, certain behaviours need to be encouraged – some of which may feel uncomfortable at first. These include:

  • Openness to share
  • Risk taking
  • Acceptance of mistake making – as long as you reflect and learn
  • Encouragement and empowerment
  • Seek, accept and leverage feedback from your workforce and customers
  • Positive encouragement and support for formal learning

2: Review your talent processes – people will be sought after because of their skills rather than experience.  Building a culture that tracks skills, develop skills and encourages transferable skills is important.  This can be done through having the right data on your workforce, bringing jobs to people, offering mobility (in person or virtual experiences), and having a robust plan of future skills and talent pipeline. 

3: Develop Corporate academies – Josh Bersin’s research shows that corporate learning will evolve from ‘learning in the flow of work’ by self-directed learning with a focus on learning experiences and design thinking to capability academies. Organisations should leverage a variety of techniques to develop certain transferable skills – outlined in the diagram below (4).  

SOURCE: Edge Presentation – Josh Bersin


At KEASE we offer the opportunity to review and create your learning culture, as well as offer training and coaching for your leaders as part of your ‘Capability academy’.  Check out our website or contact KEASE International via email for more information.



1 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2020/reskilling-the-workforce-to-be-resilient.html

2 “SIA cabin crew redeployed to care for hospital patients”. The Straits Times. 8 April 2020.

3 https://content.thriveglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Thrive-XM-Insights-Report.pdf

4 EDGE presentation – Josh Bersin



Creating a culture of inclusive leadership

Leaders that have been successful in the current environment and that will be successful in the future have a few things in common.  They are resilient, agile and human centred.  They focus on connectivity, empathy and INCLUSIVENESS.


Why is inclusive leadership important?

In a diverse world with diverse cultures and diverse people with diverse skills, styles and personalities, those organsiations that harness the power of diversity and are inclusive will be on the front foot.  As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with up to 88% of organisations encouraging their workforce to work remotely (1) and an increase in people feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, the need to belong, feel supported and heard by our leaders has never been more important. 

Research by Juliet Bourke and Andrea Espedido shows that Inclusive Leadership directly enhances performance. Teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively. They also found a 10% improvement in perceptions of inclusion increases work attendance by almost 1 day a year per employee, reducing the cost of absenteeism. (2)


But what is an inclusive leader?  

Juliet Bourke defines an inclusive leader as onethat assures that all team members feel they are treated respectfully and fairly, are valued and sense that they belong, and are confident and inspired”, and has the 6 traits shown in the below diagram: Cognizance, Curiosity, Cultural Intelligence, Collaboration, Commitment and Courage. (3)

Source: Deloitte, The six signature traits of inclusive leadership


So how do I create a culture of Inclusive Leadership?

To embed an inclusive leadership culture, we recommend looking at the following 5 areas: 


  • Re-think your D&I strategy

2020 has challenged organsiations beyond recognition and forced many to re-think their Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing programs in a real time, reactive manner.  Take time to step back, reflect on the last few months, engage your leaders and re-think your diversity, inclusion and wellbeing strategy.  Ensure that you have a clear vision, strategy, implementation plan and measures for success.  Then embed inclusive leadership as part of your organisation’s values and weave your D&I strategy throughout all of your talent strategies from recruitment to termination.


  • Truly value the power of diversity 

Showcase stories of leaders that are inclusive, the benefits of diverse teams and the impact that this has on your people and your organisation’s purpose.  It comes back to the aged old quote of “you can’t be what you can’t see” (Marian Wright Edelman).  Showcasing ‘success stories’ and role models will help to engrain inclusive leadership into your culture.  This can be something small such regular informal virtual team catch ups through to a personal share about how a leader has supported someone through a challenging time or how leveraging a diverse team helped to better meet a customer’s needs.


  • Your leaders should walk the walk, not just talk the talk

Being an inclusive leader by example is critical to fostering an inclusive leadership culture.  This, however, may not come naturally to many – and everyone has something that they can work on!  It is therefore critical to build inclusive leadership awareness, capabilities and competencies at your leadership level and throughout your organisation.

This can be done by providing inclusive leadership training or coaching and enhancing specific specific skills such as empathy, authenticity and vulnerability.   Get your leaders thinking about inclusive leadership by joining our next Leadership Lounge on 23 October from 1pm – 2pm. Register your interest now.

You can also make resources available to your leaders, such as information on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing and tips on how to be an inclusive leader.  A small action such as a quick reference placemat can make a huge impact.


  • Make your leaders accountable

Commitment and accountability are essential for building your inclusive leadership culture.  The new ways of working have encouraged many organisations to re-think how success in measured – outputs instead of inputs, employee wellbeing/ inclusion instead of, or as well as, financials.  Including D&I metrics as part of an organisation’s performance as well as a leader’s performance is one way to really impact the culture.  These should be SMART and reward and recognition should tie to these metrics.


  • Ask your people

Having 80% of your leaders complete an inclusive leadership training does not automatically make your culture or leaders inclusive!  Ask your people for their opinion – this in itself will encourage inclusiveness – pulse survey your organisation about what is done well and could be done better, ensure your leaders check in with their teams about their performance.  Review the feedback, engage your leaders and make change that will stick!


For more information about how KEASE international can work with you to determine the right steps for your D&I strategy and inclusive leadership culture, please contact us on enquiry@kease.com.au or via our Contact Form.



  1. Garter HR 
  2. Juliet Bourke and Andrea Espedio, Why Inclusive Leaders are good for organisations, and how to be one, https://hbr.org/2020/03/the-key-to-inclusive-leadership, March 2019.
  3. Deloitte, The six signature traits of inclusive leadership, https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/human-capital/articles/six-signature-traits-inclusive-leadership.html, 2016

Embarking on the road to recovery

One thing is completely clear within all of the COVID uncertainty; our way out of this crisis is going to be much longer than our quick tumble into it. And the best way to ensure the success of any long and arduous journey is always to prepare, prepare, prepare.

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Re-defining Balance

We’ve all heard the term ‘work/life balance’ and, until recently, have no doubt tried to be mindful of this when navigating our lives. But now, more so than any other time in our history, this concept is being tested.

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The role of HR in a crisis

by Dani McDonnell, KEASE Associate

Human Resources. What is it? What does HR do in a crisis? It’s an interesting question.

Most of us would probably defer to the second definition if asked ‘What is HR?’  For many who work in larger organisations, you may well see the HR Department as the one that ‘deals with employing and training people’.  And within that definition, they’re often also tarred with the ‘bad’ brush; seen as responsible for firing, retrenching or ‘performance managing’ people. Quite unfairly, HR is often seen as the enemy; a department best avoided if at all possible.

But in reality, the HR Department does a lot more than just ‘deal with employment and training’. In recent times HR has moved away from the transactional ‘doing’ it was traditionally known for, and is now focussing on more strategic activities so as to equip leaders, managers and employees to be more autonomous and to take ownership of many facets of their employment.

Ultimately, a well-run, strategically resourced and emotionally intelligent HR Department (in conjunction with a fully supportive Exec Team) can and should be at the forefront of creating a culture of trust and support, leading to a commitment to the ongoing success of the business.

So, in addition to ‘employing and training people’ your HR Department is able to;

  • Champion the organisations’ values, mission & goals – an effective HR Department will encourage employees to contribute effectively and productively to the overall company direction and the accomplishment of the organisation’s values, mission and goals.
  • Assist in strategic career planning – the HR Department is able to help you map out the pathto your ultimate career goal, and guide you toward it.  They may be able to assist as a mentor or coach, or refer you to someone who can work with you in this regard.
  • Encourage and develop your leadership capabilities – the HR Department will assist where possible to provide opportunities for continuing education. This may be offered internally as part of a strategic development program, or they may refer you to an outsourced provider for a more personalised requirement.
  • Act as an advocate between yourself and your manager – another key function of the HR Department is the managing of employee relations. If you find yourself in a dispute or misunderstanding with your manager, the HR Department can assist to mediate the situation. Let’s face it, not every manager is awesome. And not every awesome manager is awesome for every employee.
  • Act as an advocate between yourself and your team – if you manage employees, your career success often depends on their career success. If you want help knowing how to manage without being overbearing, how to manage fairly, and how to get the best results from your team, ask the HR Department.
  • Balance their obligations to the organisation and the employees – gone are the days when HR Departments received direction from the executive team as to their priorities and needs. HR is now expected to sit at the executive table and recommend processes, approaches, and business solutions that improve the ability of the organisation’s people to effectively contribute.
  • Ensure that you’re working in a safe environment – the HR Department plays a vital role in administering, communicating, and championing the safety policies of the organisation. In addition, they will implement systems (eg. EAP) and provide assistance and support to employees who may be experiencing personal or medical issues.  When required, this may include referring to outside professionals.
  • Assist in navigating Employment Law – another chief duty of the HR Department is to ensure the business operates in compliance with all appropriate IR and ER laws. They have to know and comply with each state’s particular set of rules around employment regulations, and can provide you with advice when required.
  • Act as a ‘Change Champion’ – one of the most significant roles of the HR Department, is to oversee the needs and requirements of a changing organisation. Change is the only certainty in business today, so a good HR Department (with support from the Exec Team) will be ready to adapt and embrace it, and implement new ideas and methodologies as required.

A perfect example of this is the recent Covid19 outbreak. Over the past few months businesses across the globe have had to rapidly adapt and re-position their people and teams in the transition to remote work. As a result, many have developed new and innovative ways to make remote work operate effectively for their organisations.  At the helm of this unprecedented change is our HR Departments.