Why 2017 will be a big year for these senior HR leaders
There are ideas that could shake up the workplace, there’s excitement about digital technology and there’s a determination to deliver on diversity. These are just some of the big plans ahead for two senior HR managers who have a global perspective in the finance sector.

Working in a rapidly growing global organisation in the tech sector, Rachael Powell has learned to be nimble and “constantly thinking about what makes sense for today, knowing that it might not make sense for tomorrow”.

Powell joined online accounting software firm, Xero 12 months ago with a brief to help roll out the company strategy globally. As Chief People Officer, Powell oversees human resources - or People Experience (PX) in Xero’s parlance - for Xero’s 1650 employees in five countries.

Her background is a blend of accountancy, business development, strategy, marketing and talent.

Keeping the strategy responsive and fresh

“The traditional HR director role is evolving, given the fast-paced nature of organisations. It’s no longer the case that a strategy is set and it remains static for five to seven years. Strategies need to be considered on a rolling basis,” says Powell.

Her focus is also on creating a cohesive leadership team. Building cohesion is underpinned by a clear understanding of the company’s background and objectives, she says.

“It’s starting with why are we here and what value are we adding as opposed to what have we got to sell.”

Communication and succession planning are vital

Powell says the strategy’s implementation has been aided by constant communication with every employee. “It about giving people clarity about their job and how it’s a meaningful contribution to the overall strategy at the end of the day.”

Succession planning is another hot item on Powell’s agenda.

“That’s really important not only at the leadership level but two levels down because you have to be a light and fast organisation. It also means you need contingency plans in place all the time that include both internal and external solutions,” Powell says.

Nicola Hutton, Head of HR in the Philippines for ANZ bank.

As an expat of two and a half years in the Philippines, Nicola Hutton’s agenda for the year ahead combines regional priorities with the bank’s strong global focus to remain competitive.

“ANZ is hosting a bank-wide conversation — an organisational jam session,” says Hutton.

“[CEO] Shayne Elliott talks in terms of improv jazz being the way ANZ is running the business. Rather than working like a symphony orchestra, we need to be able to improvise to keep up with market growth – and embrace that there will be some fails along the way.”

The project aims to finely tune the organisation’s purpose, leadership development and employee value proposition to respond to a “fast-changing digital market”, says Hutton.

That puts the spotlight on HR philosophies and processes to support a culture change strategy, as well as improve customer transparency and engagement.

How digital stimulates the business

Digitisation is an essential tool for HR and Hutton is excited by the opportunities it brings and the speed of new developments.

“We thought we were really progressive last year with a centralised total rewards system where all employees could speak to each other and we could mine it properly,” she says.

“Now, in just 12 months that’s a core skill for all members of the HR community and we have the ability to do it in real time. The business can also now access that kind of information and make informed decisions that directly impact the customer.”

For Hutton, whose career has focussed on HR transformation, digitisation’s promise of reducing the distance between HR and the customer is gratifying.

“It’s what’s often frustrated business leaders — feeling that HR couldn’t provide enough data for them to make holistic business decisions. Now, we’re managing to leapfrog across a lot of those issues to be far more effective business partners,” she says.

Stepping up inclusion policies

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Hutton is driving the organisation’s diversity and inclusion policy both internally and externally, in a market where such policies are still rare, with particular success promoting gender equity.

The bank was one of the first organisations to introduce flexible working to the Philippines market in 2016.

“We have 59 per cent women in management in ANZ's Philippines businesses and that’s a unique differentiator in this market,” she says.

Hutton has also established the first women in business committee of the Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines to support local women to excel in business. She plans to expand its size and influence in 2017, enjoying the chance to make a contribution both inside and outside of work.