Two prominent Australian risk managers reflect on how they are addressing one of the biggest challenges for their business: people

Team work


Kate Hughes Telstra

“We have a set of risks that we talk to our board about which we consider our most material risks to Telstra achieving its strategic objectives. This is the ‘will we survive’ type of risks and people risk is one of them and it’s a balance of two things. It’s, one – as we try to reform our company from a telecommunications to a technology company, how do we reform our workforce … and then how do we attract the talent that will enable us to execute the strategy of growing globally, which is a very different set of skills to the skills that we necessarily have today.

“None of [our strategy] is achievable if we don’t have the right people in the right roles and we don’t equip them with the right tools. So whenever I talk about executing on our strategy and the biggest long-term risks for Telstra, we’ve very much got our eye on the people.

“When we sit with the HR team and look at the data, what we’re actually seeing is shifts in the way people are remunerated, so we need to think about how our HR policies attract and retain talent. We’re also seeing shifts in the expectations of how we engage employees and how they are delighted by the experience of working here.

“This next wave of talent that we’ll be looking to is looking for mobility, flexibility, and interesting opportunities [in a role]. They don’t want to be in a job for 40 years; they want to be in a job for two [years] and beyond that two they want to see an opportunity for growth. The risk of that is that we get too high churn … but all that does is say we need to get better at succession planning.

“All of this data is really interesting because it actually feeds how we view the risk which is really useful.”


Grant Katz Woolworths

“I have assisted human resource departments many times in utilising risk management techniques to improve performance.

“[At Woolworths] we’re still rolling out the new system for continuous controls monitoring and key risks indicators, but we’ve sat down with HR and had a conversation about what’s really useful to them from a people risk perspective.

“We’ve asked them how they’re attracting staff and looking at the data to see how effective the avenues are. For example, if you use an agency, are those people [that you hire] better performers than those you’ve hired through, and what roles are we talking about? You’ve also got to know how quickly you’re getting people on board, so you can ask questions around why some roles are taking longer than others to fill.

“To attract people here we have to offer a flexible work environment. So one of the questions then is, is that being embraced and what does it look like? Most managers probably won’t have a good sense of how many people are working from home and how frequently, so what we do is we capture and report on the swipe card access to the building and then you know how people are utilising the flexible work environment.”

“We can also see retention trends, so if you’re losing people within a three-month period then that’s a good sign that you’re over-promising or over-selling a role, for example.

“Then another question you might ask is ‘are we losing any people who are high performers?’ HR can see by themselves if we’re losing anyone who’s rated a high performer, but where we really help is where it’s information that’s not all sitting within the payroll or HR system. So we can combine the data from the various [systems] and that’s the real win.

“It all comes down to having the data and the ability to extract it and report it in a palatable manner.”