The State Of Talent And HR In Australia

I just returned from a two week trip to Australia where I had the opportunity to visit our Deloitte colleagues and clients in Sydney and Melbourne, and wanted to share some thoughts.

The purpose of this trip was to present our 2014 Predictions research, (free Webinar, February 13) discussing the big trends for the coming year and preparing for the launch of the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends later this quarter.

Our 2014 Predictions report was titled "Building a Strong Talent Pipeline for the Global Economic Recovery" - and we titled the presentation "The Year of the Employee."

As you will read in the report, this year we expect to see a major shift in workforce dynamics and resulting need to focus on your entire "talent system" - with a particular focus on engagement, employee brand, work environment, and talent acquisition. In all these areas, Australia is well ahead of the curve.

On this trip I had the opportunity to meet with 20+ clients: mostly large companies in finance, insurance, retail, and government. We spent several hours with each organization and had a chance to talk about many of their strategies, challenges, and issues.

As a preview it's important to note that employees in Australia are twice as "engaged" as employees around the world in general (Gallup research - 13% of global employees are fully engaged vs. 25% in Australia!). This is an amazing fact and we discussed it quite a bit. There are many reasons for this and some are unique to Australia - but others we can learn from.

What's Up Mate?

First, Australia is a relatively young economy and it has many labor laws - so employees are guaranteed a fair wage and the country has focused heavily on workplace flexibility and diversity over the last ten years. This focus has paid off: employees work extremely hard, but they also take time off and enjoy themselves. And it certainly helps that this is a beautiful country to live in.

Second, most of the companies I went to visit had very employee-friendly working environments. The workforce I met up with was young and vital and most offices were open and built for collaboration. One of the largest banks in Australia has offices like a software company - totally open work environment with cool cement floors, open space, and people connected to each other everywhere. It's unusual to see an environment like this in a financial institution here.

Third, many of these companies are looking seriously at the entire employee performance, leadership, and succession process. There is a global epidemic of "re-engineering the performance" process going on around the world, and here it is top of mind. As I discussed this issue in our long list of topics, nearly every company told us they were either starting or deep into planning to replace their performance management process. So we shared a lot of advice here - and these teams seemed very excited about making changes that impact employee morale.

IMPACT The Business of TalentFourth, there is an intense and deep understanding of the need for leadership development - but of course lots of different levels of maturity in each organization.

Generally speaking these HR teams understand that leadership is the #1 issue in global organizations and that a continuous investment in leadership pays off. These organizations are not at all afraid to invest in this area. ANZ Bank, by the way, won an award from Bersin by Deloitte last year for its leadership program.

I won't steal the thunder of our upcoming Human Capital Trends research - but let me conclude that this country exemplifies a healthy and employee-centric view of corporate talent management. Perhaps driven by legislation, the Australian companies we met are investing in their people and trying to keep ahead of the needs of ambitious millennials and others who come to this country for career growth. Australia is a launch point for many fast-growing Asian economies so it attracts ambitious professionals.

I look forward to sharing much more on this topic when we present the 2014 Predictions webinar (February 13 at 11AM EST) and we launch the upcoming 2014 Deloitte Human Capital Research soon.

And please sign up for IMPACT our biggest-ever research conference on March 31-April 3. We should have 400+ senior HR and talent leaders from around the world joining us.

This is our seventh year and I promise it will be one of the best conferences you have ever attended.

PS. A trip to Australia is well worth the flight. It's an amazing and inspirational place. Oh, and there are also lots of snakes, stinging jellyfish, crocodiles, and killer Cassowary birds too.

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