In Focus: Human Resources

Managing and developing human resources is pivotal to the success of any modern organisation, and its development as an industry in its own right is increasingly acknowledged by local and global players alike. So if HR has such a prominent role to play, how should those pursuing a career in the sector prepare? I interview three of our alumni to find out more.

Kate Shaw
Kate Shaw - Master of Management (Human Resources), (2013)
HR Coordinator, Macquarie Group, Sydney, Australia

University days still fresh in her mind, Shaw happily reminisces about the professors and classmates who enriched her learning and enabled her to build networks that span disciplines, industries and the world. “The Faculty of Business and Economics exposed me to the best practices of businesses globally, and facilitated my exchange program to Bocconi University in Milan,” says Shaw.

This international experience was one of the highlights of my course.

Tell us a little about your role at Macquarie Group.

I am an HR coordinator supporting Macquarie’s retail group, commencing last year after completing the graduate program where I rotated into multiple areas of the HR function including employee relations, global mobility, remuneration, talent and recruitment. I enjoy advising and partnering with the business to understand and help bring our strategy to life through people initiatives.

Why did you choose a career in human resources?

I sought a career where I would be able to engage with multiple stakeholders on a daily basis and encounter a wide variety of content. I enjoy exploring the cultural landscape of an organisation and then building a strategy that helps shape culture and achieve business priorities. I particularly appreciate being able to drive initiatives that align with moral imperatives such as diversity and inclusion. I have recently worked on the design and delivery of a Diversity Champions workshop which aims to equip individuals with the skills to be able to stand up for those who are marginalised, especially in the workplace. As a strategic partner to business I have the ability to truly engage with and drive strategic priorities, contributing to business performance and the experience of people within the organisation.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your career?

The rate of change today means that it can be difficult to stay up to date, and continue to help keep the business relevant. The need to innovate quickly in a highly regulated environment is a business imperative for everyone. ‘Digital disruption’ is a term that is relevant to most industries today, and equally applies to HR. We must find ways to encourage a high-performance culture and an environment in which innovation can flourish.

Nawaf Dhubaib
Nawaf Dhubaib - Master of Management (Human Resources), 2008
HR Director, Rawabi Holding, Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

With great foresight, Dhubaib completed his Master of Management degree in 2008 as HR began to grow as a strategic business function in Saudi Arabia. Launching his career in human resources information systems (HRIS), and then moving into a role that aligned more closely with his passion for anticipating the behaviors of people within organisations, he quickly developed a broad skill base. This combination of analytical, behavioral and strategic skills is crucial to his position, overseeing the HR functions for over 25 companies with a total of more than 3500 employees.

Can you describe your role as HR Director for Rawabi Holdings?

The role is very challenging because it deals with various business sizes and industries. The main challenge for me is playing the role of a true business partner in helping organisations to overcome problems. This can’t happen without solid business acumen, so I am grateful for my business degree. The most rewarding aspect is when HR is able to offer a relevant and feasible business solution that then proves successful.

How has human resources changed as a business function over the past decade?

Human resources management has transformed to now play a strategic role in organisations. There is an increasing expectation from HR functions to mitigate constant economic and demographic changes. The less time HR professionals spend on transnational, repetitive tasks, the more time they can spend helping businesses to succeed. In the Saudi market, HR has only gained importance in the past decade, driven mainly by the need to lower the high youth unemployment rate. The government updated the labor law to enforce employment quotas for businesses operating in Saudi Arabia, creating a big demand for HR management professionals.

What are your top tips for others who wish to progress within HR?

In my opinion, a true understanding of HR overlaps three disciplines: economics, psychology and sociology. The more understanding one has in all these areas, and the more exposure one can get within these disciplines, the higher the odds of success as an HR professional.

Michelle Leung
Michelle Leung - Bachelor of Commerce (1995) and Master of Business Administration (2002)
HR Director, Asia Pacific, Abbott Laboratories, Singapore

With an early interest in organisational behaviour, Michelle Leung has built a career in HR that has taken her from Australia to Hong Kong, Singapore and Cambodia, and back to Singapore for her current role. She says that passion, drive and hard work underpin her success, along with the self-discipline she learnt as an undergraduate.

Why did you choose to work in Singapore?

Simply, I chose to work in Singapore to advance my career. In today’s global world, being restricted to one country is often career limiting. Once a career base is established, there are many more opportunities in large companies that operate from the major global business hubs. You must be mobile to take these up, sometimes in less desirable places than Singapore.

How do the HR industries in Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries compare with Australia’s?

As Singapore is an economic hub for much of Asia (and especially developing countries around Asia), the HR discipline is governed by significantly different business and economic characteristics and cultures than apply in Australia. In developing countries, the national GDP, generally lower standards of living, underdeveloped infrastructure and business systems, and a lower average workforce age create challenges for businesses. It is harder to find suitable candidates for senior roles, especially since multinational companies are relatively new in developing countries.

What advice would you give graduates pursuing an HR career overseas?

First of all, be ready to take the opportunity when it presents itself. Be confident in your work experience and knowledge in the field. This kind of life experience offers a deeper insight to your capabilities as a leader and an individual. International experience is often highly valued by prospective employers because it demonstrates that a candidate is able to learn quickly and adapt into a foreign environment, which is useful when working across cultures and different functions.