Q&A with Paula

Paula Adamson has more than 30 years’ experience in the public and private sector enhancing workforce capability, organisation culture and performance. She specialises in organisational reform and is experienced in leading cultural change programs across Government.

Paula worked with the Department of Defence for almost 20 years before leaving the public service in 2006.  Paula spent 10 years in the private sector as a change management consultant working for a number of firms including EY, Fujitsu, RSM Consulting and SMS M&T.  She recently returned to the public service in 2016 and has been with IP Australia for more than two years leading the People and Communication Group and more recently the Trade Marks and Designs Group.

Throughout her career Paula has stayed connected with the HR profession through her involvement with professional associations and teaching International Human Resource Management and Human Resource Development at the University of Canberra.

Paula has a strong record of getting positive results in complex and often challenging transformation environments, by establishing a clear vision for success, strategic planning, good change management practices and leading committed and cohesive teams. Paula’s strength is in developing capability for the future to deliver organisational outcomes.

What was your first HR role and in which industry?

I worked in “personnel” before HR was a profession. I started working in an HR role when I joined the public service in 1987. I was responsible for workforce administration including leave, recruitment, induction and training.

How or why did you become a HR professional?

The business landscape changed from basic processing and operational HR to a more strategic function. Organisations saw the value of strategic workforce management and how it enabled them to achieve their objectives if it was managed professionally. I was interested in being part of shaping the organisation strategy and took opportunities to work on large complex HR projects such as organisation restructures and cultural reform programs . In 2002 I joined AHRI to maintain relevancy with the latest HR thinking and was able to join a network of like-minded professionals who were able to share experiences, this happened to coincide with the same year I completed my Masters. I was interested in promoting the professionalisation of HR and subsequently taught International HRM and Human Resource Development at the University of Canberra. I believe that HR is a profession and HR experts should be managing our people strategies, just as accountants manage our finance areas and lawyers manage our legal advice. My passion is change management as it allows me to work in challenging projects and still includes many factors of HR Strategy.

What is your view of human resources as a business function?

HR is a key corporate enabler of business delivery and is a partner at the table with business delivery managers. In my experience, HR executives sit at the board table alongside the Chief Finance Officer, Chief Information Officer and Business Delivery Managers. All aspects of the business need to align to be successful and I believe this is now recognised across the private and public sector. Chief HR Officers are at the table across most sectors.

What are some of the challenges in moving into HR Management and above?

The skills I gained working in HR enabled me to take on more complex senior leadership roles. People management skills are key to empowering a highly capable workforce that delivers business outcomes. I faced many challenges as I progressed into management roles especially when HR was not seen as a profession. One of the challenges is getting peer support and recognition for HR. Some HR Sections have people who were moved because of poor performance and had to be placed somewhere. Some of my peers would expect me to take problem people into HR roles despite the fact they were a poor fit, had no HR experience or capability. Although this perception has changed, it is now difficult to attract and retain qualified HR professionals as they are in high demand. Moving into management roles (and above) – it is sometimes challenging to build the right team with the existing workforce and you sometimes have to buy in expertise when required.

Any advice for the next generation of Aspiring HR Leaders?

HR Leaders can’t just deliver HR. They have to understand the business and understand the external environment that the business is in. Future HR leaders are strategic business partners. Competition for talent and a good workforce strategy will set high performing organisations apart from their competitors but HR have to understand the business they are in to contribute to the strategic direction of the organisation. HR practitioners often focus on professional development through HR events and conferences, but it is important to step outside your subject matter to understand the broader implications for business strategy. For example block chain, Artificial Intelligence, Government Policy direction, governance or marketing could have informative insights for HR strategy. Stay connected with the industry and listen to experts, even if it doesn’t seem relevant to your immediate HR position.

What do you enjoy doing during your free time?

I enjoy travelling, walking, spending time with my family and continuing my martial arts journey. I never have enough free time to squeeze in everything but I do my best.

Aspire HR Sydney 2019

Paula joins the line-up at Aspire HRD Summit 2019 and will be speaking in the series of sessions on Employee Experience.

Aspire HR 2019 will be hosted in Sydney on March 28 + April 2-3 and brings together the most brilliant minds with a focus on five key areas:

  • Employee Experience
  • Disruption & Innovation
  • Leadership Development
  • HR Transformation
  • Talent Management

For more information visit https://www.aspirehrd.com.au/summit/or to request a conference program, call (02) 8875 7794 or register@aspirelearning.net.au