Pulling Together — How Great CHROs Succeed in a Fragmenting World

Session Insights
Written by Liam McGlynn

Jane Adams

Executive General Manager of Human Resources

Commonwealth Bank of Australia


Today’s world of work is fragmented, underpinned by weaker in-person connections, decreased trust, and more digital distractions. This presents unique challenges for CHROs, demanding that they reconsider conventional approaches to HR strategy.

To open the Australia CHRO Executive Summit this June, community members were joined by Gartner analyst, Aaron McEwan, VP, Research & Advisory, to explore different approaches to achieving high performance amidst continuous disruption and fragmentation. 

Aaron presented key findings from recent Gartner research on how organisations can succeed in a fragmented world. Most notably, these findings indicate that employees are being pulled away:

  • From each other — Average turnover is expected to increase permanently by up to 20% compared to the past decade. Additionally, 80% of employees who can work in a remote or hybrid setting will continue to do so. 
  • From their organisations — Only two out of five employees say they trust their employer. The key reasons for this distrust range from privacy concerns to job security and pressure to return to in-person work.
  • From their work — The average employee spends 9% of their time switching between various digital applications. This has the adverse effect of shortening employees’ attention spans, making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on essential tasks.

The research suggests that CHROs should strive to bring employees together and reinvigorate cohesion – ensuring that their organisations are fundamentally more human-centric. To achieve this, many HR leaders are enabling proactive rest, intentional interactions, and patient growth.

Following this presentation, three of Australia’s leading CHROs came together for a panel discussion to share their thoughts on how CHROs can build more human-centric organisations.

At the forefront of this conversation was Jane Adams, Executive General Manager of Human Resources at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Trudie Harriman, People Director of Retail Ecosystem at Woolworths Group, and Kathy Baker, Executive Director of People Experience at Transport for NSW.

After the session, Jane Adams shared how she is building a human-centric organisation at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Here are Jane’s responses:

Why should HR leaders focus on building human-centric organisations during this time of continuous disruption and fragmentation?

Globally, we are seeing key shifts occurring in the workforce. Locally, we are experiencing them. These include the post-pandemic world of hybrid and agile ways of working, as well as new technologies changing the nature of our work and roles, such as generative AI.

People need to feel valued, supported, and skilled for this new future of work. HR plays a critical role in readying the workforce and enabling a culture that can embrace and thrive through change.

What are some initiatives you have implemented to make your organisation “more human”?

We have been moving toward a scaled agile operating model so we can be more responsive to changing priorities and deliver work faster through cross-functional teams. To support this, we are developing a skills-led approach to learning and careers.

Last year we rolled out our ‘Respect Lives Here’ inclusion and diversity programme. The aim of this programme is to help our people understand the impact of day-to-day interactions on each other’s feelings of inclusiveness and belonging.

What connections have you observed between human-centric policies and high performance? How are you measuring high performance today? 

We are using a balanced scorecard to measure performance – customer, people, financial and strategic priority metrics.

What advice do you have for your peers to help them better anticipate and prepare for future disruption?

I have a few pieces of advice:

  • Get the base values and leadership principles right first as a foundation for your culture.
  • Encourage self-care. An organisation can provide expertise, support, learning, and benefits, but everyone needs to own their personal well-being.
  • Use hybrid working as a way of reinforcing the value of purposeful connection within and between teams.
  • Focus on skill building. Collecting new skills will be critical to maximising people’s potential to stay employable in these rapidly changing times.

This session was attended by CHROs and people leaders from various organisations, including Lendlease, Optus, Johnson & Johnson Australia, Compass Group Australia, NSW Treasury and more. Evanta creates an open space for executives to share their experiences with each other.

Connect with like-minded peers who share your priorities and find your local community – apply to join here.

Content adapted from the Australia CHRO Executive Summit. Special thanks to all participating companies.

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