IPAA Hays Recruitment Human Resource Management Practitioner of the Year

Di Misic and Nicki Eastman – Human Resources Managers VenuesWest

Diane Misic and Nicki Eastman are employed in a job-sharing capacity as the VenuesWest Human Resources Manager.

With 30 years experience and 4 kids between them they are working proof that a flexible work arrangement for professional women in management keeps people with significant and often irreplaceable skills and knowledge in the workforce.

Both are quick to point out their ability to maintain family/work balance has been essential to their success in winning this award and staying in the workforce at a senior level.

Over the last 12 months one of their big human resources achievements has been finalising a Workforce and Diversity Plan for the already diverse VenuesWest team.

The Workforce and Diversity Plan has been based around the long held organisational objective of developing and retaining high quality people and organisational capacity. Finding the right staff and retaining them is widely thought to be the biggest challenge facing organisations this century.

With the average tenure in the Australian workforce of 7 years (Australia at Work Uni of Sydney 2009) one of the key challenges every organisation faces is what actions need to be taken to reduce turnover of high quality people.

Women comprise 55% of VenuesWest’s workforce. In terms of employment type, the proportion of full time employees is equally balanced between men and women. However 70% of all part time employees are women.

For VenuesWest a big focus is to continue to promote part time, job-share and flexible working arrangements to attract and promote women in the workplace especially in the Emerging Leaders Program.

Nicki and Di point out that there are significant benefits including; the ability to continue to work in a professional role at a management level without the need to be full time; great work / life balance; and personal and professional satisfaction and the productivity that that satisfaction leads to.

Organisations like VenuesWest also benefit significantly from the job-share roles especially in having two sets of skills and perspectives in the one position (double the talent), continuous job coverage (when one is on leave the other can cover with no loss of continuity) and greater productivity.

VenuesWest has added other job-shares after the success of job-sharing the Human Resources Manager role.

There are challenges for employees in job-share management roles that require special consideration. According to Nicki and Di ensuring each is across the many aspects of the job and keeping a single focus is critical. It takes time and meticulous communication regimes, especially with major projects. Accurate record keeping, updating between job-share partners on cross over days and daily handover emails with clear updates on projects and processes are essential. It is critical that the alternate job-share partner can take hold of the process and ensure the change from one person to the next is seamless.

A key issue facing business is the partial or complete loss of highly trained and educated female workers, often at a time when they are at supervisory or management level.

The issue facing women who have had children is often the inability to reenter the workforce due to inflexible and non-family friendly working conditions.

While Australia’s total fertility rate has not changed significantly between 1990 and 2010 (1.90 babies per woman in 1990, compared with 1.89 babies per woman in 2010), the age at which women have their first baby has changed. In 1990, the median age of first-time mothers was 27.5 years. By 2010, this had increased to 28.9 years (Australia Social Trends).

This is often the time when women are in senior supervisory and management roles with careers developing significant momentum.

Whilst there has been a growth in flexible work conditions it is often a challenge for highly skilled and experienced, educated women from management roles to be able to reenter the workforce due to the lack of availability of diverse workplace arrangements that accommodate family needs.

This is further complicated as extended time away from the professional work force can often render skills and experience less relevant and set employees back when they are ready to rejoin to workforce.

It is particularly relevant because of the contribution of women in roles that require a formal qualification is often understated.

During the last decade, the likelihood of women having a non-school qualification overtook that of men. The proportion of women with a qualification increased from 58% in 2001 to 67% in 2009, compared with men from 60% in 2001 to 65% in 2009 (ABS).

According to Di and Nicki over the next three years VenuesWest will focus on:

  • Training and Development;
  • Development of an Emerging Leaders Program;
  • Performance Development;
  • Succession Planning Processes;
  • Diversity;
  • And improving retention.

VenuesWest has been learning and promoting what many other organisations also know; flexible workplaces attract and retain highly experienced and qualified people who will show loyalty because their employer supports their life as well as their career.

Judges for the award commented that “in addition to providing a high level of HR management to VenuesWest, Diane and Nicki model a highly successful job-share arrangement that should inspire other organisations interested in supporting flexible work opportunities for staff.”

According to VenuesWest Chairman Graham Partridge, VenuesWest is very happy to have such talented and experienced professionals as Di and Nicki on the team,

“At VenuesWest we believe that the contribution that Di Misic and Nicki Eastman make to the organisation well exceeds the output we would get from a single person in the job. We are lucky to have them and we congratulate them on their fantastic win,” he said.