Planning tomorrow to optimise today with Alison Hernandez



Alison Hernandez, Kathryn Hume

Alison Hernandez  00:00

So over the next 10 years, we’re so proud that over 15,000 employees of organisations experienced a work life programme that we developed that was called Envisage. It was such a powerful framework for helping people reimagine work and life, even back then, and help them to make concrete plans for the future. We ran that programme for, as I say, 10s of 1000s of employees across organisations in Australia and New Zealand state and local government Australia Post, NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and many many more. And I’m now refreshing and reinventing that programme actually through a future of work lens and HSM so watch this space for 22.

Kathryn Hume  00:42

I will I will.

Voice over  00:45

This is the Reimagined Workforce podcast from Workforce Transformations Australia, the podcast for People and Culture professionals seeking to drive meaningful, impactful and financially sustainable workforce transformation through curiosity, creativity, and data science. In this podcast, we hear from talented and innovative people making a positive difference for their people, their organisations, and those their organisations. So they share stories and learnings to help others on their path to transforming their workforce today and tomorrow. Now, here’s your host, Kath Hume.

Kathryn Hume  01:24

So Alison Hernandez is the APAC director and member of the incredible team of trusted Future of Work advisors at HSM Advisory, co creating sustainable workforce solutions with clients across the globe. She’s worked with hundreds of organisations across the Asia Pacific region in the creation and delivery of innovative workforce solutions spanning organisation one demographic change, workforce transformation and career mobility. Prior to her work at the HSM Advisory, Alison led a global HR services business across APAC with a delivery footprint in 17 countries. Alison, I am truly honoured to have such an accomplished leader to join us on the reimagined workforce podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your expertise with us today.

Alison Hernandez  02:12

Hi Kath, it is my absolute pleasure to join you for the podcast. So I’m looking forward to the conversation

Kathryn Hume  02:19

As am I. So could you start with  sharing a little bit about your journey to date and what you are most passionate about?

Alison Hernandez  02:27

Sure. I consider myself very fortunate to have had an opportunity to live and work in four different countries. I was born in the UK, after university, I went and spent a couple of years working in Boston, in the US. I returned to London and after a couple of years thought ‘where else can I take my my work in my life?’ and came across to Australia in the late 90s. I then did a bit of a career sabbatical. In 2002. I went and lived and worked in Spain for a couple of years. And then after that bounce back to Australia again. Plus, I’ve had a lot of time spent visiting many more places in my work and also for leisure. And you know, this has given me such a wonderful experience of diverse cultures and different ways of living and working around the world. And I think ultimately Kath that’s culminated in what I’m really passionate about, which is people experience, whether that’s customer experience or employee experience. What I love doing and what I hope that I’m good at is is understanding people, connecting people and supporting people. So this is really led to my active participation in a few sort of priority areas of interest, I suppose. I consider myself an inclusion and diversity activist for the past 20 or so years, creating environments where people can connect with their organisation’s purpose and really, truly feel that sense of belonging. And I’ve tried to create that both as a leader myself over the years but also in guiding clients in my role as a future of work advisor, also championing family friendly workplaces, which I know we’ll be talking a bit more about later. But a newly appointed board member and an ambassador for the past year since family friendly workplaces was launched in 2021 by parents that work and is supported by UNICEF, Australia and I’m very passionate and purposeful about championing family friendly workplaces. And I suppose thirdly, career pathways for people of all ages and life stages has been really pivotal in my career, endeavouring to create an optimum late career experience for people who still have so much to contribute in their 50s 60s and indeed beyond so those are really the focus areas that, that I love to spend my time in.

Kathryn Hume  05:07

And what I love about that is I just feel there are so many opportunities in this space that you’re looking. And I think that we’re not great at thinking outside of the square. It’s often with busy work caught up in day to day and our knee jerk reaction is to just keep doing what we’ve always done. And I don’t know that we can continue doing that much longer. And I love that you’ve been doing this for 20 years, most of us are fairly new to this space and I think you’ve got such a breadth and depth of experience with what you’ve spoken about with all those global experiences and what you can bring to organisations is just such a value add.  Could you tell us I’m really intrigued because I love the creativity you bring to this space but what does your reimagined workforce look like?

Alison Hernandez  05:55

Yes, it’s such a huge opportunity. Right now we’re seeing this sort of wave of a new collective imagination, I think around what work can be, which is what brought us together around reimagined workforce, and individuals and organisations are thinking so much more about how they can be more agile, more purposeful, more flexible, and ultimately, creating a happier, healthier and highly productive workplace. And with regards to productivity, of course, HSM we’re really focused on what we call sustainable high performance. So creating a culture and an environment where people are able to bring their best self to work, but also have enough fuel in the tank at the end of the day to take themselves home in their best state. You might be familiar with our HSM founder, Professor Lynda Gratton, in her book, the 100 year life, if we’re going to be living 100 year life, then we can expect to work timeline of over 50 years to be the norm going forward. So we really need to think about ways of working differently to sustain our performance, our productivity and their well being over an extended period. And that’s something that I’ve absolutely role modelled myself. I’ve taken two sabbaticals over the last 20 plus years, some time out when I went and lived in Spain, and also earlier this year, after an 18 year journey of business startup growth, acquisition, integration and more growth. And so that is what I call reimagining the way that we can work longer but differently and sustain high performance. So I think that the whole reimagining of the workforce requires a renegotiation of not just where we’re working and, you know, we keep challenging organisations around this, there’s a bit of a reductionism of the conversation about hybrid back into, is it home or is it office? But actually, it’s much broader than that we should be questioning who is doing the work in terms of is it human, or what you know, machine, what work is being done, when it is being done. So let’s add in the dimension of time, as well as place and start to really craft ways of working differently around time. How it is being done, and indeed, why it is being done, so that we don’t just revert to refreezing habits of the past, and also why we are doing the work in terms of the purpose and the meaning behind the work we’re doing every day. Coming out of the pandemic, we’re really seeing purpose revisited in a big way, both by individuals who are reflecting on what’s important to them in their work and life. And organisations really wondering whether their purpose and their mission is still relevant and still resonating with their people and with their stakeholders. So let’s broaden the conversation beyond home versus office or rumours versus doomers, as you say, and extend it to include those other fundamental questions. So I guess that’s how, you know, we work with people. And as I said, at the beginning, this is a really unique opportunity to just deconstruct and reconstruct and redesign work, look at what we should be stopping to do, look at what we should stop doing and look at what we should continue doing. And sometimes these are really simple things. As you know, Kath I was in Tokyo last week with some of our HSM clients and a few of the takeaways from the many conversations I had there around reimagining work were that, we need to stop fixating on place we need to start listening more to our people. And we need to continue being curious and experimenting with greater flexibility. As long as you know, we’re thinking about the individual, the team and the organisation is a balancing act and it needs careful crafting but it really does start with listening and understanding what the organisatian needs, what the team needs, and importantly, what the individual needs.

Kathryn Hume  10:06

I’m really liked that you’ve given us a structure to think through these conversations, because I am really getting quite disappointed in those conversations around hybrid work. I feel like it’s just making it really shallow. And it’s missing the opportunity to really, we’ve had been through this extraordinary experience as a global population. Now is prime time to say, what could we do differently? And I love that you bring it back to the why, why are we doing what we’re doing? And I think if we can ask ourselves those questions, purpose is so fundamental. And that’s where we’re going to get discretionary effort and we’re going to get people who have a sense of fulfilment, because their work is meaningful. How do we progress, what we’re doing and make sure that is the experience for all of our staff members. So as they’re delivering value to all of our organisations, and there’s that mutual benefit. So I love that you’ve given us a structure to think that through because people are busy, if we don’t give them those structures and those tools and supports, it’s going to be very difficult for them to get out of the operational day to day and move into that big picture thinking

Alison Hernandez  11:21

100%. And Lynda’s latest book is Redesigning Work, which I’m thrilled to say just a couple of weeks ago, was announced as one of the Financial Times top business books. And it’s a fabulous structure and four step framework for redesigning work. And, you know, it really does make a lot of sense. It’s a robust evidence based methodology. And we’re seeing organisations around the world really benefit from taking that step back and starting importantly, with that understanding piece, so yes,

Kathryn Hume  11:57

She’s an inspiration. She’s quite incredible, isn’t she? What a great leader to have? Indeed. So you’ve been doing this for a long time? I believe you started the organisation SageCo in 2004. Yes, that’s correct. Yeah. And can you tell me how that came into existence and what you hope to achieve by developing that organisation?

Alison Hernandez  12:19

Absolutely. One of my favourite stories to share. Well, it all came about actually at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. I was appointed as the Career Transition Director, working with the head of Employee Relations and Internal Communications, an absolute legend called Katrina Burn and Sandy Holway was the CEO of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and for anybody that knows Sandy, he’s a visionary leader. And one of his you know, first was that it was the first time in Olympic Games Organising Committee budgeted for a career transition programme that would support employees preparing for life beyond the games, they had seen that preparing people for the future has a benefit for the present. So retaining, engaging and giving people confidence that there was a safety net for them when the games were over. So that was my remit. That was my scope of worka nd we delivered that career transition programme to the 2500 permanent employees of the so called Organising Committee for a two year period. So 18 months up to the games, and six months beyond the games. Now, a couple of things occurred to myself and Katrina during that time. Firstly, the immense contribution of the volunteer workforce now that was 50,000 strong, and the gains could not have been as great as they were without those Olympic volunteers. Many, many women who had left the workforce and found the barriers to reentry too high. And so they found themselves wanting to contribute in some way and volunteer for the games, many retirees some who admittedly, had retired prematurely, and again, wistfully looking back over the fence wishing they could go back in but finding the barriers to high and a lot of people with diverse backgrounds, you know, from different cultural backgrounds and abilities. But what they brought was amazing experience reliability and became such an intrinsic part of the delivery of the games. So, experience matters, but unfortunately, we weren’t really seeing that reflected in corporate Australia. The other component were, of course, the experienced event experts who would go from gig to gig go from Commonwealth Games to soccer World Cup to Rugby World Cup, to Olympics, and some people have made that their life’s work and many of those people who I coached back in 2000 2001 is still on the circuit now. and I see them pop up all around the world. So again, experience matters. So we set out really to create that optimum career experience for people as they head through mid career to late career and beyond. Now, Katrina and I were in our early 30s At the time, so we could speak quite objectively and dispassionately about an ageing workforce and the barriers that were faced, we’re now in our 50s. And I’m an pleased to say we’ve seen a shift in attitudes of employers, but also a shift in the expectations of older workers. But there’s still a very long way to go. And my work continues in that space, in terms of what we achieved. So after the games, we went back to our corporate lives and spent several years working back in corporate, we then started to plan, the seeds of SageCo and what that would be, and we went part time in our day jobs. So we had a side hustle brewing, so I guess we were social pioneers, even back then. We both were starting families. So we were working moms with a day job and a side hustle and we launched SageCo in 2004. So over the next 10 years, we’re so proud that over 15,000 employees of organisations experienced a work life programme that we developed that was called Envisage. It was such a powerful framework for helping people reimagine work in life, even back then, and help them to make concrete plans for the future. We ran that programme for, as I say, 10s of 1000s employees across organisations in Australia and New Zealand state and local government, Australia Post, NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and many, many more. And I’m now refreshing and reinventing that programme actually through a future of work lens at HSM. So watch this space for 22.

Kathryn Hume  16:54

I will, I will.

Alison Hernandez  16:57

And I think of when we started SageCo all those years ago, one of our core objectives was to work with great people. And Katrina and I are immensely proud of the people that we gathered over those years, incredibly talented, passionate, capable team members, many of whom are still part of our fabulous SageCo alumni. And then in 2016, SageCo was acquired by a global leading HR services firm Randstad, we rebranded as RiseSmart and over the next five years post acquisition, my focus was to lead the business across Asia Pacific, expand into five new countries, and make sure we had a delivery footprint in 17, Asia Pacific location. So that took me up until the beginning of this year, and then it was time for a career break and a new beginning for myself.

Kathryn Hume  17:47

I am not surprised. So I can see two elements that you’ve brought to that courage and ambition. And I think blending those two has really made a difference for 15,000 people, plus all of the organisations that they’re working in, plus all the people who benefit from what they are delivering in those roles. I would really love to hone in on you talked about the ageing workforce, and I think we’ve got this ageing population. We’re seeing people who are looking to transition out of the workforce. How do you see that working for mutual benefit for organisations?

Alison Hernandez  17:50

So there’s no doubt that demographic change and Population Ageing is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and this is nothing new. We’ve been reading about this writing about this talking about this for the last 20 years and it’s a combination of the increased longevity that we’re seeing the declining fertility rates, and of course, the inevitability of our baby boomers heading through and out of the workforce. There’s an intersectionality here because it actually affects women in particular, because we’re living longer, our life expectancy actually increased, interestingly, during the pandemic, just marginally according to the ABS to 85.3 years compared to men in Australia at 81.3. Now, if you start to look at that, from the perspective of women having a double burden of paid and unpaid work, yes, and taking the lion’s share of caregiving responsibility. So when we consider all of those aspects, it’s really important when redesigning work that we redesign with this in mind, and we need to cater to the wants and the needs of employees at all ages and life stages. And we’re moving from a three stage life to a multi stage life and Lynda Gratton talks about that in her in her book, the 100 year life. So we’re moving from expecting to go through a period of education into the workforce and then out into retirement. pretty linear experience to a multistage life, which is continuous learning periods and bursts of work, perhaps a few sub comments and sabbaticals scattered in there, and eventually, hopefully a very fruitful and happy retirement. So it really starts with organisations needing to understand their people better. It needs to ensure that it caters for the diverse needs of people as they move through the life course this isn’t a generational conversation, actually, too many myths and stereotypes are applied to generations. And we know there can be more diversity within a generation than between generations. Yeah, when we say, oh, young talent, so creative and innovative. There are actually people in their 60s and 70s, who are still inventing, who are still creating, who are still writing, developing, producing and designing. So, you know, we need to get away from generational stereotypes. And actually just think about ages and stages in life course, we’ve got this expanded view now of careers. And so, as I mentioned before, we need to ensure that we can sustain high performance across a longer work life. And organisations are really doing themselves a disservice if they’re overlooking talent in their 50s 60s 70s. But redesign a proposition that is attractive for the best and the brightest, to stay with your organisation. But they may be also doing some other things, they may be volunteering, they may have a side hustle, they may be having caregiving responsibility. So we’ve got to really think about designing work for diverse stages of the life course.

Kathryn Hume  21:49

Because I think that workforce do have so much to offer, it’s just that they are moving to a stage in their life, where they’ve got other things that they want to do. So it’s would just be just such a missed opportunity, if we didn’t harness the capabilities and the capacity that they can offer on their terms, but still benefit from it from our organisations. Because the alternative really is that they’re either going to be working beyond what they want to do. So they’re not going to be happy and possibly not as productive, or they’re going to choose to leave. So neither of those options is preferable. So we have to meet them partway. And I really love what you called out there and I hadn’t thought of this before, but the fact that you said there’s more diversity within generations than between them. And I think that goes to that need for personalisation, which is fundamentally driven by listening to our employees and understanding their needs and expectations, and then working out how we deliver that, for the benefit of the organisation that we’re all serving.

Alison Hernandez  22:54

Absolutely, often people are leaving because the conversation hasn’t been held. I recall many years ago and organisation coming to us at SageCo and saying, you know, can you intervene? We need knowledge transfer for an exiting employee with really critical history, legacy knowledge, etc. And they’ve announced their retirement after you know, 37 years. So can you can you come and help? So of course, one of the first questions we asked this individual was, “Why have you decided to retire?” And his simple answer was because no one asked me to stay. And actually, by recrafting, what work could look like, and it could balance nicely with the plans that this individual had for life, he did actually end up staying for another 18 months working part time, redesigning his role so that he was focusing on his areas of scale and particular passion and interest. So it was a real win win. So often, it’s that conversation needs to be had and those conversations are not happening enough. We we really need to ignite more of a listening culture. And one of the things that that we can do at HSM actually is help organisations listen at scale, using a really powerful piece of technology called the Collaboration Jam platform. And organisations across the world are using this to listen actively in a very interactive and engaging way to their employees. And there are so there’s so much rich insight that comes out.

Kathryn Hume  24:29

I haven’t put that question in and that may be podcast for another day because I think there’s so much we can unpack there. We won’t go there just now because I’ll go off on a massive tangent. You mentioned Lynda Gratton book on Redesigning Work. How does that underlie HSM is co-design approach to support organisations you work with?

Alison Hernandez  24:52

Well, the book really is about helping organisations navigate the possibilities of redesigning work. You know, we talk about the fact that organisations were in a bit of a state of freeze leading up to the pandemic. And then we saw this rapid unfreeze. We saw courage. We saw fearless initiatives, we saw speed, we saw unravelling of the status quo, we saw experimentation, and organisations began to unfreeze. It was actually such a catalyst for organisations and leaders to think differently and create new ways of working. But in a post pandemic era, what we need to avoid is refreezing. And so the book really takes people through the four step methodology, which, as I’ve mentioned, starts with understanding. And firstly, really, it’s understanding the elements of productivity, because everybody is fixated on productivity, as they should be interesting how much more fixated, they are in a post pandemic era than they ever were pre pandemic,

Kathryn Hume  26:01

rRally, I hadn’t actually thought about that, either. That’s crazy.

Alison Hernandez  26:04

Yeah, if we break it down and think about work through the elements of productivity, which is that we do work, which requires energy, we do work that requires focus, we do work that requires coordination, and also cooperation or collaboration, that actually we can start to design work and where we work accordingly. So it actually gets away from that fixation on on just is it home or is it in the office? If I need to be creating and need work that requires vitality and energy, then obviously, that might be synchronous time with other team members, and may well be best achieved in person. But if we have focused work to do reporting, or contract review, or developing a presentation, potentially, that’s in a quiet space that may be at home, it may not be we cannot assume that everybody prefers to have focused on at home, it may be the noisiest place. They may find a lot more peace and quiet in the office. So it’s about actually breaking it down and looking at it through a different lens. Thinking about what people want around health and well being around work life balance around re skilling. This is such a hot topic at the moment, and thinking about what people want through the multistage life phases that I talked about before. What is the employee experience? What are the things that we’re doing that are painful or gainful in the workplace, and as you mentioned, before Kath, just thinking about this and really hyper personalising experience for our people. So the understanding phase is critical to lay the foundation and then we move on to the reimagining phase, which is where we encourage an organisation to create a multifunctional design team so that you’ve got very diverse representation and diversity of thought. And that’s really looking at elements of place and time and synchronous work and asynchronous work and unpacking it and repacking it, and then encouraging a model and test phase as the third phase. So really thinking about experimentation, thinking about whether these initiatives and solutions that are proposed are future proofed? Can they stand up to future tech transitions? Are they equitable? Will they build or deplete trust with the workforce, etc. So that’s it, there’s a very good reason why we experiment because we have to be prepared to fail. But in so many instances, these initiatives are super successful and can be scaled across the organisation, and then moving to the fourth phase of Act and Create. And really in that phase, we need to enlist the managers,  the people leaders, they really are the golden thread of redesigning work, and yet, they’re our most overwhelmed cohort in the workforce right now, which is a whole other topic. But redesigning the role of managers and re skilling them for the future is a large component of the work that we’re doing at HSM at the moment, because without strong leadership and empathetic leadership, we will struggle to engage and retain our best talent.

Kathryn Hume  29:21

I think it’s such an important thing to do, because I really feel and this is pretty anecdotal, but I really feel that when COVID hit we said to leaders, and I’m talking probably those lower level frontline, like the managers of frontline staff, we said to them, make sure you look after your staff and check in with your staff, but we didn’t necessarily say what to do when their staff said they were struggling and equally, we didn’t have necessarily that upper layer checking in on them. So I feel like they were a bit of a meat in the sandwich. And I think the whole context of work has changed over that time. So they’ve been through this high activity period, and now we’re sort of almost resetting it and as you say around the the refreeze, we don’t want to do that. So how do we get that agility? And how do we support leaders and managers now to say, “All right, we’re moving into this new phase, how do we support you to thrive in that environment, so therefore, your staff that you are leading, can also thrive?”

Alison Hernandez  30:19

Yeah, 100%,

Kathryn Hume  30:20

What I really like about the framework too, is it is so achievable, you don’t need a whole lot of data, which can often get in our way and prevent us from moving forward. It’s the conversations, it’s going out to the people who intrinsically know how to solve them. So I really like that four step process, and you can just make sense of it for you don’t have to be an expert in that space, I really, really love it.

Alison Hernandez  30:46

And you’re co creating with your people, not for your people. And that’s the fundamental difference. And the most powerful element.

Kathryn Hume  30:57

Yeah, and that’s where you’re going get those win/wins, and you’re going to get buy in because people aren’t going to push back, if it’s something that they’ve created themselves, they’re going to be motivated to work towards what they’ve created together. I love that we do it together. I think that’s, that’s the crux of this is that no one can do it in isolation. And when we do it, through social connection, there is that shared purpose that we can bring in and everyone can see how they are contributing to the bigger whole. And that’s where you get fulfilment in life. And I just love how you’re enabling people to have a positive experience both now but also in the future. So in our conversation, last time, we spoke, you mentioned to me about what you termed the Forgotten Workforce. And I’m really intrigued if we could explore that a little bit further around what you mean by the Forgotten Workforce, and how we can best utilise that workforce for mutual benefit?

Alison Hernandez  31:53

Yeah, look, it’s sort of interesting, isn’t it? I’ve been in HR training, recruitment type industries for for my entire career and for most of that time, the narrative has been around culture fit, rather than culture add. And so if we think about that, from a diversity and inclusion perspective, it will actually reframe the way that our talent acquisition teams are searching the market for great people, what can people add? If they just fit, then we end up with a fairly homogenous workforce. So I think that’s that’s one point I wanted to make. And then really thinking about those hidden pools of talent. And when we’re redesigning work, think about it through the lens of diverse employee personas. And I think utilising personas is a really helpful way of redesigning work for the future, not making assumptions, actually tapping into the employees within our workforce to really listen to what’s important to them, and get away from the assumptions that we make about people and what they need and want. And there are so many pools of talent that are overlooked. I recall a great paper actually many years ago from Deloitte, where is your next worker coming from? And I think there were 15 different categories. That work is worth revisiting and exploring, where is our next worker coming from, but I think there’s probably a few more chapters that could be written in that book. I was so thrilled this year, that Dylan Allcott was named Australian of the Year because he has really shone the spotlight on the amazing pool of talent that exists out there that is often overlooked or ignored. And even going back to my previous story about the Sydney Olympics and the Paralympic Games, and the Paralympic employment programme and the immense contribution that Paralympians have made to the workforce, and through visionary employers who have hired them and allowed them the flexibility to train and compete whilst also having a paid employment with their organisation. So that has been a real shift this year. And I think employers are starting to sit up and take notice and be more inclusive of people from more diverse backgrounds and with diverse abilities. So you know, I think it’s really about being intentional about it. It’s about reaching out to experts and seeking to understand what changes and adaptations need to be made in the workforce, but actually listening to your existing employees and really acting on their feedback.

Kathryn Hume  34:45

And I think that listening piece is really interesting. I did an episode recently around neuro diverse workforce and when I was researching that they were talking about that there’s actually a proportion of the population who don’t identify as neuro diverse to to their employer for fear of discrimination. And I think that’s really sad, because there were some really simple things that we could do to make the lives of these people much easier. And it’s not the same for every person, you can’t put them under a banner of your neurodiverse therefore, you need a quiet environment, for example, we need to really understand who that person is not label them as you’ve got this x disability, and therefore you need y, but really say, okay, and this really is the case for anyone, it doesn’t just have to be someone with a disability or from a diverse background, we all have different circadian rhythms. We all have different things that motivate us. I wonder, too, if by listening to people, we encourage them to listen to themselves. I listened to a podcast recently, I think his name was Stefan van Hooydonk. It was a David Greene podcast anyway, it was all about curiosity. But he was talking about ‘A players’ as being people who are curious. And he was saying that they’re not just curious about the world, but they’re also curious about others, but also about themselves. And I do wonder if we start bringing this listening culture in, if we can also encourage people to listen to themselves and then support themselves by understanding themselves better?

Alison Hernandez  36:14

Absolutely. I think you know, there is an art to great questions. And it’s an art that many leaders need to develop, less telling more asking, and more active listening, I think would stand people in really good stead, and also, help to create that culture of curiosity about ourselves and about others. But all of that really relies on trust, as the cornerstone of the relationship. So that’s something that we need to work harder. And we need to earn that trust from our employees so that they feel psychological safety, and, you know, a sense of belonging, and overall, well being in the workforce. But yes, I think coming back to, how are we ever going to know if we’re not asking if we’re not listening, and if we’re not responding? So really good point.

Kathryn Hume  37:05

Just as an aside, my beautiful dad is an amputee and I grew up all of my life thinking he was absolutely no different to anybody else, because he had to fit into a world where he had to get on two trains to get to work and spend an hour and a half commuting each day, five days a week, and he did all of that. And I just, I have so much admiration for him, because he had to fit into a world where we could have accommodated him a lot better. And it is so heartwarming to think that that’s not the case anymore. I would hope that more and more often, we’re accommodating people with different needs, so they can perform, and they can have an equally positive experience as anybody else in the workplace.

Alison Hernandez  37:47

Absolutely. I’ve been having quite a few conversations recently with architecture firms about inclusive design. This is not just about meeting the basic code. This is about thinking about diverse needs of our people in the community. And organisations can apply a lot of that as well to inclusive office design, as you say, to really enable people to fully participate and contribute and bring their best self to the workplace. So there’s so much more work to be done in that space. I was coming back to the airport from an overseas trip last week, and watching somebody struggle with a disability with the baggage of the baggage carousel, and then the snaking queue around the ropes to go through customs and then navigating from the international terminal to get the to the domestic terminal without assistance. And, you know, it’s just apparent every single day that we can do better.

Kathryn Hume  38:43

Yeah, reduce that struggle to some degree. I’ve got one more question because I am conscious of time. Could you tell us about your role as the Ambassador for UNICEF, I’m very interested in it. And I’ll tell you why. Because I have four children, and they are ranging from 24 to 16. And whilst I have had a very privileged life, there were times when working and raising four little kids was harder than it needed to be. So I’m really keen to hear about the work that you’re progressing as the Ambassador for UNICEF.

Alison Hernandez  39:18

Oh, thanks, Kath. Yes, it’s something that I’m very committed to and very passionate about. When Emma Welsh came to me, she’s the CEO and the founder from Parents at Work and they’ve partnered with the support of UNICEF to launch family friendly workplaces in a world first in Australia. It’s a set of National Working Family standards, and enables organisations to certify and be recognised as a family friendly workplaces and quite simply, the future of work has to be family friendly, with an ageing population and an increasing caregiving responsibility at any age or life stage. This is just a pivotal part of any future of work strategy. So, ultimately, family friendly workplaces is striving to reduce that tension that exists between work and family. We’ve called it work life conflict. We’ve called it work life balance, we’ve called it, you know, all sorts of different things. But ultimately, there is a tension that exists. And if we can embed better policies, better practices, and a culture that supports employees with caregiving responsibilities, then they can thrive and work and at home. And since family friendly workplaces was launched back in March 2021, there are now close to 100 employers who have achieved certification and federal government are investing in the initiative to scale it so that 100 organisations can create a family friendly environment which ultimately, is around parental leave policies, care giving policies, Family Well Being, and of course, flexible work, which underpins the whole strategy to enable caregivers to, to contribute to the workforce. And ultimately, this also furthers the aims and the goals of any gender equality strategy, as well given that the majority of caregivers at the moment in the workforce are female, although the needle is shifting. And we’ve seen some of the certified employers share some wonderful outcomes as a result of a shared care campaign. One of the financial services companies that’s a certified employer saw a 25% uplift in men in the workforce, taking parental leave, as a result, so that was a really great win.

Kathryn Hume  41:54

You know, I’ll just share a little story. When my daughter was five, shes my eldest, she had to do news and she had to talk about what she would wanted to be when she grew up. And her kindy teacher said to me one day, oh, it’s so funny Jem said, when she grows up, she wants to be a real mum. And she thought was funny. She thought it was funny, she didn’t realise she just, you know may as well have pushed a knife through my heart.

Alison Hernandez  42:22

I feel your pain.

Kathryn Hume  42:24

But it was, it was a real moment. And I did ask her, I said, What, what’s a real mum, Jem? And she said, quite simply in her five year old mind. “It’s a mum who doesn’t work.” You know, that was her vision. That’s a positive news story she is she’s now 24. And she’s actually followed in my footsteps. And she’s done a degree. So I’m over that now I’ve processed it all but but the other thing I think what also comes to mind when you talked about the shared care is, my husband did take about 18 months off at one stage to study to become a teacher to transition to a different career. And so therefore, I worked full time he did the pickups and drop offs. Well, can I tell you, the number of times people came to me and said, “Oh, my God, your husband is amazing!”, because they saw him doing part of that workload. And I think it’s  this expectation that women will juggle all of the balls, and, don’t get really, really recognition for that. And yeah, maybe we don’t need it. But yeah, so I’d really love to see that we value everyone equally in this space and say, we are creating this next generation that we do need, and it takes a village. So let’s all do it together and recognise people for doing what they can, when they can,

Alison Hernandez  43:45

Absolutely! It enables workforce participation by those who have so much to offer, or contribute. And we really are doing ourselves a disservice as an organisation if we are not embracing caregivers in the workforce, and enabling them to contribute both at home and, and at work, particularly with an ageing population and the amount of healthcare responsibility increasingly have and I count myself in that category as well.

Kathryn Hume  44:15

And that future generation, I think you’re doing a great job too, because then they’re seeing their role models out in the workforce in a in a positive way, as well. So I think, you know, that there’s a lot of future improvement that you are driving there,

Alison Hernandez  44:29

Correct? Absolutely. My younger brother actually has taken two periods of parental leave for his two young sons. And I absolutely agree Kath that that signals to them the importance of the male contribution to the household and to the to the caregiving, and then it doesn’t just rest upon the mum.

Kathryn Hume  44:50

Oh, Alison, honestly, with  all these conversations, I could keep going for days. Thank you for all the great work you’ve done to improve the lives of so many people throughout your career to date. I love being connected with you. If people would like to connect with you, is there a way you could recommend them doing that?

Alison Hernandez  45:20

Absolutely. I’d love to connect on LinkedIn. I’m quite an active LinkedIn user. So by all means, find me on LinkedIn, or you can email me and we’ll pop the email address as well on the details.

Kathryn Hume  45:35

Fantastic. I will do that that will all be in the show notes. But thank you so much for your time. I have loved every second of it. Thank you.

Voice over  45:44

Thanks for listening to the reimagined workforce podcast. We hope you found some valuable ideas that you can apply to transform your own workforce today and tomorrow. Additional information and links can be found in the show notes for this episode at workforce Please share this podcast with your community and leave us a rating to let us know what we can do better for you

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