People are the backbone to any business and I have made it my life’s mission to empower organisations to create a positive workplace culture and an environment for their people to thrive.

In the world of Human Resources (HR), each new year comes with a new innovation or trend and I’m always excited to welcome positive change if it’s going to improve the employee experience. One of my personal goals is to always keep learning and an area that is becoming extremely important is positive psychology and wellbeing. In March, I will embark on completing a Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing with the Langley Group Institute.

What is positive psychology and how does it benefit a workplace?

 According to Psychology Today Australia, “positive psychology is a branch of psychology focused on the character strengths and behaviours that allow individuals to build a life of meaning and purpose—to move beyond surviving to flourishing.”

One thing that became clear to me as we all went through the difficulties and challenges of the pandemic and workplace stress continues to increase, focusing on the positives for both an individual and business wellbeing is essential. According to a recent study, ‘Resetting Normal: Defining the New Era of Work,’ by The Adecco Group, found, “28% of respondents said their mental wellbeing had worsened due to the pandemic, with only 1 in 10 rating their managers highly on their ability to support their emotional health.”

To increase individual, business and collective wellbeing

By completing this course, I will be able to support my clients with a range of positive psychology activities, tools, and strategies to help their people and business flourish.

Workplaces that look for ways to maximise and apply an individual employee’s key strengths and abilities will see higher rates of retention and productivity. Leaders who invest time in getting to know their people, value their contribution and their overall wellbeing will foster a culture of innovation and engagement.

Work plays a significant role in our everyday life and our overall wellbeing. We want our people to feel like they want to come to work. Making work purposeful and meaningful and they feel satisfied they are accomplishing something, will build teams that are highly motivated and driven to achieve positive outcomes for not only themselves but for the business.

My learning journey begins

Over the next few weeks, I’m incredibly excited about taking these next steps in my learning journey and hearing about the latest research of positive psychology, wellbeing and neuroscience. Creating workplaces for people to grow, ensuring diversity and fairness and an overall positive workplace culture is something I’m passionate about and I’m looking forward to sharing with you some of the key learnings.

My aim is for leaders to see their employees as ‘people’ who all have their own strengths and abilities and interests.

Over the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing with you more of my key learnings from my course.

Catie Paterson joined fellow small business owners, Peter Engelhardt, Zac Zawalski and Dr Linda Wilson, on the Better Business for Good TV show (BB4G TV) to discuss ‘all things culture’:

What exactly is company culture and what it is not.

  • The importance of culture in a small business.
  • How culture delivers to the bottom line.
  • What determines culture and how to change it.
  • What are ways you are maintaining or building your company culture?

Catch up on Catie’s episode now on the Better Business for Good Company website or click the link below to watch this episode on YouTube.

Here is the link to the BB4G TV full episode:

https://bb4g.co/bb4g-tv/

We are currently seeing a rapid change to the Australian workforce and economy with ongoing environmental and social impacts seeing businesses having to change and adapt more quickly than ever before, technology advancements replacing human labour, increasing customer expectations, legislative and regulatory changes, demographic shifts and shortages of skilled and qualified workers. These immense changes raise many organisational and human resources challenges now and for the future.  

People form the foundation of any business and its more important than ever before to have an agile, diverse workforce that can respond accordingly and still deliver on customer expectations.

How can you assess and develop your workforce now and for the future? 

Strategic workforce planning will help you put a system in place to proactively align the long-term goals of your business with your future workforce needs. It will ensure you have the right people, in the right roles and identify opportunities to further develop your team’s skills and behaviours or recruit if required to deliver core customer outcomes.  

A strategic workforce plan will be slightly different depending on the type of business, industry and what is expected of the workforce to meet that business’s particular goals. The core requirements of a workforce plan remain the same; to assess and develop your people capabilities to be adaptive to change and meet the future needs of your business.  

Importance of workplace planning and people management

Why is workforce planning so important? 

To be prepared for the future you need to assess and understand what might be required from your greatest asset – your people. Creating a workforce plan and putting it into action can positively impact your business in more ways than one.

Here’s why: 

— Improves employee engagement – if your people see a plan for their future, they will be motivated to achieve success in their roles and will form a deeper commitment to the business. 

— Provides an understanding of any skill gaps and builds a pipeline of what talent you may need to acquire to reach your future goals.  

— Continuously reviewing your current and future business needs, will help you stay ahead of changes to your industry, technology, legislation and regulations and identify any compliance related issues. 

— Allows a more diverse and gender balanced workforce which has seen to provide greater innovation. 

— Making more efficient and informed decisions based on metrics and success measures a workforce plan provides. 

A workforce plan is crucial in these times of uncertainty and rapid change. It takes time but is a valuable process that can be the difference between competing businesses and being able to adapt quickly to the changing environment.  

Organisational change continues to be difficult for many businesses as we adapt to sudden shifts in our industry, new business models that may be required and even external factors including pandemics such as COVID-19. 

What is Change Management?

Change management is a structured approach that helps businesses be prepared, equipped and support individuals to adapt change that delivers a positive outcome for the business and its people.  

A change could be a simple process within your business that needs adjusting or it could be a major change in policy or strategy that’s required to further leverage your business potential within your industry and even grow.  

This structured approach focuses on the wider impact change may have for your people and how they, as individuals and even teams, transition from the current situation to a new one.  

Change Management

How do we continue to adapt to change and make sure that we’re keeping our people informed? 

With digital technologies and the changing nature of the workforce creating new opportunities and challenges for businesses each and every day we need to make sure that we are building a foundation that incorporates change in a positive way and continues to involve people at every level across the business.  

As human beings we are generally averse to change especially if it may be misaligned to our own beliefs or actions or thrown upon us without any understanding of why this change may be required.  

For any business to adapt to change it’s important that people understand why it’s happening and leaders don’t assume that this transformation is clear to the whole business. Clear communication is a fundamental avenue that leaders need to develop to help all employees understand where the company is headed, why it is changing, and why this change is important.  

Change Management

What are some of the warning signs when it comes to change management? 

— Are any of your employees on edge? 

— Does your leadership team focus on adverse outcomes or problems? 

— Are your employees unclear about expectations? 

— Are your employees working on multiple projects but don’t know which ones are priorities?  

— Is there a lack of planning that require urgent results?  

— Do you not have an approved change plan?  

— Has the change happened without any monitoring?  

— Has the change been implemented with no change policy and procedures? 

 

Who is responsible for change and how should it be incorporated into your business? 

For change management to be successful it is the responsibility of the leadership team to engage, inspire and support employees to adopt the change and the individual employees’ responsibility to change their behaviour to start a new way of working. 

Here are five key steps to consider when incorporating change into your business: 

Success – Best chance of success when everyone with authority and influence is engaged. 

Adapt – Always assess and adapt. Assess what is working and adjust next steps. 

Execute – Leadership team should NEVER delegate execution. 

Delivering change is running business 

Don’t rely on past work, assumptions 

Pre-work to determine legitimate case for change

All – More efficient to bring people along with you on the journey. Lead with process and make sure all of it is in place such as training, incentives, procedures and processes. 

New – Define essential behaviours that are vital. Leadership team must visibly model new behaviours. Behaviours shift when procedures change and incentives are in place.  

 

I was recently invited onto Ticker TVs new show Blackbelt Leadership with Karen Gately, where I discussed the steps leaders can take to reengage a checked-out team.

I had such a wonderful time chatting to Karen and am very excited to share the segment with you.

Click the link below to watch.

https://www.tickertv.com.au/news/black-belt-leader-re-engaging-a-checked-out-team/

In Part 1 of this topic I introduced the concept of succession management and the importance of career planning when it comes to retaining your employees and creating a culture of growth. In Part 2 we’ll dive deeper into the individual needs of your employees and how communication is central to the success of your ongoing succession plan.

Effective succession planning goes beyond a one-time event; it’s important to plan with your team and encourage the continual development of your staff through mentoring, regular check-ins, goal setting and strategic evaluation over time. Career plans are no longer static, and as companies continue to downsize and flatten, traditional career ladders are becoming less prevalent. Instead, helping your employees seek opportunities to grow and having authentic, timely conversations about their personal and professional goals can have a huge influence on how engaged they are, their perception of where or how they work, and how supported they feel on their professional journey.

Particularly when managing a multi-generational workforce, each of these different demographics has varying needs, wants and expectations. Baby boomers, for example, might have typically enjoyed decade-long careers while millennials will seek multiple jobs throughout their lifetime. With this in mind, succession planning then isn’t just about finding the right talent, but also dealing with high rates of turnover within younger generations. Yet in the race to replace older generations and retain the millennials, it’s important you don’t forget about Gen X. This demographic is often next in line to step into leadership roles as older generations move into retirement, but if they’re continually looked over in favour of millennials or sense a ‘grey ceiling’ looming above them, they might leave to follow their career dreams elsewhere.

Once stripped back, the common thread is all about communication. Communicating and planning across the board is essential, not only regarding succession management but planning for growth and being prepared for successions when they arrive. Staying ahead of the curve by understanding each employee’s individual growth trajectory and communicating openly with your team has long-lasting results; effective leadership means less about ruling from the top, and more about identifying if the people who work beneath you are growing and developing.

It’s important to really know your team; we’re all humans after all – each with varying aspirations, attitudes, skills, goals and dreams – and it’s human nature to want to grow, whether that’s learning a new skill to advance your career, embracing new responsibilities, or exploring ways to find happiness and challenges in your day-today that might simultaneously help your company too.

Communication is imperative and working with your team to plan for and execute an effective growth strategy requires the right tools to do so. Inspired by my passion for strategising and deep interest in culture and career development I’m excited to announce the I’ve recently finished working on a customised business planning system that’s finally ready to launch in the market. It’s been built using years of industry knowledge and experience, drawing upon case studies and fervent analysis of the ins and outs of career planning and succession management.

If you’re looking to adopt an innovative and cost-effective approach in the new financial year, I’d love to hear from you.

Driven by an increase in global competition and dramatic changes to workforce demographics, Succession Planning is more than just a plan. Coming of age over the past decade, a successful ‘succession’ goes hand in hand with career development and the weight it carries with both new and existing employees. 

As 2020 fast approaches, establishing an effective succession management strategy alongside career development processes is more important than ever. The evolution of succession starts at the bottom; retaining, motivating and driving employees to consider how their role might extend deeper into the business, and giving them the tools to do so. With talent continuity essential to the evolution of succession planning, what better place to start than with your own team?

What is Succession Management, and why is it important?

Succession Management is, at its heart, a comprehensive and integrated recruitment strategy for positions of leadership. The world of work is changing, and no company can assume that essential talent will always be available. When it comes to the long-range view, finding value in the development and training of future leaders is equally as important as placing weight on technical skill.

Effective succession facilitates a positive impact on performance management, not only in terms of ensuring that key positions are filled with competent performers, but also in terms of saving money on external recruitment and training, which are often significantly more costly than promoting from within.

By encouraging the broader participation of existing employees, it shows your team that they have a future in your organisation; a path to get there, and a reason to stay. It’s vital for creating a culture of growth, which is both positive to the personal and professional development of your staff, as well as an important way to identify which employees have the necessary skills to either replace senior executives, or step into positions of leadership down the track.

Your employees know what’s in it for them; and it’s often the ambitious, talented team members who value the ability to take charge of their own careers that become your future leaders.

Where does HR come in?

In playing a vital role in the process of succession planning, HR leaders are on the front line when it comes to facilitating the smooth and successful transition of critical positions. While on the surface this process appears seamless, the challenges often lie within the integration of both long and short term goals, as well as choosing the right candidate with the best cultural fit.

With the concept of succession planning ever evolving, it’s become clear that an effective program needs to be dynamic and ongoing, multifaceted and further linked to greater collaborative initiatives. It’s a complex process that requires the right people to lead it, and deep investment into a long-term strategy.

In Part 2 of this topic I’ll share some deeper insights into understanding you team, their needs and how effective communication is paramount when implementing succession planning within you company.

If you’re running a growing small business and are finding yourself spending an increasing amount of time and energy on your staff instead of spending that time on your business then this is the list for you.

If any of the below apply, then bringing a HR consultant on board could be the right choice for the future of your business.

1. You’re out of time

After good staff, the most valuable resource to your business is likely time. You may need a HR consultant if you or your team are consistently short on the number of hours you can devote to day-to-day HR tasks – or if those tasks are fractured among different staff members. Leaving HR as an afterthought can often lead to costly non-compliance or legal issues and dissatisfied employees. A HR consultant also saves you the time that you’d spend training and on-boarding a new in-house HR manager. Plus, a professional’s existing expertise also means tasks are often completed faster.

2. Your business is rapidly growing or changing

During periods of high change in your business, you’ll have enough matters – aside from HR – that demand your attention. And when that change is particularly tumultuous, a specialist can help navigate the stickier side of running an organisation. Especially as they understand the ramifications of changes in pay or roles, down-sizing, restructuring, terminations, investigations, conflict resolution and any disciplinary matters that arise.

3. You just haven’t found “the one” yet

Culture fit is one of the most important factors that nurture a happy workplace. Whether you’re thinking of adding an HR manager to your team for the very first time, or you’re in between HR managers, you want to hire the perfect person. Temporarily partnering with a HR consultant as a stop-gap measure during this time is often more cost-effective in the long run than hurrying the recruitment process. It also ensures your eventual new hire will be seamlessly joining a well-run department. Not to mention, a HR consultant can also assist you in finding the right person to join your team.

4. You need the resources to meet your business growth goals

Do you have big plans to grow your business and need a top-level HR strategy to meet your objectives but don’t know where to start? HR Consultants are experts in providing the framework to ensure you have the right staff and systems to meet your strategic business objectives. On top of this, they can develop an employment strategy in line with your overall business plan to communicate the vision to existing staff, build and motivate your team, drive efficiencies, and inspire individuals to reach their full potential. HR Consultants can also customise strategies to develop the individual capabilities of staff, to enable you to achieve your business goals.

5. You simply don’t need a full-time HR manager

If your business is small to medium in size you may very well not require permanent HR staff. Yet as soon as you hire your very first employee, it’s important to start thinking about your future HR requirements. You probably have an intimate knowledge of what your business offers, who it’s for and what your hopes are for the future, but may not know the finer details of HR. Working with a HR consultant means you can add their wide-ranging expertise to your team, and save on the salary and recruitment costs you’d spend on HR staff. Good consultants are also highly adaptable and flexible; meaning you can hire them on a project-by-project basis or for longer or shorter time periods to suit your business needs.

Still not sure if a HR consultant can assist your particular situation? Get in touch for a chat about how Catie Paterson Consulting can help you.

Just as the title suggests, Human Resources should be a very “human” prospect although in this industry we often find ourselves navigating an increasingly digitised workplace and world. Technology can be implemented to benefit many areas of an organisation, and HR departments are no exception.

Digital competency is essential for every HR practitioner to be able to deliver on their day-to-day tasks as well as the delivery of more complex projects. Many of our current skills will only be relevant for the next 2.5 – 5 years so it is important to remain abreast of changing technology to ensure your skills are relevant well into the future. Engaging with all things digital now will help you and your staff to integrate with the upcoming essential new technologies such as artificial intelligence and ‘bots’.

If your team is reluctant to go digital, here are 5 ways to empower your team to embrace technology.  

1. Use it Yourself

Changes in business culture are most effective when they are supported from the top down. As a HR manager you can’t demand that your team use the latest technologies if you are slow to embrace it – at the very least you will need to have a good understanding of them. Aim to keep on top of the latest developments. Set aside time to research cutting-edge technologies that could work for your organisation, chat to your network and other colleagues about the subject, read relevant media regularly or listen to industry podcasts. Sign up for newsletters or follow social media accounts that will keep you up-to-date. Call in a professional for help so that you can then help others. Ensure you can use any new apps, programs and tools you introduce. Lead the way and you’ll be an inspiration to your team.

2. Build their Confidence

Proper training is key. Take advantage of all of the online and real-world conferences, training and seminars provided by product suppliers to enhance your team’s skills. Once they’ve mastered a particular technology, make sure there’s a simple process to communicate any updates to the system and reserve time for your team to get on top of those new developments. Some level of independence ranks highly on the desirable list for most employees; you could invest in individual courses and professional development with a technological focus as an incentive for them outside of general team-wide training.

 

3. Use Technology to Use (More) Technology

It sounds like a bit roundabout but utilising technology may help your team embrace the digital landscape further. There are specific HR apps and programs out there that are designed to keep training and learning processes on track. If you have difficulty in areas such as keeping your team up to date; adopting new systems; educating new staff or assessing your team’s digital capabilities, learning systems from organisations like Success Factors, Cornerstone or Peoplestreme could be something to investigate.

4. Listen Up

Here’s where the human side of HR really comes in. Listen to what your team are asking for and see if it can be delivered from a digital standpoint. Whatever they need there’s bound to be – as the saying goes – “an app for that” and likely one that saves time and/or money. Involve them in the selection of the new products or platforms that they will be using. Your staff may be able to tell if a technology is fit for purpose more than you can. If, by chance, you can’t find a product that works for your team’s unique requirements, consider investing in development.

5. Knowledge is Power

Remember all of those podcasts, videos, media and e-newsletters about digital workplaces that you should be consuming? Shouldn’t your team have access to that knowledge too? Suggest that they sign-up or create an occasional digest for them to share via a meeting or an email. Encourage them to regularly share any knowledge, resources, channels or learnings they find helpful with the wider team. Keep them up-to-date on the latest research on how digital technology provides time, cost and analytic benefits. Did you know AI is in development right now to accurately determine how well new hires will perform in a role or even predict when someone might quit (with time to reverse underlying causes if desired). How brilliant is that?

As workforce demographics shift and different generations find themselves working together, diversity has increasingly become a business necessity instead of a badge that companies use to show their commitment to embracing change.

In Part 1 of this topic I touched on Australia’s multigenerational workforce, sharing insights into how individuals of differing ages, skillsets and demographics work together, and how successful leaders draw upon these different learning styles to both manage and unify their teams. Part 2 delves deeper into what diversity actually looks like – outside of age – and why cultivating a diverse workforce should be everyone’s priority. 

So what is diversity?

Beyond age, race or gender, diversity is really just about differences — of opinion, ideas, skills, knowledge, background or culture: diversity is anything that sets one individual apart from another. It’s also about embracing these differences and fostering a variety of thought, creating a culture that encourages innovation, and supporting our diverse teams through understanding and acceptance.

Why should we care?

A diverse workplace is a more productive workforce, which at a basic level allows your business to benefit from different perspectives, improve community relations and explore more innovative, creative thinking. Diversity should be viewed as transformative, not transactional; contributing to your company’s ability to cope with change, and dispel myths surrounding preconceived ideas of how certain individuals work. For example, recent data suggests that Millennials can change their job up to 15 times throughout their career. While the presumption is that younger generations are less committed to their work, their reasons for doing so are not dissimilar to those of Gen Y-ers and Baby Boomers: they want to earn more money, they seek a greater work-life balance, or they want to work in more creative and innovative environments. They also want to advance their career while doing what they’re most passionate about – not because they feel entitled, but because they have the freedom to do so. 

When it comes to conflict management, most challenges arise when a lack of understanding takes place, and conflict in the workplace is inevitable regardless of the industry or work environment. However, we often find that employees who acknowledge and embrace others’ differences also discover similarities, such as being motivated by common goals or personal values. It is here that mutual respect is formed, encouraging co-workers to bond over their differences while learning to work together. When diversity is well managed and employees are trained on cultural sensitivity and awareness, collective morale is improved and the ideal result is a workplace where all people are validated and regarded as important, regardless of their differences.

In understanding that diversity is important, where do we begin to make changes? Firstly, by understanding what diversity is, and by becoming more aware of it as an area of growth and opportunity. Beyond that, it’s about consciously thinking about diversity in the ways we recruit, train and develop our teams, in our mentorship and our communications, and at both internal and external levels. 

A genuine commitment to diversity is rewarding, as diverse teams promote varied skillsets, a broad range of knowledge and experience, and an engaged and often passionate pursuit of innovation and creativity. Businesses that are sincere about promoting diversity in the workplace should embrace the opportunity to adopt methods of recruitment and development that go beyond legislative requirements. To be fully embracing of diversity is to no longer question if we are diverse enough. Valuing a diverse workforce means establishing a work environment that respects and includes differences, while recognising the unique contributions that all individuals can make.

For the first time in Australia’s workforce there are up to 5 generations working alongside each other, with nearly a 50 year age gap between the oldest and youngest employees. This breadth of age, combined with huge societal changes, presents complexities in the workplace surrounding different needs, attitudes, perspectives and working styles.

As history suggests, each generation believes they know more than their predecessors, and that the generation that follows them are lazy, disrespectful and arrogant. Yet if we break down these generations into “older” and “newer” we discover that often these differences are less about age and more about rapid changes in society that lead to a lack of understanding, or in many cases, a lack of integration.

Diversity is something I’ve always been drawn to – in another life I may have been an anthropologist! Not solely in the workplace, but simply the study of human nature and relationships, and the trends or differences that emerge between generations. For example, looking at the history of Australia’s workforce, our older generations have traditionally made quite engaged, loyal and hardworking employees. They are often devoted researchers, time-orientated individuals who work long hours, are early risers, and committed to putting in ‘the hard yard.’ Newer generations on the other hand have developed a mentality of working ‘smarter’ not harder, motivated by a work-life balance and ideal company culture. While no less hard working, younger generations are born communicators, confident, inherently digitally-savvy and driven by their values. Unlike their older counterparts who struggle with the ‘work-to-live’ attitude, younger generations embrace change and thrive on experience, purpose and recognition.

So how do two (or three, or four) groups of people from one end of the age bracket to the other come together? While societal changes and structures can indeed set us apart from our neighbour, learning how to manage different generations, understand their learning styles and tailor the way you manage your team to suit various needs is an essential skill of being a leader.

For example, almost 80% of millennials say they’d like their boss to act more like a coach or a mentor – which makes sense as these individuals are the newest to the workforce and are still learning their skills, nurturing their connections, and strongly value a positive company culture. On the other hand, ‘baby boomers’ are governed more so by ethics, fairness, dependability and consistency. They take less risks, but are in for the long run. They’re also more likely to leave a workplace due to salary, compared to newer generations who will stay in lower paying job if the culture is the right fit. Together these differences show how important it is for managers to be open, responsive and flexible in their leadership style, as well as acutely aware of who makes up their team, and how different they may be. 

The benefits of a multigenerational workforce are far reaching. Business have become varied in age, experience and breadth of thought, and teams become more flexible due to the advances in technology that keeps us connected. At a leadership level business decisions are usually stronger when combining broad generational perspectives, and tend to remain ahead of the curve by embracing creativity and innovation. Put simply, where younger generations bring fresh energy and an eagerness to change the world, older generations bring wisdom and vision unrivalled by any other demographic – and when united, different skillsets and ideas should flourish.

This idea of diversity in the workforce is not a novel concept, yet one that demands increasing attention and understanding as the sands of time shift. In Part 2 of this topic I’ll share some insights into the difficulties that may arise in multigenerational workplaces, and how you can work with your team to overcome challenges and thrive.

Humans were created to connect with one another. 

To form genuine, inclusive relationships that bring complex value to our lives through the conversations and experiences they inhabit – networks and communities of likeminded individuals built on the exchange of information, support, and ideas.

Networking is an arm of relationship building that’s centred on this idea of ‘connection’. While in the past often perceived as overtly ‘sales-y’, networking in today’s age encourages social connection through open, accessible ways to meet new people, discuss ideas, and share your knowledge and skillset with likeminded peers. Mutually beneficial yet authentically so, one of the most important aspects of networking is understanding and finding the value in it when you do not need anything in return. Instead, networking should be something continuously pursued; a natural route of development that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone and start conversations with a broad range of people (not just the ‘right’ people!) – regardless of a need or motive. 

No matter where you are in the life-cycle of a business, there are opportunities to be found in every corner of the room, and the power to do so lies in your willingness to receive them as they’re presented. Networking should never be treated like a chore, but rather an opportunity to learn, engage, and build genuine relationships with people from varied industries and expertise.  Limiting yourself to only connecting with people you believe can do something for you will not only reduce the amount of people you’re ultimately exposed to, but at the same time limit the number of people exposed to you. 

In going beyond the ‘stiff handshake and business card exchange’ ways of old, it’s been refreshing to witness the discourse surrounding networking events change alongside their landscapes. In becoming far less formal, opportunities to network are now more intuitive, more authentic, more gender inclusive, and more accessible than ever. There are social media networking groups that ignite rich conversation and support for busy professionals in the digital space, industry-led workshops and ideas-dominated events.

No matter which industry you’re in or how far into your career you are, the positive impacts of networking are far reaching. Not only in terms of developing your confidence, but also for sharpening your communication skills and challenging yourself to continually question, learn, and grow – both as an individual and as a professional.

Because humans can never really stop learning, can we? Or connecting.

Over the past few years I’ve started to visualise networking as a physical ‘net’ at sea, trawling the ocean floor for pearls and picking up various little shells along the way. While the peals may represent a particular goal (such as finding a mentor or gaining a new client), the conversations and learnings you gather along the way are like the shells that line your journey – slightly smaller and less shiny, but just as important to the bigger picture. 

Have you found value in networking? Can you attribute any of your positive relationships to networking? I’d love to know your thoughts. 

While there are some things you can teach, not everything comes as naturally as a second skin. Some of us are born leaders and loud communicators; others are deep thinkers and quiet achievers. In many instances our upbringing or familial roles can seamlessly shape our future experiences, where in others you must learn to cultivate and develop your path along the way. 

Growing up on a farm in the deep south of New Zealand, my formative years were shaped wholesomely by the remote area in which my family lived. At the tender age of thirteen I went off to boarding school in Dunedin – the only accessible option for a high school education – and spent family holidays in Queenstown, where in the winters we snow-skied and in the summers we water-skied. My first job was a room attendant in one of the hotels here, where at the age of fifteen I became acutely aware of the broad opportunities the hotel and hospitality industry could bring. 

Dunedin, NZ

Travel, culture and the exciting possibility of exploring beyond my home town was welcomed. 

In my final year of boarding school I applied to gain a place at the only Hotel Management School in New Zealand, based in Wellington. At the same time I applied for a scholarship to attend Drysdale in Hobart, one of the best Hotel Management schools in the Southern Hemisphere. The scholarship was an initiative between the sister cities of Invercargill and Hobart, established to boost tourism throughout Tasmania. I was fortunate enough to secure one of these scholarships, and so my adventure in Australia began.

From here my passion for working with people catapulted. A component of my three-year degree at Drysdale was a six-month practical placement which I was fortunate enough to secure at the Grand Hyatt, where I remained for a subsequent three years. During this time part of my role was to look after the VIP guests who stayed there, from U2 and the Rolling Stones, to Phil Collins, Sammy Davis Jnr and Katherine Hepburn.

14th June 1969: British rock band the Rolling Stones in 1969, after the death of founding member Brian Jones. They are, from left to right; drummer Charlie Watts, new member guitarist Mick Taylor, vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards and bass player Bill Wyman. (Photo by Len Trievnor/Express/Getty Images)

For a teenager from the deep south of NZ, starstruck was an understatement. 

Yet customer service – or rather, ‘people’ service – soon became a natural extension of who I was, and the experiences I gained in my formative years certainly paved the way for the career I have now. 

Working with people is not something I felt challenged to learn, nor did I feel the need to suppress. It was simply who I was. Following my studies I managed a few bars and pubs before deciding to go back to school as a lecturer, teaching food and wine studies to give back to the industry. While this certainly kept me busy and immersed in the thriving food and culture scene of Melbourne, a career in HR was something that had always been at the forefront of my professional ambition.

Two years later I completed my post-grad studies in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management at RMIT, and haven’t looked back since. 

In the past two decades my career has seen me tackle challenging tasks head-on, and deliver practical, tangible results to corporate companies across Australia, Asia and the US. My experience spans companies across a multitude of industries from hospitality, building, construction, law and IT, to banking, finance, retail and not-for-profit. My toes are well-travelled, and my passion for human development ever increasing.

In late 2016 I established my own consulting firm, which is where I find myself today. Drawing upon my strengths and skillsets developed over many decades, my offerings are as unique as they are time honoured, and while inherently consistent they are not without regular reimagining. With each new year comes a new innovation or trend, and I’m both fortunate and excited to be in the position of welcoming change. 

One of these is developing a more digital presence for Catie Paterson Consulting, and I invite you to follow my journey along the way. Each month I will be publishing a blog post on an interesting concept, or an exciting or relevant piece of HR news, littered sporadically with engaging commentary and personal insights. 

My aim is to connect better with people online, and showcase a different side to the world of HR in an expressive, informative and digital way. 

-Catie Paterson