Home' HR Monthly : February 2018 Contents February 2018 HRM magazine 41
For an HR leader to transition to chief
operating officer is no mean feat, as
the role is often given to those with a
finance background. But maybe we're seeing
a shift. While becoming HR certified under
AHRI's Senior Leaders Pathway, Paula
Goodwin was offered the role of COO for the
Corporate Strategies Division, Department of
the Environment and Energy. Her method?
Influencing leadership and setting the vision for
a future as strategically focused on people as it
was on finances.
"When I joined the organisation, the HR
maturity was fairly low," she explains. "There
had been budgetary cutbacks that resulted in the
department increasing efficiency, to the extent
that there were no more left to make."
With no possibility of further cuts, the task
was identifying the next round of efficiencies.
The answer wasn't financial; it was about
improving the capability of people.
The process took three steps. The first was
diagnosing the problem with risk assessments.
Goodwin explains: "I talked to senior people
about what the future looks like, and whether
they had the skills to deliver against those future
challenges. I asked what do they need from their
people that they currently aren't getting?"
The second step was persuading and
influencing senior leaders to think differently
about the role of HR in delivering business
outcomes. And persuading them to commit the
necessary funding to meet those outcomes.
The third step was building the framework,
including an overarching people strategy. "We
focused on diversity, leadership, developing core
skills and creating a psychologically healthy and
safe workplace," says Goodwin.
Underneath this lay a series of practical
projects, including mapping the workforce, and
reshaping the leadership program to develop
talent in the right way. It also meant renewing
performance management, shifting the focus
to engagement and from underperformance to
It wasn't long into her tenure at the
department that Goodwin was tapped to take
on the role of acting COO -- a signal that her
bosses were impressed.
She immediately demonstrated that she
offered something unique. For instance,
leadership is always eager to invest in the latest
innovation promising them the world, but they
often forget the most crucial element.
"Whenever there was a change, whether
that be around technology or an operating
"I got them to think
about the people
who are going to
deliver that change
because they are
the ones who you
need to invest in."
model, I got them to think about the people
who are going to deliver it, because they are
the ones you need to invest in," says Goodwin.
So even as the organisation was looking for a
permanent COO, it discovered the value of the
person already in the chair.
"Paula has a significant impact on the
department," says Matt Cahill, acting deputy
secretary, strategy and operations group.
"The evidence is in our staff survey results.
Engagement is strong and we're seeing the
value of the diversity of our workforce."
By more closely tying HR functions to
organisational outcomes, Goodwin proved her
worth and was made permanent COO.
"There is a range of things she has
introduced in terms of measures and capability
investment. But she also uses some softer
levers," enthuses Cahill. He's very impressed
by Goodwin's work with the HR team.
"They've been able to start giving advice,
shape key performance indicator reports, build
tools and training programs, and develop an
HR strategic framework," says Cahill.
"We've seen the investment she's making.
There are a further four of our employees who
are now on the path to HR certification as a
result of her example." •••
An HR professional being promoted to COO?
Senior HR leader Paula Goodwin FCPHR shows how
a focus on people strategy changed the way her
organisation thought about investment.
BY GIRARD DORNEY
PAULA GOODWIN FCPHR, COO CORPORATE
STRATEGIES DIVISION, DEPT OF THE
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
LEAD THE WAY FOR THE
Demonstrate your expert HR skills and leadership
experience through the Seniors Leaders Pathway to HR
certification, by sharing insights on a past HR change
initiative that you led.
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