We caught up with Tina Crawford, the newly appointed Director of People and Workforce Strategy recently to congratulate her on her success and to find out a bit more about what she is focused on for 2018.
You are a familiar and much loved face at the university, but for those who don’t know you, could you tell us a bit about your career to date, including your time here at the university.
My background is across a couple of areas. I have had the opportunity to work in health and mining and probably most notably, my time in manufacturing building health and safety management systems here in Australia and then in Asia.
When I came to the university my first role was in health and safety. Through that time, I was lucky enough to work with a whole range of different people and to see different aspects of the university. Then I had the opportunity to act in the Director role for about 15 months (in 2013-14) and again more recently (since June 2017).
My international experience with Procter and Gamble was an extremely valuable time in my career. Initially, I built the Health & Safety management system for their plant here in Australia and then moved on to a regional role. It was a fascinating time in my career because I realised that the world is a small place and no matter where I went in the world or who I worked with, fundamentally people were the same. Cultures were different, but people had the same concerns and issues and I was exposed to some fabulous people across the globe.
It was a really defining period of my career. I realised that good, positive change is possible. We were extremely adaptive and as opportunities came, we moved. Despite us being very big, because of the nature of the industry (consumer goods) we could move quite swiftly to take opportunities that came. I was also exposed to different ways of thinking, which was really good for me in terms of knowing what is possible to achieve fabulous results.
All of the great things I’ve achieved throughout my career, here and in other organisations, have been the result of outstanding team efforts. I’ve worked with exceptional professionals and I’ve been lucky to work with leaders who have allowed those teams to flourish, sometimes by identifying strengths and abilities that we perhaps didn’t even know we had. I’ve tried to carry that forward in my own leadership.
I’m very proud of the work that the Workforce Strategy and Transformation team has achieved over the years in supporting the institution and in the development and implementation of sector leading projects such as the Leadership Framework and the UONAcademy.
You’ve seen plenty of change at the university in your time and you have been working with our Leadership Group to build change leadership capability. What do you think is critical to successful change?
There are key elements around successful change that are just so important. Some of the examples of where change has worked well have been where there has been a good strong leader who communicates really well with their staff and listens to their staff. They also listen more broadly in terms of what is needed across the institution and then more broadly to the sector trends.
There is something really important about leaders bringing people with them. As leaders we need to be careful not to assume to know everything, not to think that we need to be the smartest person in the room. We need to be mindful to stop and think “how do I learn from people who are at the coalface doing the work?” but knowing that the responsibility still sits with us.
I also think change needs to be focused and we need to be clear about what we are going to do. I read somewhere recently if you can’t articulate your plan in 30 seconds you don’t have a plan. So being really clear that this is what we are going to do and making sure everybody is on the same page. There is also an element there about being bold –taking a bit of risk or thinking differently, or empowering people to think differently and try new ways. As leaders and colleagues, we really have to have people’s backs in that process, ensuring people feel trusted and valued.
Having worked for and alongside many different styles of leaders, what do you think we need to strive for?
I’ve said this before, but I really honestly believe that we could be very distinctive if we can achieve the two components of building the business (delivering our KPIs to be successful) but also by building the organisational capacity.
Leaders need not only to think about their own career and results, but to think constantly about the people that work for them - how do I provide them with opportunities to experience different parts of the business, to be involved in projects or initiatives? Am I looking for opportunities to shine a light on them and how fabulous they are? That generosity of spirit will make people feel valued and it really does change the culture of an institution when people feel valued in that way.
So I think we need to structure that into the way we measure leaders. We are already seeing a bit of a shift. In promotions we asked people to give us a leadership statement so they actually had to demonstrate what they are doing in terms of the Leadership Framework.
I think we then need to go a step further in terms of accountability. If you are an established academic staff member, how are you nurturing the mid and early career researchers? If you are a professional staff member, how are you looking for opportunities for your staff? There are fabulous stars out there and lots are under the radar, so it’s about how do I garner some of that and make people feel valued, which in turn lifts the institution.
Valuing people so that they want to go the extra mile takes a high level of trust, staff need to know that their manager or supervisor has their back.
Staff need to know that they can trust their supervisor when they are trying new things, because it can be scary, so how do we nurture and develop that?
Has the university changed over the time you’ve been here?
The essence of the university remains the same as when I started but there is something to be said for looking again at the heart and soul of the institution and revisiting that sense of community and pride in the institution. I think particularly when there is a lot of change in the sector and across the institution and that’s not going to change, we need to be make sure the heart and soul of the university isn’t lost?
There was a really strong sense of community that was palpable. In some ways that was bad because people clung on a bit to the past, so the great thing about new people coming in is fresh ideas, but there is something about the heart and soul of the institution, what we stand for, who we are that we perhaps need to reinvigorate.
The community is so proud of the university. I’m proud of the university. I feel extremely privileged to work at the university and I have loved my work here. You can believe in the transformative power of education and you know you are doing great work for a whole range of reasons. I’m passionate about the University and its long term success. For me, it’s not just about career path, I am honestly dedicated to the success of the institution long term.
What are your thoughts on creating the culture we need to thrive at the university?
Culture is evolving and this year presents a really good opportunity to springboard off the work we’ve done previously, in terms of what the institution needs at the moment.
For me, it’s the fundamentals of building a level of trust across the institution and doing that through engagement and empowerment, but also doing it in a more structured way, through secondment opportunities, career planning, nurturing talent, and building capabilities around valuing and trusting staff, transparency and good solid communication with staff.
Good people at the coalface know the answer. My time in health and safety told me that 99% of the time when you go to visit an area with a H&S problem, you should ask the staff in the area, they know what the answer is. But sometimes, they might know the answer, but they don’t quite know how to get there, so we might need to move things around to help them get things where they need them to be.
You could see it in the workshops that Darrell ran last year. Listening to people from right across the institution as they map things out - looking at the flow charts, you think wow! And a lot of the time people were identifying things that have been an issue for a long time but they haven’t quite known how to solve it.
I think empowering staff is very energising for staff and the way people feel and behave creates the culture.
What do you think are the big challenges for our workforce is currently facing?
I think there are the obvious challenges around changes the government is making. But there are also student expectations, staff expectations, the nature of work, the casualization of work. There is clearly some significant challenges around the changes in the digital space.
But even though a lot of those changes are coming, people’s expectations are changing and the way we work is changing, I still think people are fundamentally the same and need the same things. I don’t know if those things change much over time – but I think people still hold onto the fundamental principles of being valued, recognised and having some control over what they do. I also think people want to contribute to whatever is going on and I think there are some opportunities in that space for HR to remove obstacles for people – because there are obstacles – so how do we remove them so that no matter what changes come, people can move through and adapt?
How do you balance the work and non-work aspects of life?
I’m definitely better at it sometimes than others! I am big believer in the early morning walk and swim (I went this morning) so certainly every day of the holidays it was walk, swim, newspapers sitting on the front deck. That’s my best balance, if I can get my walk and swim in in the morning, no matter what comes after that, I can cope. In the dark depths of winter, I get on the treadmill with the ipad, but it’s not quite the same!
It think it’s about getting rid of the extraneous stuff and focusing on what’s most important. Certainly spending time with the kids, that’s one of my ways of unwinding, because they are fabulous and they always have amazing things to tell me. Their lives are so fascinating and that’s good because it gives me a different perspective on things. I also think it’s doing some nice things – going to dinner and the movies or having drinks with friends. It doesn’t take much for me, sitting down with a magazine or watching the cricket.
Do you have any life philosophy that you follow?
There’s not much that can’t be solved with a dip in the ocean.
It clears your head and most things can be eased or soothed with a dip in the ocean. I was also reading something the other day that said “No-one gets out of this life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, be grateful” which I quite like.