Partnerships that make a difference – HAYS

17 May 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

At YWCA Canberra, we are fortunate to have built strong partnerships with organisations that support gender equality and women’s leadership. HAYS are a Champion Partner for the She Leads Conference 2017. We had a chat to Ellie Fraser, Senior Recruitment Consultant at Hays, about her leadership journey through HAYS, the opportunities it has afforded her, and what advice she has to offer someone about to embark on a leadership journey.

What drove you to become a recruitment consultant?

I actually had no intentions of being a recruitment consultant. I met with Hays as a candidate seeking a role in Canberra, and while talking with me about what it was I loved about my career in PR & experiential marketing, my consultant Sarah identified that a lot of the things I was motivated by and enjoyed were similar to aspects of recruitment. She asked me if I’d ever consider switching careers, and she was so passionate about her job and Hays that I took her advice and did some research. I ended up being offered the job two weeks later.

What has your leadership journey been like, and where do you hope it will lead?

At Hays, you’re given the opportunity to lead and succeed from almost Day One. They are fantastic at recognising leadership qualities and potential, and will give you the opportunity to develop as much or as little as you like. For me, this meant having the opportunity to work across different offices and meet one-on-one with some very senior APAC and Global leaders of our company; receiving training on leadership, development, coaching and mentoring; being given the opportunity to reach promotions quicker than usual; and having the opportunity to start up a new section of the business focusing on purely Digital recruitment, and building up a team to work on that with me.

Overall, I’d love to focus on organisational psychology, and look at how companies can work effectively with their workforces in an environment where standard working systems are no longer as structured. Regulated working hours are more flexible than ever before, remote working options are more realistic, and there’s more of an emphasis on work/life balance than ever before – people demand more from their employers than ever before. So how do companies – especially large multinationals like Hays – ensure they remain engaged with their workforce and continue to deliver an exceptional culture and environment that delivers all the demands a modern workforce put on it?

My management team at Hays know this is what I’m passionate about, and have structured my training and leadership path to allow me to receive the training that aligns with what I want to ultimately focus on.

How does Hays support women’s leadership, and why is this important?

Hays is passionate about gender diversity and women’s leadership. We invest heavily in research into gender diversity, resulting in industry-leading whitepapers like our 2017 Gender Diversity Report. We use this research to publish various articles on female leadership and gender diversity. We talk a lot about it, but we put it into action too.

For instance, at our organisation women hold 56% of people manager positions and 50% of the most senior roles in the business have a female successor. In the last 12 months 95% of our employees returned from maternity leave on a flexible work arrangement. (Our Regional Director Jim Roy often says he actually loves hiring working parents, because they often get more work done in less time!) Women have excellent role models in every layer of management throughout our business, and it is very clearly communicated from the moment you walk in the door that your progression and career success at Hays is entirely dependent on your passion, performance, drive and integrity. These are genderless traits, making it possible for anyone to succeed.

What challenges do you believe women leaders face?

There are a number of challenges we face when we reach a leadership role in our career – taking charge can come across as being bossy and unyielding, there can be an assumption that you’ll be emotional and illogical during difficult conversations, and women can also be perceived as having a lack of confidence, which can result in your suggestions or directions not being taken seriously. We’re too emotional, not emotional enough, too forward, not forward enough – the list is endless and constantly changes depending on your work environment.

Understanding your worth and not being afraid to stand up for what you believe in is essential. When you are authentic to your beliefs, you come across as credible – even if people don’t agree with what you’re saying.

What defines successful leadership?

Authenticity, empathy, and a team approach. Of course it’s not as simple as that, but if you’re authentic, people will support you. If you’re empathetic, you’ll be able to pinpoint their motivations and drivers, and create a journey that’s worthwhile for them as well as for the business. And if you remember that people are the key to success, you’ll never take advantage of the people around you.

What is most rewarding about your role?

Doing a good job, and providing a good service. This can take shape in a number of ways – helping someone find a job, giving them career advice, helping them restructure their resume, helping a business determine what kind of support they need and how we might be able to help with that. Given that digital is a relatively new area of investment for much of Canberra, one of my favourite parts of my job is working with businesses to help them understand what is actually possible in the digital realm. It’s very rewarding.

Hays picked up your idea for a digitally-focused recruitment service; what propelled you to pitch this idea and how has this helped your leadership journey?

Hays has a way of backing whatever you want to do, if you can prove it’s a good idea. A pattern began to emerge, of clients needing digital skills but not knowing what to ask for, and candidates needing digital jobs but not knowing where to go. I love my job, I believe in the service we provide at Hays, and I was excited by the opportunity to provide a service to an area of the market that we’d never worked with before.

It’s helped my leadership journey by shaping me into someone who creates opportunities, rather than chasing them as I see them. Creating a service to a brand new part of the industry has been immensely challenging – I’ve gotten used to hearing the word ‘no’ a lot, and have had to learn a lot of technical content very quickly. But part of being a leader is being able to back yourself and your skillset, having a strategic and structured approach to achieving your goal, and remaining motivated every day. Authentically believing in the service I provide is part of what gets people on board so quickly. Thankfully, I hear the word ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’.

Who inspires you?

We have a senior manager in our business who has been with the company for seven years, recently returned from maternity leave, and just a few weeks after she was back got the opportunity to lead one of the biggest divisions of our business. She leads a team of 14, manages enormous budgets, and is responsible for making sure all team members contribute to and achieve their targets – all while working part-time. Every day she’s smiling, laughing, but able to have a serious and productive conversation at the drop of a hat. She’s an immense support as a senior leader of our business – you’d never guess she was juggling being a new mum at the same time. Her credibility and natural leadership made her an obvious choice to lead the team when the time came, part-time working mother or not – and I think that’s amazing.

I’m also a big fan of Holly Ransom, the CEO of Emergent. Holly has made a career out of coaching companies on how to create high performing intergenerational workforces, leadership and social outcomes – basically, how do big businesses work with Gen Y & Z? In 2012, she was the youngest person to be named in Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’, and also became the world’s youngest-ever Rotary President, and in 2016, was appointed to Co-Chair of the United Nations Global Coalition of Young Women Entrepreneurs and became the youngest ever female Director of an AFL club. She’s done this just by pursuing stuff she’s interested in, and remembering that at the end of the day, it’s all about people. Whenever I hear her speak, I become so motivated and inspired to do more, every day, in every aspect of my life – and I also feel empowered to do it. Seriously, look her up – she’s amazing!

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on their leadership journey?

Find amazing people who inspire you and surround yourself with them. Whether that’s in the workplace, through a mentoring program, through networking events, through family and friends- anywhere. The more people you have around you from all walks of life and all backgrounds, the more well-rounded you will be and the more authentic you’ll be – because you’ll understand more of who you are as a person and what you stand for. This belief in yourself and your own capabilities will translate into the workplace, into sport, into your relationships, into everything, and naturally, you’ll start to lead.

To hear from more inspiring women leaders, attend the upcoming She Leads Conference.

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