Reading through Nicola Fowkes professional credentials, I can’t help but go WOW. With over twenty years experience in Human Resources Management, she’s worked for some of the biggest brands in Australia and abroad: Accor Asia Pacific Hotels and Resorts, BCD Travel and Ghd Hair. Now she operates a highly successful HR consultancy working for a number of high profile brands, including Online Courses Australia - lucky us!
I sat down with Nicola earlier this week to talk about her amazing career, how to stay motivated, and what the future looks like for business and human resources.
Note: This is a must-read for all students wanting to get into Human Resources or Business.
Over the span of your career you’ve worked for some fantastic brands in a wide range of industries - travel, lifestyle, education - where did it all start for you?
I started a business degree and started working at the same time. As soon as I figured out what HR actually did, I was hooked. We spend so much time at work and I really wanted to help businesses have the best possible environment, which was fair and equitable to everyone. The discipline has developed so much since I started from a traditional personnel department to a true contributor to success through increasing productivity and efficiency in businesses.
You’ve been in the Human Resources industry for a long time, what aspects of your job excite and motivate you?
I love to see people achieve their best and be truly happy and satisfied in what they do. I know people who have done the same job for 30 years and they absolutely love it and I have seen some people really develop their careers and become CEOs. Both are as exciting as each other, as long as people are achieving their own personal goals. Guiding and developing people on their path really inspires me to stay in Human Resources.
What are the developments in HR that you think will affect future opportunities?
With some much digital innovation in all areas, we will continue to see this impact HR. There are many innovations which have changed the way we do things and allow us to become far more flexible with our work environments. When I started HR I never thought I would be recruiting for Social Media Specialist or jobs like PPC Specialist. This job didn’t even exist ten years ago. You have to keep up to date on what is going on in the entire business, not just in HR. In ten years the entire employment arena will be different again and nobody can even guess what it will look like. You just have to keep your eyes open and welcome change.
We see a lot of new start ups following the lead of Google - like more flexible working arrangements and a stronger focus on culture and perks. Obviously, HR has played a massive role in making this happen. How has your role in HR changed from when you first started?
It’s changed a lot. When I started HR was very much a cost centre. Now, most business leaders understand that strategic Human Resources can truly impact the bottom line of the business and a have very positive impact on the productivity of the business. After all, most businesses are still reliant on people power to achieve success.
In your opinion, how can an organisation that doesn’t have a strong culture and engaged employees turn that around?
One of the keys areas is improving communication in the business. It’s a bit like a sport… unless everyone knows the rules, is aware of the boundaries, understands their teammates and what the aim of the game is, it just ends up with a whole lot of people running crazily around trying to achieve different goals. This creates frustration, confusion, and negativity. Clear, concise and transparent communication can help everyone get on the same track and understand where they are heading.
How do you stay up to date with what’s happening in Human Resources?
There are many sources of information from HR workshops, to industry bodies who provide information, updates and best practice. As our discipline is based in law it is also vital to stay up to date on the legislation guiding Human Resources. Alerts and websites from government agencies are very helpful in this regard. HR people also need to really understand the business they are working within so I would recommend all HR people to have a financial understanding of the business, not just a people perspective.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to gain their first job in this profession?
Our industry is in high demand so I would definitely start embedding yourself in HR long before you finish your qualification. If you are working currently, ask the HR Department for some cross training or development. If this is not possible, join an HR group on Linkedin and start to network that way. Go to events (again you can find many of these on Linkedin) and talk to people within the industry. There are so many different specialities within HR from Change Management, Recruitment, Industrial Relations, Remuneration and Packaging as well as generalist HR.
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