Jade Cordell on new beginnings
Your role as Acting Executive Director appears very broad and carries with it a lot of responsibilities. Can you tell us a little about how your journey to this position started?
It all started after I completed my Bachelor of Business through Southern Cross University, majoring in HR. In 2002, I joined the APS as an Indigenous cadet with the Department of Defence and since then, I have held various management positions in several government organisations. I believe that having a role where I can help the community is a huge privilege and I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to grow my career doing just that.
What are some of the key things you’ve learnt in your career so far?
At the beginning of my career, I was a very shy 21-year-old, and I had to really push myself to accept roles where I would be required to speak to groups or ‘stand out’ in any way. This is an essential skill, and something that I still work on today.
I also think it’s important to know your own strengths and values and to seek out roles that align with them. This helps you to surround yourself with people who have complementary skills and backgrounds and to value what combined strengths and diversity can achieve together.
Finally, I recognise the importance of continued learning and always look for opportunities, whether through formal study, side projects, and networks. Individuals, and the organisations they work for, reap the benefits offered by growing our knowledge. Being a part of this working group gives me another opportunity to learn more from HR experts.
Can you share some of your impressions of the HR Professional Stream Working Group working group and what attracted you to it?
I have enjoyed the discussion at the sessions and am inspired by the work around HR capabilities. Finding unique ways to attract talented HR practitioners to the public sector is an interesting aspect of our work and so I aim to contribute to the group in any way I can. I see it as another opportunity to use my passion around learning, diversity and wellbeing to influence positive outcomes for our profession. I would love to see continued collaboration and partnership with the Australian Human Resources Institute and will use my role on the AHRI ACT State Council to facilitate this.
The theme for this edition of the newsletter is ‘increasing our value for the business’. How do you think HR can do that, and what is your experience in getting business to recognise that value?
People are critical to the success of any organisation and resources are limited. This places real responsibilities on HR practitioners to play a key role in providing policies and services that drive individual and organisational performance in a sustainable way. It’s important therefore to clearly demonstrate the impact of our work and the benefits we bring to an organisation. We can do this by providing meaningful data-driven reports to key personnel, engaging regularly with key stakeholders using a customer service approach to understand their needs, and developing and promoting our vision for the workforce and culture.
Understanding the business in which we are operating is vital to success in HR. We should look outside our own discipline to ensure we have a broader understanding to include topics such as governance and financial management. This has been a focus for me in recent years and it has really helped me contribute to organisational planning and strategy and to ‘sell’ my HR services in a language that appeals to a broader audience.
Active workforce participation sometimes presents real challenges for people, and this has been especially true in your experience. Would you be able to us about a very personal experience you had with illness and re-joining the workforce?
In 2017 I suffered from a very rare neurological condition but thankfully, I am now fully recovered. At the time, I was misdiagnosed with a terminal condition, so it was a very traumatic period for my family. The experience, whilst very scary, was a lesson in gratefulness and wellbeing that I still reflect on regularly. The illness resulted in me needing to take several months away from work whilst I participated in rehabilitation to re-gain my strength and to practice simple things like writing. This was a very strange time for me as I was restricted in my activities and my ability to do simple things I took for granted, such as driving, was severely impacted. The whole experience forced me to ‘slow down’.
Thankfully, my employer, Indigenous Business Australia, was exceptionally sympathetic and helpful during this time, and that made me realise just how much of a positive impact an employer can have on the wellbeing of their people. They acted in ways we’d expect from a caring and responsible employer with regular check-ins, rehabilitation consultants, and return to work plans. But what I took away from that time was an appreciation of the genuine concern and support that I received.
I learnt first-hand what a key role the HR practitioner plays in facilitating a safe return to work, as well as a deeper understanding of just how much this means to injured workers. It also clarified five key attributes that I feel are essential for HR practitioners who manage rehabilitation. Those attributes are empathy and compassion, sound judgement about when to act (given that we understand early intervention can be key), communication skills around unpacking medical advice, and lastly, the ability to develop practical plans for a safe return to work.
Coincidentally, or perhaps I should say fortuitously, around the same time I returned to work, I gained access to several wellbeing resources. They included work by Stewart Friedman on Total Leadership, which is routed in the idea that to grow as a leader we need to have a sense of harmony in each domain of our lives, but we need to integrate those different parts of life to be successful in all of them. I love this model and have shared it with all the staff at Indigenous Business Australia through wellbeing sessions.
So, while my illness was a challenge, it led me to drive the development of a Statement of Commitment to Health and Wellbeing, launched by our CEO, which still frames IBA’s approach to wellbeing. I’m passionate about HR as a vehicle that helps to bring those various business domains together in a way that encourages harmony and adds value to the business.