Advice | Telstra Careers |

Five things for leaders to consider in 2021

By Alex Badenoch February 15, 2021

At Telstra we’re talking a lot about how COVID has fundamentally changed how and where we work, the way we live and how we stay connected with others. For many in 2020, morning exercise and family dinners replaced the daily commute. Home became our workplace, and for many families, the classroom.

With so many people forced to work from home, some enjoyed a level of flexibility they hadn’t imagined previously and some didn’t do so well as isolation, child caring and home-schooling, or unsafe domestic situations took their toll. Work more than ever is so much more about how you do it and how employers support you, than the place you go. Many organisations are now seeing the benefits of this shift with employee engagement levels high at a time when conventional wisdom may have thought they’d decline.

I do think employee engagement will at times be challenged in 2021 as people realise there is no ‘return to normal’ and learn to live in a world still shaped by uncertainty. As we plan for the year ahead, here are five things we’re encouraging leaders at Telstra to consider for leading a hybrid of virtual and on-site teams so our people can thrive.

Rethinking what it means to be a leader

In many ways COVID has been a great equaliser – it has shattered hierarchies and created much deeper connections across all levels. We have all gotten a better glimpse into each other’s real lives – our partners, kids, pets and homes. But while many have embraced the flexibility of hybrid working, it has also created a challenge for some – the need to shift from being managers to being leaders.

Leading a virtual team means being more personally connected to your team; spending time talking one-on-one with your people and as a team to check in on how they’re going, to ask what they’ve been up to on the weekend, and being more alert to their mental wellbeing than you may have been previously. It’s also about considering the impact of long stints of working at home and what that may mean for your team, from making sure regular leave is still taken (as some are reluctant to use leave when they can’t travel) to taking time out to get better if you’re sick – even if you’re at home.

Redesigning Agile for virtual teaming

One of the main advantages of Agile is its focus on outcomes – the process drives transparency and empowerment as teams agree priorities, timings and accountability. Early Agile methods favour on-site, face-to-face ways of working. In our emerging new world this is no longer possible so we must re-design some ways of working to suit geographically dispersed, virtual teams.

We designed our Agile model with our dispersed teams in mind so many of our Telstra leaders were already starting to lead this way. But as more people opt for hybrid working longer term, it’s important that organisations invest in upskilling their leaders in areas like virtual teaming, creating a feedback culture and building resilient teams. So too is creating spaces for leaders to connect and share tips so they can learn from one another – we do this through Yammer and regular leader livestreams.

Keeping the focus on mental health and personal connections

Physically we have never been further apart, but in 2020 often I felt closer to my interstate and international colleagues than ever before as we strove to show our care for each other and build connections on a much deeper level. The simple question “how are you?” (and really listening to the answer) was no longer a polite refrain – it became a symbol connecting us and looking out for each other.

Supporting our team’s mental health and wellbeing has been our top priority during COVID and we provided the resources and webinars to help – from juggling parenting and working from home, to building resilience and mindfulness.

But what really stood out was the grassroots communities that sprang help across our organisation for like-minded people to connect and spend time focusing on their wellbeing – from yoga, meditation and even virtual cycling. More than 90 per cent of our people working from home have said they value the way their teams actively connect and support each other.

As more people choose hybrid working, leaders will need to consider how they continue to nurture personal connections and a sense of team to maintain engagement and productivity, and combat isolation. And given the strong connection between physical and mental health, introducing symbols and role-modelling behaviours that encourage people to get away from their screens and reenergise throughout the day, will also be important.

This could be as simple as introducing meeting free times, which we did mid-last year to help our teams break-up long stretches on video calls and give them time away from their desk. People have found this a great way to take a guilt-free break and it is something we will continue doing.

Maintaining choice and flexibility

Having so many people across the country working from home has shown many of us that the work we do – and our achievements – are not bound by a traditional office. We found the transition to moving our office-based teams to full working from home arrangements was made easier given we had embraced flexible working back in 2014. From choosing where we work, to working a nine-day fortnight or changing our hours beyond the standard 9–5 – the options were there.

But it has taken this pandemic to fundamentally shift us from a workforce that sees flexible working as a nice-to-do to a permanent fixture in the work-life juggle. More than 90 per cent of our people feel they are either the same or more productive working from home. And many have told us they no longer want to spend Monday to Friday in a traditional office environment. Instead, many see themselves coming in up to two days a week to collaborate, see customers, and connect with their team.

We know our teams are not alone in feeling this way. The opportunity for leaders now is to look at how they make flexibility a standard offering by giving people choice when it comes to where and how they work.

Enabling hybrid working with technology and tools

Many organisations sped-up the rollout of technology platforms to help their teams stay connected in 2020. At Telstra, for example, we scaled from less than two million Teams calls a month in February to more than eight million by the end of 2020.

But as more people choose to work from home more often, leaders will need to consider how they can provide a hybrid of digital and physical tools and spaces that are tailored their people’s technology needs and preferences – and that provide a consistent experience regardless of location.

Technology is key, but so too is getting the basics right – like ensuring your teams have the essential equipment needed to work just as safely at home as in the office. We are doing this by investing in standard tools for anyone who works from home regularly, such as a desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse and laptop stand.

Telstra News |

9 takeaways from Andy Penn on a post-COVID world

By Luke Hopewell January 28, 2021

It’s a brave new world, and we need all the bold ideas we can get to drive us forward into the sunlit uplands of a post-COVID world. Our CEO Andy Penn today shared his thoughts about the opportunities we have to change our work, life and world for the better post-COVID. Here are some of the key things we took from his speech.

1. We’ve blown all the trends out of the water, and 2021 could be even more unpredictable

If you picked up a trends report in 2019 that talked about how we would all live and work over the next 10 years, it would have showed you a world we have now realised by January 2021.

“On a global scale, some estimates are that we vaulted 5 years in terms of digital adoption in a matter of a few months,” he said.

The Christmas and New Year break should have been one for rest and relaxation after a tough year, Andy shared, adding that there’s “every chance 2021 will be even more uncertain than 2020”.

“The facts are, we still don’t know how this pandemic will evolve, what difference the vaccine will make and when, when we will be able to travel again and to where or when we will be able to get back into the office consistently.

“Most importantly, as leaders we need to see the opportunities in 2021 that stem from the disruption of 2020. We need to do things differently, to show up differently as companies and as a country,” he added.

2. We need courage, now more than ever

Leadership, Andy explained, is about providing clarity and confidence of direction. In the proverbial grocery store of life, clarity and confidence are two items in short supply, right next to the baking ingredients and toilet paper. But, ever the optimist, Andy shared that we must “have the courage to radically change”.

“There are many examples through history where bold decisions made in the wake of a crisis fundamentally changed trajectory.”

And it’s time to seize on those opportunities before they pass us by.

4. Working from home will become more about how you work, not just where

Home is where the heart is, and in 2021, the conversation will turn from not just where we all work from but how, with more of our work done around life.

“As leaders, we need to deepen our understanding of the challenges of working from home – in situations like shared households and to consider workplace layouts that give our people a space to work which isn’t their bedside table, as one of our people was found to be doing while his flatmate was using the kitchen bench.”

By giving more flexibility with where and how we work, we’ll perform better at work and at home so it’s a win-win.

4. Location will no longer impact hiring choices for office and contact centre roles at Telstra

In fact, many of our new hires in 2021 will be for positions with no fixed address advertised.

“In the new era of remote and hybrid work, where an employee lives is no longer a limitation.

As a major employer we are moving to a ‘location agnostic’ approach for all office and contact centre-based roles. Jobs will be advertised without a location, initially in Australia and then internationally, opening up the talent pool beyond the typical CBD.

How about that!

5. We shouldn’t learn to live with COVID

Andy shared that he had seen commentary around that suggested we strive to return to “normal”.

“Let’s not strive to return to normal,” Andy challeged. He wants Australia and the world to aim higher, do better and “take control of the situation”.

While others are searching for the new normal, Andy says we should look for “the exact opposite”.

“Let’s not just accept a world with COVID, we can do better than that. Let’s take control of the situation, use it to our advantage to enhance the quality of life for our people, our customers and our communities.”

6. Embracing different ways of working to close the gender gap

It’s no secret that corporate Australia has work to do when it comes to women in the workplace. One of the opportunities presented to us by COVID, Andy says, is to propel this work even further forward by ensuring we are flexible on where and how work is done.

“As leaders, we need to understand the parenting and educating burden still often falls to women and support them with the flexibility they need to juggle their work and home lives.

“We cannot afford to go backwards on female representation or gender pay. In fact, we should use this as an opportunity to make great leaps forward in diversity in the workforce,” Andy said.

7. The office is just a resource now

Early in the pandemic, many of us felt that to get our “real work” done we needed to go into the office.

But instead of thinking that we need to go to the office to do our work, we should think of the office like a resource instead of just a venue.

“We’ve proven over the last 12 months that we don’t need to be working in the office together to innovate, let’s build on that experience and challenge ourselves further,” he said.

8. Tech is here to help us work and understand each other better

Back in 2016, we knew we would see further evolution of technology, and that’s why we invested $3 billion to build the networks of the future, and completely rebuild our digital environment. As we progressed and launched our T22 strategy in 2018 to simplify and digitise the business, we found ourselves with a suite of digital business tools to help us understand, serve and reach our customers better, Andy explained.

For example, whereas people used to queue outside stores for the new iPhone, 50% of our orders for the latest Apple smartphone were through our online app.

Technology driven change is only going to accelerate from here. It’s a fundamental paradigm shift, all underpinned by strong connectivity and networks built with the future in mind.

9. How Telstra is weathering the storm

It’s an uncertain time for the world, and the business community has been profoundly affected by COVID-19.

Andy shared that 2021 is an inflection point for our business in particular as we pick up speed with the changes we’ve been making as part of our T22 strategy.

And we have our work cut out for us this year: we’re restructuring our business; migrating customers to our new technology environment; extend our 5G population coverage to 75% by June, and need to move ahead with our long-flagged job reductions next week, many which have been put on hold by the pandemic.

“We said at our Investor Day in November, we expect FY21 underlying EBITDA to be weighted to the second half.

“No doubt there will be plenty of headlines but, as we continue to transform, the underlying trend for Telstra is good.” Andy added.

You can read the full transcript of Andy Penn’s speech here.

UTS Student Challenge
Tech and Innovation |

Challenging the next generation of innovative thinkers

By Kate Stewart August 22, 2019

Rapid advances in technology are fundamentally changing the nature of work – from the jobs that exist to the way work is done. Research by the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) estimates almost 40 per cent of jobs that exist today have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years. On the flip slide, there will also be jobs that don’t yet exist. All of which makes preparing for the future of work critical.

Understandably, when many people think about the skills needed in the future, they think about coding, software engineering and cyber security. What you might not immediately consider are some of the human skills that will be important. We’ll be living in a software and social future where a combined STEM and social sciences background will be crucial ingredients for success. Think communication, complex problem solving, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

For example, building the world’s best cloud or AI technology will be important. But so will be finding the best way to collaborate – by leveraging multidisciplinary teams and partnerships, within companies or across companies, to drive new revenue and market opportunities for the businesses they are a part of. In the same vein, being able to analyse data will be important, but so too will the ability to interpret it, make informed assumptions and be able to communicate it in a way that is easily understood and applicable to customer requirements.

We’re committed to building a future-ready workforce and helping equip the next generation with the skills they’ll need. As part of this, we recently partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to give students insight into the disruptions facing businesses across industries and challenge them to test and explore how an organisation could build an inclusive and future-ready workforce.

Split into three groups, 150 students from the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation were asked to outline how they would build an engaged future workforce, considering career opportunity and growth, diversity and inclusion, and the role education partnerships would play.

UTS Student Challenge
Claudia Pilon-Summons tells the Telstra panel how her team worked together, admitting that doing a group Nutbush showed the value of play and helped the team work better together.

In considering career opportunity and growth, the first group focused on career strategies and recommended a skills platform that would facilitate lateral moves into other areas of an organisation beyond team boundaries. Part of their consideration was also creating a safe environment where it would be okay to try something new like moving into a totally different role and failing in doing so.

The second group looked at workplace diversity and inclusion. A big part of their focus was the role of inclusive language in improving culture, such as referring to ‘balanced’ teams over ‘diverse’ teams; ‘mentors’ over ‘managers’ – and they pitched algorithmic hot desking to reshuffle social groups and enable natural diversity.

UTS Student Challenge
Aston presents division two’s approach to maintaining diversity in an organisation undergoing great change.

The challenge’s third group looked at how businesses could partner with education institutions to attract and retain diverse talent. Part of their proposal included immersing students and employees in transdisciplinary teams that focused on rotations and projects that build breadth of experience to develop in-demand skills.

UTS Student Challenge
Phoebe Wynn-Jones and Luke Castaldi led the group in an exercise demonstrating the process of self-organisation showing that while the vision may be clear, the path to get there isn’t.

The students used creative thinking, innovation and complex problem-solving – capabilities that are highly valued now and will be into in the future.

Thank you to the students from UTS for stepping up to the challenge. Your recommendations showed the importance of embracing technology, making diversity and inclusion central to business thinking, and understanding social trends and employee needs to adapt and be future-ready.

Considering challenges like this will help future Australian business leaders prepare for disruptions, and understand how those disruptions will flow on to change an organisation, its workplace culture and employee expectations.

We look forward to continuing to partner with a range of education institutions – from schools to vocational education providers and universities – to build the skills needed for the future and a strong talent pipeline for Australia.

Business and Enterprise |

The future belongs to positive people

By Rick Molinsky December 11, 2015

From work to lifestyle and life-long learning, Bernard Salt is optimistic about the future.

The workplace culture of the future is almost here, thanks to technology.

Technology is empowering people in Australia to move from structured to flexible workplaces, promising sociability and connectivity like never before, according to KPMG partner, demographer and futurist Bernard Salt.

Here are five reasons he is optimistic about our technologically enhanced future:

Australians will use technology to improve lifestyle

According to Salt Australians have a great track record of adopting technology to boost their lifestyle and he believes this capacity will continue as we see new devices, vehicles and networks emerge around the world.

Technology will make work more flexible

The future is about flexibility as the pace of the workforce evolves to fit needs and desires. This means workers will have greater control over the time and place they work, offering lifestyle advantages and greater productivity, Salt says.

Technology will deliver diverse career opportunities

Being adaptable to change and new challenges will future-proof your career, Salt says. “You need to be articulate, you need to be social, you need to be fluid.”

Technology will enable life-long learning

A thriving career will be based on a process of upskilling, reskilling and refining. “If we are moving into a high-tech, knowledge-worker industry and economy, then it’s only natural that the workers of the future must be continually refining and upgrading their skills base,” Salt says.

The future belongs to positive people

A prosperous future lies in creativity, technology and positivity, Salt says. “If you’re up for the challenge and you have a positive view of the world and how you can fit into that world, then you will fly in the workforce of the future.”

Unlock the positive potential of your workforce with enterprise mobility solutions.

This article originally appeared on Telstra In:Sight

Business and Enterprise |

Meditation: Out of the commune and into the boardroom

By Rick Molinsky October 7, 2015

Meditation provides a ream of benefits for business leaders, including boosted concentration and focus, lower stress and the ability to make better decisions by seeing situations more clearly.

The ability to focus on the task at hand is a huge advantage for anyone in business, especially senior executives. It’s a discovery David Michie, best-selling author of Hurry Up and Meditate and Buddhism for Busy People made in the 1990s while working for a public relations company in London.

Beset by allergies and under high levels of stress, Michie found he was getting extraordinarily angry about things that were beyond his control. Having tried a range of cures through traditional medicine, he turned to a naturopath in an attempt to find help. The answer was not what he expected – the naturopath suggested he try meditation.

“I’m not a tree-hugging person who dropped out of society, I’m a normal corporate being,” Michie says. “But I decided to give it a go for six weeks, principally for stress management. But it achieved so much more.”

Michie began by spending 10 minutes a day following a guided meditation, and committed to doing this every day for six weeks. Although he noticed an almost immediate improvement in his moods, and capacity to focus, it wasn’t until he forgot to meditate one day that he realised the positive impact it was having.

meditation

“I was walking to work one day, and everything seemed to be going wrong. I was splashed with mud at a building site, then I had to wait too long for the train, and when it arrived it was really full, and I was just getting more and more angry about things,” Michie says. “Then I thought, why am I so upset? Why is everything making me angry today, and I realised it was because I hadn’t meditated for about three days. That’s when I realised what a positive impact it was having.”

As Michie, and other high-performing professionals, have realised meditation allows practitioners to build up a protective barrier against those aspects of life which are beyond our control.

“Although you can’t control the world around you,” Michie says. “Meditation empowers you to control your response to it.”

Michie now helps other executives to integrate meditation into their daily routines to improve work performance and wellbeing. In addition to taking time out for guided mediation he suggests business people use the first ring of their phone as a cue to take a mindful breath before lifting the handset.

This is a lesson Adele Beachley learned while looking for techniques to combat stress-related insomnia. Beachley, who held senior roles in IT and telecommunication companies throughout the Asia-Pacific region since 2004, began meditation along with a range of other techniques, in order to combat stress and improve her sleep.

“The challenge as a high-power executive is that you’ve got so much going on it can be difficult to drill down into the most relevant details in order to make the right decision,” Beachley says.

“Meditation makes it possible to clear your mind and think with clarity. That’s why it helps you make the right decisions.”

Beachley has gone so far as to attend meditation retreats where participants spend 10 days in silence and wake at 4am to meditate.

“It’s amazing what happens in this 10-day cycle, where you don’t have contact with anybody from the outside world,” Beachley says. “It lets you carve out a space in your mind and think more clearly in other areas as well.”

Michie went on to author a number of books on the benefits of meditation, including Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate. He says the benefits of meditation for busy corporate people are manifold.

“We all have thoughts that are not actually facts, and through meditation it’s possible to become less wedded to those thoughts, so we can begin to cut through and gain a more accurate view of the situation,” Michie says. “This leads to improvements in happiness, emotional resilience, lowering of blood – pressure, so the impact is physical as well as emotional.”

DISCOVERING MINDFULNESS

David Michie says there are a couple of simple techniques that provide easy access to the physical and emotional benefits of meditation. These benefits include:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Easing anxiety
  • Treating tension headaches
  • Improving pain tolerance
  • Increasing energy levels
  • Gaining mental clarity
  • Balancing emotional responses

There are a number of free guided meditation downloads available through Michie’s website which can be integrated into a workday.

This article originally appeared on Telstra IN:SIGHT.

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