Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Growing Australia’s digital economy out of COVID-19

By Andrew Penn June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 made many of us shut our doors, something happened. Digital doors opened in their place. We embraced technology like never before to keep businesses running, people working, kids learning and ourselves entertained.

We now have a growing digital economy – something I recently highlighted as a significant opportunity we as a nation should seize. With businesses reopening and social restrictions relaxing, (albeit with some constraints given the risk of increased infections), we should stop thinking about post-COVID-19 as only a “recovery”, but as an opportunity to grow the economy in the long term and put us in a better global position.

From the Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression, profound disruption has brought opportunities to be bold, to re-think conventional wisdom, and seek out new economic and social opportunities to help build a stronger future for everyone.

COVID-19 has proved change can be made and embraced quickly. During the height of the pandemic we saw a huge acceleration in digitisation – from telehealth to online learning, remote working and e-commerce – and the fast-tracking of numerous policy and regulatory changes to break down long-standing digital roadblocks.

As a nation we have achieved in a few months what might have taken us years to progress, and it is important that we now do not lose that momentum.

However, a single company, a single organisation or a single government cannot achieve this on its own. Through coalitions across the public and private sectors, we can affect change by removing barriers and incentivising growth so it is faster and more pervasive.

Over the past few weeks I have been Chairing the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Digital Economy and Telecommunications working group, and this is exactly our aim: to map out tangible ways we can put Australia at the forefront of a digital future – paperless, cashless and virtual – so we can come out of this stronger as a nation, not just bounce back.

This requires reform in five key areas: 

  1. Digital transition 
  2. Infrastructure 
  3. Regulation 
  4. Cyber Security 
  5. Skills  

1. Digital transition

Australia’s local businesses and enterprises pivoted quickly to ensure they could keep running – from working from home, to medical practitioners delivering telehealth consultations, we even saw interactive online cheese tasting sessions!

Technology was at the core of many businesses that adapted well. That said, a range of recent studies found that Australia’s small-to-medium enterprise sector could be substantially enhanced by a greater investment in digitising their internal processes and developing an effective web presence. Xero’s September 2019 Small Business insights indicate that businesses that boost technology spending the most grow revenue three times faster than those with the weakest technology spend.

Some options we are exploring include potential incentives and assistance to help the small business sector access the benefits of greater digitisation of business processes and an improved online presence.

2. Infrastructure

Connectivity is what powered many workers and businesses during the crisis, ensuring they could continue running.

For Australians to effectively participate in the digital economy, they need access to affordable, fast and reliable telecommunications services.

Telstra announced $500 million of capital expenditure planned for the second half of FY21 would be brought forward into the calendar year 2020, to increase capacity in our network, accelerate our roll-out of 5G, power more people with connectivity as well as provide a much needed economic boost.

With the completion of the nbn rollout nearing, there is now an opportunity for the Australian Government to develop its future vision for Australia’s digital economy and the telecommunications industry for the next decade – a vision that is technology agnostic and provides an environment that is pro-investment and pro-innovation.

3. Regulation

Governments and regulators play a significant role in enabling a digital nation, as well as ensuring as many Australians as possible can take advantage of the opportunity.

They took significant steps forward during the pandemic, including measures to help provide better access to telehealth, virtual AGMs, electronic execution of documents, and national electronic pharmacy scripts.

In the spirit of those last two initiatives, the BCA will be recommending a systematic review of regulation from federal to state to local, to eliminate barriers to a virtual and paperless society and a cashless economy.

4. Cyber Security

Last week was a timely reminder about the importance of strong cyber security, with the Prime Minister highlighting major cyber-attacks that are putting pressure on critical infrastructure and public services.

Cyber security is a large and growing area of risk for the security of the nation, and COVID-19 has increased that risk with so many people working and studying from home, away from traditional security measures.

Separately, I have been working with the Government chairing its industry advisory panel on the development of the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. This will contain a number of significant initiatives to strengthen our collective cyber defences.

5. Skills

It was inspiring to see the flexible and innovative mindset many businesses adopted during the pandemic. This mindset needs to be deeply ingrained in Australian culture and to do this we need to invest in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.

We have partnered with five Australian universities to jointly develop critical skills and capabilities in areas such as network and software engineering, cyber security and data analytics. But we also need more people entering technology courses, and particularly more diverse talent, including female and Indigenous students.

We are also working on a suite of proposed improvements to the way industry and the education system collaborate, to ensure Australia’s school leavers have the foundation skills needed to succeed in the modern digital economy.

Australia’s opportunity to lead

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 has left many businesses and families doing it tough and we need to do everything we can to build a stronger economy in the longer term in response.

Australia has been a world leader when it comes to protecting the nation’s health and economy during COVID-19, and now we can lead again. It will be important in so doing that this includes success for all of our communities.

I recently posed the question What type of historical moment will this turn out to be?. As life slowly begins to return to some type of normal, we are approaching a sliding doors moment.

We can go back to the way things were, or we can build on the innovative, can-do mindset that drove so many positive changes during the most significant disruption to daily life in a generation.

Telstra Business Women's Awards |

Leading the way to the new normal

By Alex Badenoch June 18, 2020

The 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award winners are leading the charge as Australia manages through the COVID-19 pandemic and adapts to a new way of living and doing business.

For 25 years the Telstra Business Women’s Awards have celebrated the success of Australia’s female business leaders and entrepreneurs. With most of our 2020 events cancelled due to COVID-19 things looked a little different this year, but we were still determined to celebrate our incredible finalists and winners.

We spoke to our 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award winners about what it’s like to win an award in the middle of a global pandemic, the impact receiving a Telstra Business Woman of the Year Award will have on them personally and their businesses, and the journey they have taken to get to where they are today.

Good news at a testing moment in time

TBWA20TAS - Margaret Williams

For Margaret Williams, the 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year, winning the award in the middle of a pandemic was a welcome surprise during a stressful time. As Chief Executive Officer of residential care facility Medea Park, Margaret’s leadership has been more important than ever, and she has been focused on being a present leader, supporting her team and residents alike.

“I’d been so worried about the health of my residents and staff, and I had just walked in the door to my home when I got the call. I put my phone on speaker and when I received the news I just started crying. Happy tears of course – I think my husband may have shed one too!”

2020 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year, Bec Hammet, won the award at a time when her business, SH Build, was feeling the full impact of the pandemic, and closing their doors was becoming a real possibility.

“We were considering closing our doors and hibernating while COVID happened, but instead we decided to stay open and support workers as much as possible. The day I found out I had won we had just received a small contract, and then I got the phone call. I was so overwhelmed, but it was such a shining light and great way to get our name out there.

“The win has given me additional contacts and opened up new networks, with many people contacting me to say congratulations, and that they didn’t know we were still operating because we are so remote.”

TBWA20WA - Jodi Cant

Jodi Cant, Director General at the Western Australian Department of Finance, and 2020 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year, won the award while focused on the government’s COVID-19 response.

“The important thing as leaders is to make sure we keep the good things that have come from COVID-19, on the other side of the pandemic. Since winning the award I’ve had lots of contact from people I’ve worked with over the years, and support from very distant places. I’ve also had a very proud mother posting full-page ads of my head! Times and situations like these mean people are quick to focus on what’s important, and as someone who grew up in the country where family is number one, COVID-19 has been a good reminder of what really matters.”

Leadership and collaboration during a global pandemic

Jodi, Margaret and Bec’s focus at the time of their win was supporting their staff and the people around them, and helping them balance their priorities. This rang true for our winners across the country, all in leadership positions at an unprecedented time where empathy and adaptability are more important than ever before.

For Jo Thomas, 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year and Chief Executive Officer of Metro Arts, leading in the not-for-profit sector was challenging enough before the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“It’s an interesting time where we are very focused on physical safety in Australia, but we cannot forget about mental health. I’m constantly checking in with my team and artists to make sure everyone is doing OK, while spending a lot of time in sector consultations for art, and joining recovery committees for the broader arts industry. Especially in tough times, you need a good reason to keep going, and I’m lucky to be leading in an industry that I love.”

Jo is focused on working with health ministers to re-open the arts sector, and sees art as critical to guiding society out of isolation and enabling connection, joy and entertainment once again.

State finalists include Victoria’s Julie Hirsch, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Eloments Natural Vitamin Tea

Collaboration has also been key to Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year, Julie Hirsch’s recent approach to leadership. As Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Eloments Natural Vitamin Tea, Julie has spent her time talking with other business leaders.

“There are so many wonderful ideas that are going to come out of this period. It has opened people up to thinking about a different world that we are entering, and while it’s super intimidating and scary, it is also so exciting when you have people that are willing to push boundaries and innovate. If you put anyone in a house for eight weeks by themselves, they will come up with some cool stuff!”

Kerrie Campbell, Chief Information Officer at Flinders University, and 2020 Telstra South Australian Business Woman of the Year, has been amazed at how the information technology function is now seen as the department that can hold up a business.

“The feedback has been that we have been so calm and helpful. We are in control because we do this all the time, not just during COVID-19, but people don’t realise it. What has been most important is exercising humanness and empathy at a time when people are scared. There is a lot of merit in leading with both courage and vulnerability.”

2020 and beyond: what leadership looks like moving forward

This year’s winners have all agreed that one of the most beneficial aspects of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards has been the opportunity to reflect on their journeys so far, and consider their approach to improving their industries.

TBWA20NSW - Sarah Pearce

For Dr Sarah Pearce, Deputy Director of Astronomy and Space Science at CSIRO and 2020 Telstra New South Wales Business Woman of the Year, one of the most exciting things to have come out of the awards experience is the opportunity to speak to audiences she wouldn’t usually talk to, about space science.

“People are really interested in what we do (at CSIRO), so one of the things I’ll try to do more of is get out there and continue to talk to different audiences and raise the profile of women in science and astronomy. It’s so important that girls see that yes, they can do this, and have fun doing it.”

Dr Pearce felt the congratulations and display of warmness from the community as a whole has been overwhelming, and is a great reminder that it is possible for women and girls to have successful, rewarding careers in STEM.

2020 Telstra Australian Capital Territory Business Woman of the Year and Chief Executive Officer of Mental Illness Education ACT, Heidi Prowse, has used the awards as an opportunity to reflect on the practices she follows as a leader.

“We are experiencing such a critical time in Australia, having faced the recent bushfires, and now COVID-19. This has enabled me and my team to take a good look at what we’re doing, the purpose we exist for, and evaluate whether we’re meeting these whole-heartedly. This isn’t just for business purposes – it’s for the people we are working to help as we educate Territorians about mental health, something that is now even more important as we face a pandemic.”

Entering a new world

As Australia begins to create a new normal, strong leadership will continue to play a crucial role in the success of businesses across all sectors. The innovation and determination shown by this year’s winners is exemplary, and their courage and positive outlook on the future offers hope and excitement for what business might look like on the other side of COVID-19.

We will continue to advocate for women in business, promote gender equality in the workplace, and applaud the women who are paving the way for future generations. Congratulations again to our 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Awards winners!

Telstra News |

We’re improving our payment terms to make doing business better

By Vicki Brady February 4, 2020

Telstra Trades Assist - all-in-one admin app

We’re always looking for ways to improve, simplify and streamline the way we do business, both for our customers, and those we do business with. That’s why we’re moving to shorter, 20-day payment terms for thousands of businesses to ensure our suppliers are paid sooner.

Back in 2017, we made a commitment to pay suppliers that are small businesses within 30 days. We also extended this approach to charities, Indigenous organisations and disability enterprises. Now we’re continuing this good work, increasing our commitment to pay more suppliers even faster.

This new arrangement means that we move to 20-day payment terms for any supplier with invoices of up to $2 million annually.

Before the end of this financial year, over 85% of our suppliers will have their invoices paid within 20 days of us receiving an invoice.

Cash flow is crucial to any business, and this change means operators will have cash in their hand sooner than ever.

When we started this process in 2017, we used the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ definition as to what a small business was. Three years later, these definitions have shifted as part of our ever-diversifying economy.

Our new methodology for paying invoices within 20 days captures more businesses than ever, and we encourage governments and the Small Business Ombudsman to create a new standard, consistent definition of small business to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules.

We’ll work with our suppliers over the coming months to update payment term agreements, and we’re proud to continue to help businesses throughout Australia.

Inspiration | People | Telstra Careers |

Five years on: balancing work and life with All Roles Flex

By Alex Badenoch September 18, 2019

This year marks the fifth anniversary of our All Roles Flex approach to work. It’s an approach we introduced because we’re committed to helping our people bring their whole selves to work – and a key part of this is creating a culture that embraces flexibility in all its forms.

We’ve adopted a very broad definition of flexibility, recognizing that it means different things to different people. For example, it might mean working outside normal business hours or from different locations, job sharing, or even having the ability to express a preference for certain scheduled shifts.

As a leading telecommunications and technology company, we’re able to provide our people with the connectivity, technology and tools to enable remote working. We’ve also focused on creating the right culture – one which recognises the benefits of diversity and flexibility, and where people feel empowered to manage their roles in a way that works best for them – and Telstra.

Our purpose at Telstra is to build a connected future so everyone can thrive.

And our people consistently tell us that flexibility helps them thrive – at work and at home. It appeals to a range of people across all demographics and has helped increase the representation of female candidates – a number of whom have told us they applied to join Telstra because of our openness about flexibility. In our 2018 employee engagement survey, 80 per cent of respondents reported working flexibly, and more recently in our monthly pulse surveys 87 per cent of respondents have said they’re able to access flexible working and balance their work and personal life.

We’re proud that we’ve been able to maintain the level people are using All Roles Flex as we change how we work through T22 – we were the first Australian organisation to commit to this flexible approach, and we’re committed to continuing to prioritise fairness and opportunity.

We asked our people their lived experiences of All Roles Flex over the last five years. Below are just a few of their stories.

Derek Harvey

When my partner and I were told our much-loved golden retriever Henry had aggressive lymphoma, we were both devastated at the diagnosis and galvanised to do what we could to treat him. Knowing that I could make use of Telstra’s All Roles Flex policy meant I could schedule Henry’s specialist chemo, radiation and follow-up appointments around my work and not have to take regular leave. Fast-forward 18 months and Henry has been in remission now for over a year and is back to normal – much to our relief (and our considerably lighter bank account).

Charmayne Hales

I’m extremely grateful to be able to access Telstra’s All Roles Flex. It allows me the flexibility to complete school drop-offs and pick-ups, plus I can participate in school activities. I get the best of both worlds – my career and not missing out on the once-in-a-lifetime events in my daughter’s life. On top of that, it means I can live where I love – regional Victoria. While I do travel into the Melbourne office from time to time, I have the flexibility to work out of Telstra’s Wendouree office in Ballarat. I have complete work-life balance, allowing me more time with my family and my passions – horse riding and breeding pure-bred cats.

Emma McClelland

As a parent of a child with a genetic disorder that prevents them from creating serotonin – which is what makes people happy – the ability to work from home has been invaluable. Prior to the diagnosis, my child’s mental health was very tenuous, and we had a period where lockdown was required. Had I worked for another organisation, I am not sure I would have been able to support my child’s recovery and ongoing needs and appointments. I am very lucky to have had such support and flexibility.

Judith Newton

Being able to work flexibly enables me to pursue my passion and still have a family life with my husband and – of course – work full-time! I can keep my horses in competition and at their peak because I can attend needed daytime appointments with them to keep them healthy and work them in daylight (particularly relevant in winter) to keep them, and I, fit.

Working from home when we have an appointment means I am onsite when required which minimises the time impact in work hours and allows me to have a more normal after-hours life – I don’t have to work all evening to catch up as I don’t have travel time.

Telstra’s purchased leave policy has also been helpful as I can take additional time to attend clinics and competitions, whilst still having “normal” family holidays. Thanks to this, I have won a double title at the South Australian State Show Jumping Championships (2017) with one horse and an amateur title at the South Australian State Dressage Championships (2019) with the other.

These are my boys – the grey is Sea Sabre (showjumping) and the chestnut is Sea Sprite (dressage).

Tamara Somers

As a single parent and a sufferer of two chronic illnesses, All Roles Flex is the difference between being able to work full-time and not being able to at all. This gives me the ability to be financially independent, which I wouldn’t be if I couldn’t work full-time flexibly.

I work from home three days a week so I can manage medical appointments and kids’ activities. I love that my leader trusts me to deliver results and is not concerned by when or where I work, and that I feel like a valued team member even though I only see most of my team one day a week.

Inspiration | People | Sustainability | Telstra Careers | Telstra News |

Creating equality for new parents

By Alex Badenoch July 1, 2019

We’re relentlessly committed to diversity, inclusion and flexibility. This includes helping our team bring their whole selves to work and having the flexibility to balance their professional and personal lives.

Our Diversity and Inclusion strategy takes a holistic view of diversity – we will listen more, prioritise fairness and promote opportunities for under-represented groups within our business.

And now we’ve changed our Australian parental leave policy. The bottom line?

We want every parent, regardless of gender, to be able to share caring responsibilities while maintaining their career.

Removing boundaries, prioritising fairness

This change removes the distinction between primary and secondary carers, which are often linked to traditional gendered roles. Now, any eligible parent who has been with us a year or more can take up to 16 weeks of paid parental leave within the first 12 months after their child’s birth or placement. Secondary carers previously received two weeks of paid leave.

There’s also more flexibility in how this leave can be taken. Parental leave can now be taken in one block or multiple blocks, and can be used to return to work on a part-time basis as needed. This is in addition to our All Roles Flex approach that helps our people manage their work and life in a way that works for them.

Equal and shared parenting enables better gender equality in the workplace and reflects our changing society where both parents contribute to caring and family commitments.

This change is already having a positive effect on the lives of some of our people, and it’s being welcomed and supported by many others. Mike and Yvette are two examples.

Mike Bowers, Senior Product Specialist

New father to twin girls born in May 2019.

I think this is a major step in the right direction for gender equality. As a company I think we want to challenge gender stereotypes and this speaks volumes.

As first-time parents embarking on the challenge of caring for our beautiful twin girls, I was faced with a dilemma – be a great employee or be a great father. Before the new policy, I was looking at taking annual and unpaid leave so I could support my wife and family; I can now take some of that leave as paid. It makes me proud to work for a company that takes such a strong stance and really makes me want to give back to a company willing to give to its people during such a special chapter in their lives.

Yvette Sraga, Head of Programs – Principal

Yvette and Liz have shared the primary carer role for their three kids – Poppy (8) and twins Ava and Jacob (4).

I’m very proud of Telstra for challenging the gender stereotypes relating to a primary carer. This is a great step towards ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace and acknowledges the crucial role that both parents play in early childhood development.

In our situation, if both our employers had paid parental leave with options on how to use it, it would have not only removed a lot of pressure, but also would have allowed us both to bond closely with our babies during those precious first 12 months equally.

Commitment to fairness

We want to be the best place to work for all. Today, that means making it fairer for all new parents.

Our new policy of offering 16 weeks of paid parental leave for all parents puts gender equity front and centre. We want our people to bring their whole selves to work, and fulfil their most important role at home.

This change is initially available to our team members in Australia and we’re working to equalise our policies across our international locations.