with greg layton

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In this episode, we meet Craig Murphy, Chief HR Officer of Henley Properties on the role of HR in a modern business, the business of people, and getting business transformation right.

Craig’s full title is the General Manager, Customer, People and Culture at Henley Homes, a role he has held since July 2016.

He has significant multi-industry experience in telecommunications, mining, steel manufacturing, and property development and construction.

Craig is also a Certified Professional of the Australian HR Institute (CAHRI), an expert advisor to the People & Leadership Committee of Victoria University and Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

His expertise lies in HR strategy development and deployment, organisation design & restructuring, union negotiation, learning & development and leadership of global HR teams.

In this episode we talk about: 

  • How employees can bring their unique value proposition to work every day;
  • The role of HR in a modern business;
  • Not forgetting that resources are humans too; and
  • How to absolutely nail business transformation!

Connecting with Craig Murphy

You can reach Craig via LinkedIn.

Books and resources mentioned in the episode

“He told me he thought he was getting someone who was probably one of the best to come and help him and he wasn't getting that. It was stinging. I had the whole flight back to Australia to think about it. He was right. And the message there is, don't assume. There are many different ways of checking your progress or how you’re performing.”

On setbacks in his career

  • There were some roles that I actually was really keen on, and I missed out on them for a variety of reasons. But I think each time, it was a good chance to check my systems – am I doing the right things? 
  • And just remain resilient – there's this Japanese proverb, something like, “resilience is when you fall down seven times, but you get up eight.” So, in terms of managing my own career, it's just about ensuring that I kept to my programme and remained confident and remembered that the things that brought me to this point in time, are the things that were my unique value proposition and that I needed to bring my UVP to work each day.
  • It starts with thinking of yourself as a consultancy firm of one. Particularly when you're in a knowledge-based role, your UVP is the thing that makes you different to everybody else who wants the same job. And it's important to remember that if it's a really good job, and it's worth going for, others want it as well.

On keeping focused on key priorities

  • My cycling actually helps me stay in flow and focused, and I certainly notice it when I haven't been out on the road for a while. I also often do my best thinking when I'm out there.
  • HR can be very broad and you can get potentially torn in any number of different directions and the agenda can change really quickly. You could be thinking about wellness or diversity and inclusion. And then talent and culture. And then you could be brought into something which is around an acquisition, or some sort of change in business strategy. And you've got to keep coming back to knowing what the business priorities are. And if you don't know, then you've got to find out. You've got to build those relationships and ask people things like, “What do you see us doing in 6 months, 9 months, 12 months time? Talk to board members, talk to customers. So then when the latest and greatest that someone wants to throw on your desk, you are equipped to be able to have that discussion about priorities and what you're collectively trying to achieve. 
  • And I often think about this as a small step improvement. So what can I do tomorrow that's slightly different or better than I did today? So what is the “first next step?” It really focuses you on action.

On the role of HR in a modern business world

  • We're just concerned about two things:
    • Talent: do we have the right people in the right roles at the right level?
    • Culture: this is a little bit more of a slippery concept, but it is around the norms, the standards of behaviour that are expected. It's the way that you go about doing business. Have you clearly defined the culture that you want to have? What makes your business different and gives you the best chance of achieving your business objectives? 

On the business of people

  • Sometimes companies talk about their people being their greatest asset. Now, people are humans, and assets are also things like machinery and buildings. And so there is a risk that in trying to demonstrate the value that humans create, there is a risk in going too far with that. You lose the reality that when we talk about people, we're talking often about a marketplace of one, in that everybody is different. And there is this fuzziness, this greyness in dealing with people, it's just fantastic. And I think that in some ways, HR has to have the courage to remember that the value and the skill that we really have is our ability to deal with the greyness and to deal with the ambiguity that exists when you're dealing with people. 
  • I don't want you to think that understanding your P&L and finance and marketing is not important. They're really important, but you need to embrace and build deep expertise in people.
  • I expect a finance director to also be a good coach, a good leader of their people and to build talent and to build capability, just like I'm expected to operate with commercial responsibility and achieve a financial outcome with all the other functions.
  • And so while things like automation occurs, what is the space that's going to be left? It's going to be around people. It's going to be around how we leverage talent to give us the best chance to outcompete others to achieve our business goals. That's the space that I think awaits us.

On getting business transformation right

  • Everyone is talking about transformation and change. But you know, that's not particularly a new concept. What I think is different is the speed of change. And also the complexity and volume of change.
  • Firstly, we must be really clear about why we're changing, and what we are changing to. And what are we changing from.
  • Even though you’ve got to go fast, you’ve got to go slow to go fast. Like in swimming, the fastest swimmers often look like they're going slow. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast!
  • Everyone we speak to who've done big transformations have generally failed because they have not embarked on the slow bit, which is the culture change – it's getting people to see the value of moving from point A to point B. It's helping people connect where you are today to where you're going tomorrow. 
  • True, sustainable change doesn't happen overnight. It's a series of small steps to really have sustainable change. People tend to overestimate the change that is going to happen in two years and underestimate what's going to happen in 10 years. 
  • Also, knowing when to get out of the way and let people get on with it. And then come back and join another dot, and then step back again.

On how he manages his inbox

  • I think we understand now the thing you don't do is come into the office with your flat white and go straight into your inbox. So I scan my inbox at home, usually after a bike ride over breakfast. And I just look at what I've got on for the week and I look at the sales results. They come in on a Sunday night. So I read those before I come in, but I don't go into my inbox. I actually deliberately stay out of my inbox. And I think about where I want to be at the end of the day. What is something that's really troubling me or just needs to be advanced? And what would be some steps that I need to take today to get myself to that point by the end of the week.
  • If you go in and out of your inbox all day, it's a bit like if you're sitting at home, and you're waiting for the postman to come and you run backwards and forwards to the letterbox waiting to see if there's something there. It's inefficient.
  • Also, I tell my team how I operate. I tell them that there are certain times that if they send me an email, then I'm not going to read it as I have designated times when I do read emails.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • I might focus this on the next generation of HR executives, but be proud and embrace your contribution and the expertise that you bring to the table. We don't need to wait to be invited to the leadership table; that invitation is already there.
  • I think most organisations recognise the importance of their talent and their culture and their capability. So it's embracing that you've got deep expertise in people and in humans, in people behaviour, and about how to get the best out of people in all sorts of different situations, in solving problems, in resolving conflicts, in coaching and leading, asking the difficult questions. These are all hard things to do, but vitally important.

Stay epic,