This week I sat down with Rebecca Doyle – the Head of People and Culture for the National Rugby League. With a rich history dating back to its creation in 1908, Rugby League telecasts have grown to be the most watched programs on Australian television.
The NRL Telstra Premiership is the closest elite sporting competition in the country and the Holden State of Origin series between New South Wales and Queensland is Australian sport’s greatest rivalry. At it’s heart, Rugby League is a community-based sport played by hundreds of thousands right across Australia, especially in country areas. In addition, there are countless people who give their time volunteering to ensure boys and girls, teenagers and adults can play the sport they love each weekend.
Rebecca’s Career History
Rebecca’s HR career started in an organisation where she worked with long term unemployed people. This was very challenging work especially within the constraints of the organisation – dealing with people with mental health issues and drug addiction.
She then moved to a large labour hire firm and ran the labour hire onsite at Steggles. This was a great role and she got exposure to a broad range of things, including working with the unions. They ran about 400 casuals at the peak of the season.
Rebecca’s next role was with a large charity, called the Samaritan Foundation and was offered an opportunity as acting HRM during that time. Her leader was a great mentor and guide and helped her to the next stage of her career. A role then came up with the Australian Wine Selectors as the first HR resource. At that point, turnover was close to 50% in the call centre and it was her responsibility to help reduce that. During her tenure, they were able to get turnover down to 20%. It then became time to move away from Newcastle to Sydney.
This brought her to Westcon, which was a standalone role. Again with a supportive leader at the time Rebecca was really encouraged to invest in herself and do professional development through MGSM. Rebecca was able to establish her successor and after maternity leave did not return. Her next role was with Gilbarco as the HRD for Australia and NZ – Vic Turner, the MD was a true advocate for HR and Rebecca was truly able to partner with him to develop and implement positive HR strategies. Again Rebecca was able to build a successor to take over. Then went to KONE and was a great opportunity to move from a business that was 500 – 1500 people. Took the team from being a transactional function to a modern HR function that partnered with the business. During the time that they were between MD’s – Rebecca had exposure to managing marketing, legal and quality.
Coming to the NRL was a decision around family. The NRL is unique in that space – Rebecca has experienced a significant reduction in being away from home and is able to work in a senior position. Rebecca is really proud of the work that the NRL does in the community and the role has been around how people and culture in the NRL can impact during a time of change. They look at what they can continue to do and commit to player support, education, community and the indigenous space.
One of the exciting things that they are doing at the moment is that Todd Greenburg has become a male champion of change and they are working together on a number of projects including the introduction of Superannuation payments to females that go on Maternity Leave and 6 weeks paid leave. Todd has made a pledge to not be on any panels that do not have females and they are working on closing the gender pay gap. They are on the journey to commit to a culture of inclusiveness and Rebecca is being sponsored by Liz Broderick, the Head of Male Champions of Change. They have worked really hard on embracing flexibility and updating the policies with that. Rebecca is working really closely with the Head of Digital and they have employed about 100 employees into that digital space. She has some great partnerships and the NRL is on a really exciting journey. The NRL also does a lot of work with Alan Tongue – ex Canberra Raiders player as he heads up the Voices Against Violence program. This program works with young men to educate them on what respectful relationships look like and delivers workshops with grassroots clubs.
What motivated Rebecca to move into Human Resources?
Rebecca originally thought about teaching History in High School and when she was at University, she worked part-time at a credit union. During that time she took advice from a colleague to move into HR – enrolled through AHRI and Deacon University and was doing that when she got the role working with the long-term unemployed.
What advice does Rebecca have for people starting in HR?
People often say that they want to be in HR as they want to work with people, ideally, you need to come into HR because you are interested in business. To be a valuable part of an organisation you really need to understand business. Do your best to understand employment law as much as you can and it’s also important to have a broader sense of the economy and P&L – understand the product and the profit, the key drivers of the business. Ensure that you have an understanding that people are the reason businesses can deliver.
What does Rebecca love most about what she does?
One of the things Rebecca really likes is being able to run really successful succession plans – balancing that with what the person needs and what the business needs and having a really strong relationship with the CEO/MD. She loves working across the business – one of the things Rebecca loved about Gilbarco was learning about the lean manufacturing system – fascinating to be part of and really helped her develop professionally.
Definition of Success
To Rebecca success has to be measured internally. Whether it is a really hard thing like reducing the workforce – you need to treat people with dignity and respect. Also “not leaving anything on the field” two of the most satisfying things in Rebecca’s career so far was finding talented people – promoting their capabilities and growing their careers.
Vision for women in the workforce?
Rebecca is a mum, she has an 7 year old daughter. She feels like that she has had some success as one day she was talking to her about Liz Broderick being her sponsor and explained that women need to be treated the same as men. Her daughter couldn’t understand why that wasn’t a given!
Also, to have a workforce that a man feels as able to ask for extended parental leave as a female, ask for part-time, ask for flexibility to take their children to sport or school activities and in order to get there, they need to support women and the culture. Embrace technology to enable women and men to have greater flexibility to be able to do that. Don’t push females to soon – let them develop at their pace. And women don’t try to be men!