Wellbeing agents of change: Heidi Beck and Elle Dias (Sydney event)
Recently, we were delighted to host a gathering of wellbeing leaders at our Agents of change for organisational wellbeing event in Sydney. Transformational change only happens when leaders ‘walk the talk’, so we were keen to hear how some of Australia’s most accomplished wellbeing leaders were building healthier organisations – and a better world.
Hosted by Christopher Marr, our co-founder and CCO, our event welcomed the following guest speakers:
- Steven Worrall, Managing Director ANZ, Microsoft, and the founding Chair of the Corporate Mental Health Alliance;
- Melanie Silva, Managing Director and VP ANZ, Google;
- Heidi Beck, Chief People Officer, Team Global Express; and
- Elle Dias, Area Head HR APAC, Red Bull.
The event was split into three sessions and this first session features a panel discussion between Heidi Beck, Elle Dias, and Christopher Marr.
We invite you to enjoy the video of Heidi and Elle’s session:
To download our complimentary Agents of change guide, please click here.
Chief People Officer, Team Global Express
Heidi brings a unique skillset of aligning multiple stakeholders to challenging, transformative, and often difficult decisions across leading influential organisations. She has deep strategy, transformation, and organisational design experience and broad application of general management in both corporate functions and business roles.
Prior to Team Global Express, Heidi held senior strategy roles at Westpac and Qantas, as well as nearly 10 years as a management consultant in Australia and the United States with McKinsey & Company.
Area Head HR APAC, Red Bull
Elle is responsible for the management of all Asia Pacific Human Resource disciplines of the globally renowned beverage and media business that prides itself on Giving Wings to People and Ideas. Elle’s proven track record includes years of creating and executing transformational change strategies, as well as strategic planning to help drive corporate change.
Prior to Elle’s (nearly 12 years) at Red Bull, she spent seven years in HR at another major multinational company – Unilever.
Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Sonder
Christopher has dedicated his life to serving others, previously serving 20 years as an Australian Army officer, including 10 as a leader and commander in the special forces. His role at Sonder is to lead the commercial strategy and growth of the company, both domestically and internationally. He is committed to addressing the world’s burgeoning health crisis by disrupting the way people access help.
[00:00:00] Christopher Marr: Hello everyone. Great to see such wonderful people here. Thanks so much for joining us. A very warm welcome to all of you. Before we kick on with the panel discussions, I’d love to introduce Maude Stern to come up and offer the Acknowledgement to Country.
[00:00:33] Maude Sturm: We begin today by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the Traditional Custodians on whose land we meet. I pay my respects to Elders past, present, and those emerging. Thank you.
[00:00:48] Christopher Marr:Thank you Maude. Ladies and gentlemen, Christopher Marr is my name. I’m proud to be one of the co-founders of this business, which we started about six years ago. And from where I’m standing, to look at the smiling faces we have in the room here, it’s particularly humbling to have such quality people join us today
Now, publishing Agents of Change, this terrific paper that’s on your desk, courtesy, of course, of Andrea, who published this, was part of a natural evolution for our business. It was natural because we’re in the business of wellbeing, we’re in the business of leadership, but we were witnessing a paradox.
The paradox existed because on one hand we could see leaders that were putting themselves first, that were taking advantage of the goodwill of their teams, and the consequences of this were palpable. But on the other hand, of course, we saw leaders committing to action, committing to a higher purpose, putting their teams first, and generating thriving workplaces and environments.
And this paper, Agents of Change, talks about some of the nuances of that distinction of that paradox and how the leaders of the future are driving change through these five different personas that Andrea has spoken about in this paper. To that end, I’d like to introduce some terrific panellists today. Firstly, Steven Worrall.
Steven is the Managing Director of Microsoft for Australia and New Zealand. We met a few years ago paddling surf skis together alongside another mate. And so, our relationship has been a friendly one. But also, Steven’s got this terrific story, which we’re going to hear about today, in founding the Corporate Mental Health Alliance alongside his other typical executive roles.
Mel Silva, the Managing Director Australia and New Zealand for Google. Of course this is one of the world’s most significant businesses, they’ve got a huge workforce that spans globally, and we’re going to hear some insights from Mel and how she’s an agent of change.
Heidi Beck is the Chief People Officer of Team Global Express. Wonderful customer of ours. Super pleased to have you join us and offer your insights today, Heidi.
And of course, Elle Dias. Elle comes from one of my favourite businesses, or favourite brands, at least – she’s the head of HR APAC for Red Bull, which I think we could all imagine does some pretty extraordinary things.
We know that truly transformational change only happens when leaders commit to action. That’s what we’re going to see today. We’re going to hear about the experience, hear about the insights. And to get things off, I’d love to introduce Heidi and Elle to the stage please.
So I’ve been furnished here with some statistics, which is always a good way to prompt conversation. Last year, this business, Sonder, we interviewed just over 1,000 Australians – 1,025. So I think this is a statistically relevant study. All these workers had a minimum of 20 hours per week in employment. We found three important things, three important insights, which I’d like to share.
Number one, many employees aren’t well. What does that mean? Well, 72% by our counting, of employees have felt depressed or have in the past – in the last 12 months. 72% – quite extraordinary. 25% of employees sadly, have contemplated or are contemplating suicide. So we know that employees, they’re not particularly well.
The consequence of this, of course, is that the workplaces aren’t very well either, in some respects. 50% of employees have been subjected to bullying or harassment throughout their career. 35% have experienced aggression from their manager. I find that an extraordinary statistic – a third of people have had aggression – which is an interesting word to use – from their manager, from their direct report. The consequence of that, of course, is that poor wellbeing is affecting workplace productivity, and that’s where, if you don’t want to create change for the right and very obvious and proper human reasons of humanity, then of course it’s affecting the bottom line as well.
We know that 42% of workers took time off in the last 12 months because of their own mental wellbeing and health. We know that 26% of people took time off to support a family member who was going through some mental health challenge. So it’s a, it’s a clear indication that things need to change.
When it came to questions about leadership, 75% said that seeing or hearing leaders talk about their own mental wellbeing challenges gave them the confidence to talk about their own – promoting that internal action and advocacy.
That’s particularly powerful. Many of the data points out there show that actions from organisational leaders such as you can make the difference in some of those lives.
So as it relates to us here, as a wellbeing and safety company, we’re serving about half a million people, largely in Australia and New Zealand, but it does extend to about 90 countries around the world in some instances.
Customers such as Woolworths Group, PwC, Team Global Express, Allianz, Hoyts, Probe, NRMA, Uni Sydney, New South Wales State Government, Hays – a host. And we’re seeing, because of that really broad spread of insight that we have, the benefit of this knowledge and data and the conversations we get to have, we get, I think, this extraordinary insight into the health of the country as a whole. And that’s what we are going to try and peer into today.
We propose in this terrific paper – and again, thanks to you, Andrea, for drafting this – that there are five key roles that agents of change produce. And just in case there are people in the crowd that haven’t gone through it all, I’ll just summarise this very briefly.
Number one is the embracer. An embracer is someone who, of course, embraces, and doesn’t delegate their responsibility for wellbeing. An investigator – someone who looks for evidence, rather than focusing on the myths or the quick wins or the easy outcomes. The challenger – someone who challenges the status quo, breaks conventions. The integrator – someone who embeds wellbeing into their organisation, sees it as a function of their entire commitment to the operational outcome. And the advocator – someone who walks the talk and is vocal about social change.
So, I’d like to get started with the panel. And to give a little bit more of a detailed introduction – as mentioned, Heidi Beck is the Chief People Officer at Team Global Express. Her CV includes senior strategy roles at both Westpac and at Qantas, as well as 10 years as a management consultant at the famous McKinsey and Company. I think they’d be well renowned as probably the most significant strategic consulting firm.
Elle from Red Bull, of course my favourite, she’s the Area Head of HR for Australia Pacific. And previously the Middle East and Africa was in your region as well, I understand. Prior to 12 years at Red Bull, Elle spent seven years at HR at Unilever, and I think Unilever is perhaps the most significant food brand globally. Is that fair? Is there anyone here from Unilever? We’re probably eating their food!
So let’s welcome both Heidi and Elle.
So Heidi, let’s start with you. At Sonder, we believe wellbeing is more than an employee benefit. We believe that it’s fundamental to the good outcomes and productivity of a business, and it should underpin company culture. What does it mean to you in your organisation?
[00:09:17] Heidi Beck: It is everything. Wellbeing is an absolute critical component of safety, and if you’re in any operational business, if you run an airline, if you’re out there in trucks, if you’re doing courier, if you’re doing anything that puts you in that front line, you are that company’s product and that product is based on what you do, being safe and efficient and productive.
If you are not at your best and you are not well, and you are distracted by anything causing those distractions, that puts those people you come in contact with at risk, that puts the plant and equipment at risk, that puts the company ultimately – importantly coming at it from those three angles – but that wellbeing and being physically fit, the country and the industry is rightfully shifting from, it’s not just have I had enough sleep and am I physically qualified and physically fit to do the job, am I also mentally present and mentally there?
So it’s, it’s everything, is what it is. And if you look at the back of the last two years in these industries, these are the ones where people have been put at the most stress.
You put those statistics and as much as I don’t like those statistics, they’re not surprising to me because you put people in incredibly deep, stressful experiences for the whole last two years, challenging every definition of what it means to be well.
[00:10:43] Christopher Marr: Heidi, I’m now running off scripts, I hope you don’t mind, Jason?
Heidi, one of our customers is Woolworths Group and over the pandemic, of course, and this happens every day, but they’re feeding the nation. It’s a 24/7 supply chain, and of course there’s huge purpose to that for an employee. I expect that this is the same at Team Global Express.
[00:11:03] Heidi Beck: Well, Woolworths is one of our biggest customers on that side because they are running and their food is getting delivered on our trucks. So they’re feeding the nation from the actual supermarkets, we were feeding the nation because we were actually bringing all of that food from point A to point B and across the nation to actually get into those supermarkets.
[00:11:22] Christopher Marr: When you think about wellbeing, do you think the team has that at the sort of frontal lobes of consideration, that their performance, any day, you’re a supply chain operator, and you could form a view that this is a, almost transactional job, but actually if you were to sort of think about the impact that you’re having for the country, this is really, really important stuff.
[00:11:44] Heidi Beck: And it’s important in the context of the five elements in terms of change agents that you’ve got. That is actually one of our critical strategic pieces of why we are now a separate business from what used to be the Toll Group. It is that repositioning that’s around those customers and that broader, bigger purpose. And actually thinking about it, it’s not just, we don’t run trucks and deliver stuff, we put things on airplanes that are delivering valuable surgical materials across the country, we’re moving the nation’s food in terms of Woolworths on that side of it. And from that respect, because we run trucks, we’re one of the largest emitters and looking at what we do from a carbon and an ESG and emissions, actually can be one of the biggest components in driving things down and improving the business into it.
It is about repositioning our people around that broader, bigger purpose. And we do that by using this equipment to move things from A to B, but it is about that broader perspective of literally linking the nation and the customer together.
[00:12:48] Christopher Marr: Terrific, thank you. Elle, switching to you, if we were to think about the investigator role – and to remind you of that, this is sort of evidence and rigor around the programs that you might bring into the organisation – what do you see as best practice in organisational wellbeing at Red Bull?
[00:13:05] Elle Dias: With Red Bull, we give wings to people and ideas, that’s what we’re about, and we want everyone in our organisation to be at their best all the time. We also have a lot of young employees, so young managers, so for us it’s really important that we give the individuals the tools that they need to support their teams. So we do a lot of training around resilience. What we do in terms of integrating is we really make sure that it’s on brand with our company culture. So when we run resilience training, it’s surfing in a storm, so we really link it back to our audience and our employees.
One of the other things that Red Bull is, we’re a strength based organisation. So we want to get to know all our individuals, we want to know what their strengths are, and then how can we support them once we actually get to know them quite well. And we have a tool that Red Bull has developed themselves called Red Bull Wing Finder. There’s a plug, because it’s free and you can all do it if you’re interested afterwards. But that tool is something that we really use within our business to be able to navigate, to get to know people. The statistics you shared earlier are just so scary, but I think it starts with the managers building those relationships with their team beyond work. And our whole performance management philosophy is focusing on the artist, not just the music.
“Our whole performance management philosophy is focusing on the artist, not just the music.”
Area Head HR APAC, Red Bull
So we really integrate our brand and our culture internally on the topic of wellbeing. One of the other things that we focus on is we provide things like – other organisations might call it life leave, we call it wings leave. And it’s the opportunity for individuals to have an extra two days off a year to spend it on what they need to spend it on.
So whether that be extra caring time, whether that be going on a retreat, whether that might be attending a charity or a function that’s of their interest. So it’s definitely, many initiatives are there to be tailored so the individual can decide what it is they need. We provide a wellbeing allowance and again, an individual can decide how they want to spend that, whether it be massages, surfing lessons, a health retreat. And so we really try and make sure that we understand the individual and then we provide tools for the individual to be able to say what works for them. Because wellbeing is not a magic wand, a one-size-fits-all, and it’s not the same throughout your life cycle either. You need different things at different points in your life. And so to have that level of flexibility I think is really important for us.
“Wellbeing is not a magic wand, a one-size-fits-all, and it’s not the same throughout your life cycle either. You need different things at different points in your life.”
Area Head HR APAC, Red Bull
We also have a global charity called Wings for Life. And this global charity, once a year runs an event called the Wings for Life World Run, and that is for spinal cord research. And so as an organisation globally, at the same time around the world, we run, we walk, as a community, as a team, with the public, with our consumers, with our customers, to come along and support such an event.
[00:16:10] Christopher Marr: Elle, you mentioned that you’re a particularly young workforce, are there unique challenges that exist with a workforce like that? Maybe there’s a little bit less maturity or experience. How does that manifest?
[00:16:22] Elle Dias: Definitely. What, we do see, we have a lot of student marketeers that you’ll see on university campuses that are trialling Red Bull on actual universities.
Sometimes those individuals will then convert to a full-time role, and then before you know it, they’ve got 10 or 15 people reporting to them. So we do have a very young workforce, and so for us, we need to be able to upskill these managers, with the right timing. So we always had quite a lot of training and support provided for our managers. COVID then made us put even more support in place. For the first time we had managers managing people remotely. They had no idea how to manage someone remotely. We had people that had a lot going on, just like your statistics share, and they needed a lot more emotional support. Our managers didn’t know what to do.
[00:17:15] Christopher Marr: How did, how did you do that? How did you inculcate that junior leadership with the skills to go and put wellbeing first?
[00:17:22] Elle Dias: Yeah, it was a lot of training. So we made sure that we put even more training in place. We put a lot more check-ins, so from the senior leadership team down, to make sure that they were checking in on their managers and on their managers and on their managers, so that all the best practice and the learnings, as it was rolling out very quickly remotely, that we were supporting. And we also had, looking after APAC. We’ve got countries now that are still going in and out of lockdown. It’s foreign to us here in Sydney, but it’s still happening in the other parts of Asia.
And so what we did do, as a leadership team in the region, we constantly were sharing best practice as it was being rolled out. From online exercise training to meditation, to yoga, to just having lunch together online and spending some time together. We were just in contact and sharing what we were doing as it was rolling out.
I think where we are really fortunate as well as an organisation is we have access to world-class athletes. So quite often these world-class athletes come in, they’ll share their stories, how they manage their exercise routine, their wellbeing, how can they be at their best. And so we are lucky to be able to invite our athletes as part of our community to support and help us as well.
[00:18:40] Christopher Marr: Fascinating. And Heidi, to switch it back to you, you are running a huge organisation. It’s across a large number of jurisdictions, foreign jurisdictions, 24/7 operations, supply chain. You must have young people, older, more experienced people, if we were to think about the integrator role, making sure that these wellbeing practices are pushed into the organisation through all those little nooks and crannies, how does that come to life for Team Global Express?
[00:19:07] Heidi Beck: In a few different ways. And probably first, we tend to skew older, in terms of, because of the industry on that one. And that comes with its own challenges as well, because you’ve got individuals and employees who have been somewhere 20, 30, sometimes 40 years, that are managing that stress and wellbeing of what’s next and what’s that kind of next phase, while you’re trying to reinvigorate with younger. And when you cross over generations, that’s an interesting kind of position in that space.
Over the last couple of years, some of that integrating has actually been quite a challenge, because you’ve got about a third of people that are able to work from within an office or within a depot or by a government definition from home, and others that just physically can’t. And that separation and divide on how you navigate the challenges and the stresses in there was actually quite a tough thing to manage on wellbeing, because for some it’s the isolation, seclusion and having to get an older generation digitally enabled – they maybe never really had been in lots of ways before.
And for others, through two years of stress around the challenges of health outcomes and rules and regulations and even unknowns of a disease on that one, that’s a whole different level of stress before you even begin to think about the people who are trying to get into WA and the impacts to family or the impacts of all the various rules and lockdowns, or even vaccine mandates.
Because those were hard decisions on how you change and how you incorporate and what positions you take as a company when everything’s changing around you, across the board.
I think we took three basic approaches. Since we’ve been acquired by Allegra, we’ve had over the last 12 months, three basic approaches, and the first is an honesty and transparency around anything. If the rules and the laws and the governance is changing, it’s just acknowledging it’s changing and we are adapting to meet it, rather than trying to articulate anything else. There’s a bit of a team approach on everyone being a little bit in it together too, acknowledging it that way. By calling it out, having more of those conversations.
Bringing on Sonder was a major part of it, which was something that digitally enabled us to think about it more broad, because our statistics with our prior, more traditional EAP provider were the type that you didn’t even need to put them on a dashboard or statistic. You could talk about the last handful over the last 24 months of usage moments – which is just not best practice, not if it’s actually focused on what’s really going to make people better.
“Our statistics with our prior, more traditional EAP provider were the type you didn’t even need to put them on a dashboard or statistic. You could talk about the last handful over the last 24 months of usage moments – which is just not best practice, not if it’s actually focused on what’s really going to make people better.”
Chief People Officer, Team Global Express
[00:21:56] Christopher Marr: We spoke about purpose before, and I don’t want to offer a sort of dichotomy if it doesn’t exist, but I’m interested in, you could almost consider this in two different ways.
One, that purpose sits at the centre and people are sort of streaming towards that and giving them the courage to go a little bit beyond and support that national supply chain, that critical infrastructure really. The other is that, hey, I’m getting overworked and I feel like the country’s relying on me. Did you see both of those sides of things? And how did you leverage each of them?
[00:22:32] Heidi Beck: We’re still dealing with the impact of burnout. So the important context for the 15,000 people who do work for us every day in that it’s not just a pandemic that’s been involved, it’s a complete divestment. And from Japan Post and the Toll Group. So it’s a major M and A piece of activity which changes things quite significantly. The Toll Group, prior to that, had the bushfires to kind of walk through, which was not small in a normal face, but kind of got lost in this period of a pandemic and two massive cyberattacks of equal size to what Optus has gone through in the last month, all of that is in the last two and a half years of corporate memory for those 15,000 people on our ground, and it’s this constant state of high pressure, high intensity activity. So we’ve seen all of it, you see all of it in terms of all of those impacts on what and where and all those end results of behaviours. If you don’t catch it, you don’t make anything go forward.
[00:23:36] Christopher Marr: Heidi, do you think that’s reset the new norm or do you think there’s a requirement here to reset?
[00:23:43] Heidi Beck: I think that the whole country – and this is probably a personal pain more than anything – I think the whole country is having to learn to adapt to a new norm of things that are more ambiguous, more cyclical. The pace of change is rapid. I can’t remember where I’d read it, but someone was talking about technological innovations. If you go back into the fifties and sixties, there’s longer curves of sometimes months or years before technology, and now that speed up of that half-lifeto new things is dramatic.
And I think that you’re seeing that in the same spot in terms of change. Change is constant. It’s about how do you create people that can adapt and address to that change and recognise that ambiguity and work through it? And how do you create in leaders that calmness and that ability to recognise that and see and know how to adapt to people in terms of doing that? Especially as we’re going through a generational change as well.
[00:24:42] Christopher Marr: Thank you. Elle, coming back to you. Thinking about the advocator role, we’ve spoken a bit about that already, adjacent to it at least, to remind you of that of course is sort of the champion of change within an organisation. As head of P&C, what’s your ask of your organisation to empower you better to support that?
[00:25:19] Elle Dias: I think on this one, it’s really important that we are constantly learning and developing ourselves. You know, there are so many amazing podcasts, panels, newsletters, reading, so I think we’ve got to constantly be at the forefront. We’ve got to have the knowledge to be able to support the business on wellbeing.
I would say also that we’ve all got to lead by example and I think the storytelling in us as leaders, sharing our stories and being able to share with our employees and our teams what we do, how we do, how we cope, how we manage wellbeing as individuals, I think that’s definitely really important for us.
And then I think finally I would say is that we need to be able to talk to our employees, because, like I said earlier, wellbeing, there isn’t a magic wand. There’s not the silver bullet. And so the closer that we are to our employees around what they need and how they need it, we need to be able to adapt and change with what they’re requiring. So I think the closer that we can be with understanding from our employees can only help us to drive the agenda even further.
[00:26:27] Christopher Marr: Thank you. Heidi?
[00:26:31] Heidi Beck: You’ve said a lot of what I would have said in terms of that. I’m going to echo a hundred percent on that one. I think I also ask of all of my peers and the rest of my business for that authenticity of just recognising when things are not okay. And acknowledge and say that, because sometimes that openness, there’s that vulnerable part of it.
“I also ask of all of my peers and the rest of my business for that authenticity of just recognising when things are not okay. And acknowledge and say that, because sometimes that openness, there’s that vulnerable part of it.”
Chief People Officer, Team Global Express
One of the examples that I can think of that’s got some of the best kind of feedback in the group was when with some of our senior leaders, when you do get COVID, or they’ve taken the time off, they’ve actually been sick, instead of just really pushing through or soldiering on at home. It’s that acknowledgement of saying, I’m not feeling well, I’m actually sick today, I’m going to drop this stuff and I’m not going to get there. That vulnerability, especially for anyone over the age of 35, that shift is so there, sending that leadership shadow out to people around, actually my wellbeing matters, my family’s wellbeing matters, therefore yours does too. And sometimes that’s the most impactful thing you can do. That some of the things I ask of others, is actually that authenticity and that honesty of how are you really going?
And also calling things out when you see them. And that’s a little bit easy in an operational business where you can call out that safety hazard or call that physical one out, but call things out when you see them on, “You look really tired and exhausted today,” or “It looks like something’s really wrong, would you like to talk and position it?” Those are some of the most powerful conversations. They can be uncomfortable, and as you said, you’ve got to teach, especially younger or newer leaders, regardless of age, how to have those in a way that’s compassionate. But that’s what I’d like to see in addition to, what you said, to be able to help actually bring wellbeing into that mainstream.
[00:28:29] Christopher Marr: Thank you. That’s really powerful. So we’ve not seen the last of Elle and Heidi today. After lunch, we’re going to see Steve and Mel. But then of course we’re going to have everyone back on stage for questions. I’m sure there’s plenty of them. There were some beautiful insights in there, which I’m personally keen to dive into. So if you join with me in thanking Elle and Heidi and we’ll enjoy some lunch.
More videos from this event
Agents of change guide
To download a complimentary copy of our Agents of change guide, please click here. This guide will:
- Explain five roles of CEOs and leaders who are reshaping organisational wellbeing;
- Share case studies from Accor, Atlassian and Woolworths; and
- Help you understand how to lead and build a healthier organisation.
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Sonder is a leading Australian wellbeing and safety company accredited by the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS). Our solution is a technology-driven platform supported by 24/7 safety, medical, and mental health experts. This is backed up by a physical responder network that can be onsite quickly for complex scenarios, plus a capability to deliver unique and timely data insights which drive meaningful business decisions.