Like so many People and Culture professionals, Louise Lambert wears many hats. As HR Generalist at Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL), she is part of a small, busy team which does everything from recruitment to development, and from performance to payroll. Yet this is no admin function. Louise, like her colleagues, has her eye on a range of strategic, high impact work streams. One of the most prominent of these centres on gender diversity, and Louise quickly lays out the challenge for PBPL and the wider industry:
“Every time we advertised for a role, the people who applied were pretty much the same demographic. So we weren’t even seeing female candidates to consider. Women often just assume this isn’t a place for them, and that’s absolutely not true.”
PBPL’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy, launched in 2017, aims to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce, develop inclusive and empowered employees and build partnerships and programs to encourage greater diversity across the organisation.
So what have they done so far?
A key starting point was a more proactive approach to engaging future talent: they’ve developed a rich partnership with WORK180 to connect and engage with talented women, and have also developed a unique, authentic employee value proposition (EVP) and employer branding strategy. The EVP is spearheaded by the tag line ‘The Best Career You Never Imagined’ and Louise saw this work as vital:
“We want to keep challenging people’s perceptions about our company, whatever their role. The employer branding work means we are now able to consistently talk about PBPL’s talent offer in an authentic and powerful way. We’re getting more and more effective in reaching and connecting with our target audiences.”
Importantly, PBPL also reviewed its employment conditions and benefits, which led to a much-changed and improved Parental Leave Policy. This is known to be an important attraction and retention factor for many women and men.
A ground-breaking Marine Cadetship Program for Women
Another key initiative was the 2018 launch of a ground-breaking Marine Cadetship Program, which encourages women to embark on a career in the maritime industry through a 24-month entry-level position within PBPL’s marine team. Louise explains:
“With just six women from hundreds of men applying for a marine role in the last decade, we made a decision to disrupt traditional recruitment methods to accelerate a change in our workforce gender profile. We wanted to challenge misconceptions about the opportunities available within our industry, the nature of the work and the skills and perspectives required.”
The Program Launch, spearheaded by a highly successful Open Day at PBPL’s Operations Base, was an unprecedented success, resulting in 156 applications from women across Australia and overseas. In its first year, the Cadetship Program has raised the participation of women in the Marine Operations team from 2.3% to 10%. In a classic example of the ‘halo effect’ of diversity initiatives, the Program also influenced a critical leadership appointment in another part of the business. Teresa Murphy, PBPL’s Head of Technology had never engaged with PBPL until she read about their Cadetship Program on WORK180’s platform. This led her to explore the Head of Tech role at PBPL, where she is now a key part of the senior team.
The trends behind the highlights are also positive. Louise reveals that PBPL has seen an increase in applications from qualified women, who now featuring in 83% of shortlists across a diverse range of roles including IT, engineering, marine and construction.
Louise’s top tips
Louise has a raft of advice to share with anyone embarking on a similar gender diversity journey. The first is a positive reminder:
“You don’t need to be a big corporate to make these changes and be successful. We have just 200 employees and it has been great to see the impact so far.”
Louise offers five further tips for strategic impact in this space:
“It’s important to bring everyone on the journey, including leaders. So plan and communicate well, and connect existing employees with the what, why and how.”
“Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Gender diversity is a key component of overall diversity and inclusion for us but it’s not the only area we hope to impact. Prioritise and look at what will have the most impact in your current context.”
“Take note of what has worked elsewhere and explore how you can translate this to your organisation.”
“Disrupt and don’t settle! Don’t be afraid to do something different and challenge the legacies. If something’s not working, reflect and refocus to achieve a better result.”
“Attracting diverse people doesn’t guarantee success. What matters is their experience, engagement and consequent performance and impact. We have implemented a mentoring program to support the growth, development and inclusion of women that have joined in entry level roles.”
When asked what she values most about PBPL’s partnership with WORK180, Louise talks about a combination of brand reach and learning.
“Being endorsed and promoted by WORK180 is great for our employer brand and recruitment strategy. The most important thing, however, has been the advice, the learning and the connections. We’re now part of an important network, sharing experiences with others who are pushing for similar change.”
As for us, we’re immensely proud to partner with Louise and PBPL. It’s proving to be an extraordinary journey.