HR Postcard from London
Our latest HR postcard is from Andrew Fletcher, Head of Human Resources, UK at WorleyParsons.
Working across the Resources and Energy sector, WorleyParsons covers the full project lifecycle from guiding customers with pioneering projects to finding innovative ways of sustaining and enhancing existing assets. The business employs over 25,000 people across 42 countries.
Andrew leads the HR function for the UK and has his team sharply focussed on the pursuit of new business and maintenance of existing projects.
We are thankful to Andrew for generously donating the time to converse with us about his personal experience of HR across his established career in foreign markets.
What are the challenges of the business environment you are operating in?
“The business environment in the Resources and Energy sector has been tough in recent years - not just in Europe, globally. Capital investment amongst our customer base moved with the falling oil price – over the past couple of years, many project have been cancelled or pushed to the right. Our sector has shed many jobs in recent years and WorleyParsons has not been immune from that activity. The HR focus has most certainly been on cost containment / reduction”.
“We have also seen consolidation across the sector, for example Wood Group’s recent acquisition of AMEC Foster Wheeler. For the rest of the contracting community, it’s a tough business and we all fight hard for the available business opportunities. Competition is high and that drives tight margins”.
“WorleyParsons has grown very rapidly over the past 30 years, through acquisition and organically – our business continues to evolve with our strategy taking us into new sectors (new energy) and expanding our capability in downstream activities - our consulting business continues to pull through new work and as such we have an established global footprint.”.
What are your key observations around HR trends that are playing out in your marketplace?
“The UK is similar to Australia in many respects – although scale is an obvious difference! I’ve been exposed to a variety of different practices across Europe – many will follow me home to Australia when I repatriate. Looking across Europe – HR practices certainly vary. For instance, I was in Azerbaijan a few weeks back – the HR team there operate in a ‘command and control’ fashion where rules and labour legislation dominate … this reflects society more broadly”.
“After Azerbaijan, I visited our new office in Germany - where we’ve recently acquired a new business. There – HR is all about process, efficiency, systems and rules. I find HR practices mirror the cultural characteristics of the countries where we operate. Every day, every business trip, every acquisition presents new learning experiences in my world!”
“In our market, it’s about managing the cost base while guaranteeing service/ consulting quality. Ultimately, WorleyParsons is a professional services business – for the HR team, our focus is squarely on the ‘value’ of the man hours we sell, building creative e mobility solutions that help us ‘man up’ our projects in some far flung places on the planet and quickly establishing a footprint in new markets. HR has a big role to play - the benefits we buy, the salaries we pay, the flex workforce we access, the pension platforms we roll out, the costs of recruitment, our mobilisations strategies all contribute to the baseline cost that flows into our proposals and bids – we are constantly looking for ways to balance cost efficiency against building a workplace that people feel connected too and suitably rewarded by”.
“We have a diverse workforce by nature of being a global business but we have work to do, to drive greater gender diversity in our business – this is a challenge in our sector as we have historically struggled to attract women to engineering and project delivery undergraduate studies. We have a number of global initiatives that we are driving from graduate intakes to sponsorship of talent across the organisation to establish a better balance”.
What are some of the differences in the HR landscape offshore when comparing to Australia?
“Our business in the UK is 100% committed to meaningful consultation with our workforce. I have seen nothing but enormous value result from meaningful consultation – there is great value to be drawn from the process of listening to the workforce – senior leaders and HR often fall into the trap of thinking ‘we have all the answers’. We don’t. Our employees regularly come up with ideas or approaches to complex issues that we would never have thought of! I’ll certainly be an advocate of meaningful consultation when I return to Australia.”
What you have benefited from as a HR professional in stepping out of an Australian only role and into foreign markets?
“You have no choice but to open yourself to new ideas – expand your thinking – every day is different. I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning curve – professionally and personally”.
What advice would you offer to someone seeking to go abroad into new markets?
“Give it a go! When I was presented with the opportunity to move abroad 3 years ago I certainly questioned whether it was the right decision … it made me feel very uncomfortable and nervous … but I saw the opportunity to learn and grow as a person, push myself out my comfort zone, experience different cultures and working environments. I would argue that these things make me a more ‘learned and travelled person’ today – personally and professionally. These experiences can only assist me, when the time comes to move home, to Australia”.
“Embrace different experiences - take a risk ... it will outweigh the negatives, at least in my mind. And remember we are only a day away from home (Australia) … if things don’t work out, get on the plane, Australia (home) will always be there - I look forward to moving back at some stage”.