News and Views

  • Date:01 Sep 2007
  • Type:CompanyDirectorMagazine

HR executives learn to manage risk

The days when managing risk was the domain of specialist risk managers is fast disappearing. Most companies are now recognising that every senior manager has a part to play in managing risk. However, up-skilling managers can present some challenges.

“Risk is one of those subjects that can become very technical,” says Lyn Goodear, national manager professional development at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI). “We wanted to provide HR directors and senior executives with an approach that worked for them, not try to turn them into compliance officers or risk managers and finding such a course was difficult. That’s when we discovered AICD’s Risk: Issues for Directors program and realised that with some modification, it was highly suitable for executive directors and other senior HR professionals.”

Pamela Murray-Jones, AICD’s general manager director and board development who negotiated a licensing arrangement with AHRI, says: “Managing intellectual capital and retaining and up-skilling staff are shaping up to be some of the major challenges for organisations in the next ten years as we move into a knowledge economy.

“HR professionals will be called upon to take a greater role in managing this risk and some of them will find themselves taking a seat at the board table. So understanding the frameworks for risk governance, and being able to identify the appropriate tools and techniques to apply within the HR context is crucial.”

AHRI will commence delivery of the course, Understanding your role in risk management: a program for HR directors and senior managers in November in Sydney and Melbourne. For more information visit:

Clifford replaces Jackson at Qantas

Former Rio Tinto CEO Leigh Clifford is to replace Margaret Jackson as chairman of Qantas after the company’s AGM in November.

Until then, Clifford, who stepped down from the board of Rio Tinto and retired as CEO at the end of April, will fill a casual non-executive director vacancy on the Qantas board.

Clifford has also served as a non-executive director of Barclays Bank since October 2004 and was appointed to the Bechtel Board of Counsellors in May 2007. He was formerly a member of the Coal Industry Advisory Board of the International Energy Agency for a number of years and its chairman from 1998 to 2000. He was also previously a director of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold.

Commenting on his appointment, Clifford says: “I have watched the aviation industry and Qantas over the years and have great admiration for Qantas and the team at Qantas. I have given the invitation a great deal of thought and am enthusiastic about working with Margaret Jackson, the board and management through a smooth transition period and leading the board as its chairman from November.”

Bob Carr hops aboard at Dymocks

Former New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, has joined the board of Dymocks.

“Carr’s intense interest in books, authors and the value of literacy is widely known. His additional dimension, experience and network will be invaluable to the growth of the company in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong where Dymocks is now the largest English language bookseller,” Dymocks chairman John Forsyth noted when announcing the appointment.

He added that no leader had been more closely associated with reading initiatives and literacy improvement than Carr. Since Carr launched the Premier’s Reading Challenge in 2001, more than 200,000 NSW children have completed the challenge which requires reading 20 books a year certified by a teacher or parent. The challenge has been supported by the Dymocks Literacy Foundation since its inception. It has also been copied by other Australian states and other countries.

Max Ould receives leadership award

Goodman Fielder chairman Max Ould recently received the 2007 Rabobank Leadership Award in recognition of his achievements over three decades at the helm of various leading food and agribusiness corporations.

“Ould has been one of the most outstandingly successful food industry CEOs over the long haul in this country,” Rabobank Australia & New Zealand CEO Bruce Dick said, when presenting the award at a dinner in Sydney at the end of July.

Ould was managing director of National Foods from 1996 to 2003 and formerly served as CEO of Peters and as executive chairman and managing director of East Asiatic Corporation, Plumrose. He has been chairman of Goodman Fielder since November 2005 and also serves on the boards of Foster’s Group, Pacific Brands and AGL Energy.

Fellowship to help indigenous communities

AICD Fellow Geoff Bartels is spearheading a program to create a Fellowship, similar to the well respected Churchill Fellowships, to assist indigenous communities with the management of self-help programs.

“After years in practice and with academic qualifications in management I began to feel uneasy, not exactly guilty, about the fact that I was supporting overseas aid projects but we had worse than third world standards for our own indigenous people. Morbidity rates in some communities are worse than Bangladesh,” says Bartels on why he embarked on the project, which he hopes will attract corporate backing.

“There are over 350,000 indigenous Australians. Of those, 60 per cent live in more than 1,290 settlements in regional or remote Australia. My thought process was that no single program could possibly cater for the individual needs of all these communities ... but one committed skilled person could make an incremental difference if placed in a community which would accept them.”

Initially, Bartels anticipates that willing candidates will live with a community, observing and interacting with it, for six months. During this period, the candidate would devise a project, agreed to by the community, which could help the community develop and which would be carried out over, say, the next 12 months.

The candidates would be nominated and sponsored by their employers. After the initial six months, they would return to their employment and then act as a mentor to the community managers, perhaps remotely, to assist the community implement and fund the project.

The aim, says Bartels, is to give communities long-term access to well qualified, resourceful and committed individuals. “The candidates will achieve a significant life experience, an opportunity to make a difference and a prestigious addition to their CVs through putting their acquired management skills into the projects,” he says.

The principal cost for the organisations that participate would be the ongoing salary of the candidate while on site. Thus, Bartels believes the Fellowships may provide them with a cost-effective way of carrying out their CSR. “They also would benefit through the personal growth of their candidates and substantial community kudos.”

Any AICD members who are willing to participate in a steering committee, or who would like their organisations to participate in the Fellowship program can contact Bartels on 02 9804 1800.

Clinicians turn their skills to the boardroom

For clinicians more comfortable diagnosing and advising on patient care, the boardroom can pose a number of challenges. Recognising this, Dr Yahya Shehabi, director of the Australian Centre for Clinician Leadership has joined forces with AICD to provide a development opportunity for senior clinicians whose roles have expanded into directorship.

Shehabi is the architect of a ground-breaking program called Strategic Thinking Enhancement Program for Specialists (STEPS) that was launched in 2006 to fill a gap in providing clinicians with management skills.

“The STEPS for Leadership provides a comprehensive program for all clinicians. STEPS 1 is for clinicians moving into consultancy roles with courses dealing with such matters as diverse as business structures and work/life flexibility,” Shehabi explains.

“STEPS 2 goes further and provides extended training in leadership and business strategy for clinicians who are in charge of substantial teams and units. However, in the last two years there has been an increasing trend to have senior clinicians on the boards of hospitals and the advisory boards of health commissions, pharmaceutical and different professional organisations and craft groups.

“I realised there was also a need for senior clinicians to be provided with an overview of their responsibilities in the boardroom, how to add value to the board, to have an understanding of risk, conflicts of interest, how to deal with the CEO, and also how to assess the board’s own performance and that of the organisation. So in 2007, we are adding STEPS 3: Joining the Board to the program.”

Shehabi says: “All this is unfamiliar territory for clinicians, whose training has been operationally focused. We are used to having control over our environment, looking at problems and finding the solutions. Faced with strategic and management issues where there is more ambiguity and outside control and interference, differing perspectives and multiple answers, is very challenging and stressful.

“The program is the first of its kind anywhere and I think it will be very popular.”

The STEPS program draws clinicians from across Australia and the Pacific. The next course will be held at
the Sheraton Mirage on the Gold Coast from 29 November to 2 December, 2007. For more information see