After a long career in HR, Fiona Hitchiner says she’s finally found her own passion and purpose in her role as Director HR with Invictus Games Sydney 2018.
Here, she explains why diversity and inclusion should be more than an HR initiative and takes us through her career highlights.
Crowd & Co: Can you tell us about your role with Invictus Games Sydney?
Fiona Hitchener: I’m the HR Director for the Invictus Games 2018, which will be held in Sydney this year from the 20th to the 27th of October. My role is to support key talents – making sure that I'm recruiting and supporting the talent we have so that we can put on a really fantastic games. My role is to support all those people who are putting the games together plus the volunteers. That involves everything from the whole recruitment process and onboarding, health and wellbeing and inclusion strategies, OHS policies, and retention strategies. The purpose of my role is to make sure everyone walks away feeling like they are proud of the games that they've put on.
C&Co: You have a lot of experience working in, and write about, diversity and inclusion. Is that one reason why you took on your current role?
FH: Absolutely. It was such a perfect alignment of my experience and where I've been in my career. And I had been looking for an opportunity to really work in my passion and my purpose. And this aligned perfectly. I think for most people here, it's not a financial move, it really is a purpose-led move. We're all about the purpose of the organization, which is around supporting the injured, sick and wounded servicemen and women. And supporting those family and friends and really highlighting the power of sport in recovery as well as the work that our veterans do.
Yes we are running the games and they will be fantastic in October, but for us it's really pretty important around what legacy we're leaving and helping shift people's understanding and widen their understanding and bring respect for those people that have served their country. It’s about opening conversations around accessibility and changing people’s perceptions of what disability means as well.
C&Co: Do you think diversity and inclusion is one of the most pressing issues facing HR professionals today?
FH: I think it's certainly a very key topic within the HR community but broader than that, I think it is an integral part of what organisations need to be looking at. We need to be moving away from thinking that diversity and inclusions sits with HR, because it really doesn't. Inclusion needs to be embedded across the whole organisation – from how leaders lead to how they are inclusive of their customers, their inclusive messaging, their marketing, their products.
Diversity and inclusion is a business strategy – and that’s where you will get the benefits. Having a diverse and inclusive workplace brings innovation, greater engagement, better productivity and you're much more competitive in the market. I think we need to shift away from seeing it as an HR initiative, because it really isn't.
C&Co: What are the standout career milestones or achievements for you in your career in HR?
FH: I have a few. I've taken up opportunities that sometimes seemed a little bit scary and I've had people support me in taking them up. The first one is from my very, very early career days when I was living and working in London. The company I was working for were about to open up an office in New Zealand and I was only 22 years old and they approached me to see if I wanted to move to Wellington and help open up the office out there. It was very scary to be a 22-year-old and move as far away as you can from home, not knowing anyone. But it honestly set me up for the rest of my life because you think, “If I can do that, anything is possible.”
Another big success for me was working for an organisation where we were at the forefront in terms of really thinking about how technology can support individuals from an inclusion and diversity perspective. We set up a technology solution called 'WorkLife HUB' and it essentially supported individuals within a workplace regardless of their background, nationality, demographic, and interests. It had content and support whether you were a parent, a carer, whether you were just starting out in your career, whether you were looking to save for a house, whether you had elder care responsibilities.
Now, my current role with Invictus Games has probably been the one of the greatest roles I've had. It's only a short-term role because we're all only here until just after the games, but working in an organisation where there is so much passion and so much purpose and seeing what the team is able to achieve with passion and purpose is quite remarkable.
C&Co: What big challenges and opportunities are ahead for HR professionals?
FH: I do think technology has a great role to play. I think it can create a lot of efficiencies and that means that the HR teams can become much more strategic in their role and less focused on the operational paperwork side. The way we are interacting as individuals, we all use technology and smart phones. We need to make sure that whatever we are doing within an organisation, we utilise the technology that people use every day, in particular to be able to get information to people in a timely manner. I think that's really, really important.
The biggest challenge is that HR is needing to move away from that pure operational role and be much more strategic. HR needs to be part of the business and involved in the business strategy.
People are the most important part of any business – that's my personal opinion. Our individual needs are changing, the way we work is changing. We don't have a career for life, we will be changing careers more often than ever before, we'll be working longer than ever before, and we still have the same personal needs. People are really looking at how work can be a bit more agile and flexible to suit their lifestyle needs. So, organisations will need to really think about how they structure careers and how they structure roles.
We’re really moving away from some of the traditional methods of how we bring people on. I think there will be a lot more contracting and freelancing to fit in with personal lifestyles. You need to factor that in with having a much more diverse and inclusive workplace. So, I think HR needs to have much more of a holistic, strategic view.
C&Co: With so much experience in HR, have you discovered the secret to “people"?
FH: I'm not sure I know the secret to people. That's the great thing – everyone is so different. But what I have found and what I do believe is that we all fundamentally want to feel connection. And we want to feel respect and we want to feel listened to. For me, in my years of dealing with lots of different people in lots of different countries, it fundamentally comes down to people wanting to feel connected. We're human beings, that's what drives us. It means, if you can, taking that into consideration from an HR perspective.
C&Co: Finally, is there anything else HR-related you'd like to talk about?
FH: It's taken me a while to find my real purpose and passion in my career, but I’ve found it with my role with the Invictus Games. I've worked in HR for years, but once I recognised and realised where my real passion and purpose was, I don't feel like I go to work – particularly knowing that the work I’m doing, and those around me are doing, will have such an impact on the people that are either competing at the games or attending the games. Finding my passion and purpose meant being very honest with myself. The challenge is being really honest with yourself about what is making you happy or unhappy in your life and your career.