Interview with Kim Wallace
Senior HR Manager at Alcoa Australia Rolled Products
Since its establishment in 1993, DeakinPrime has developed and delivered corporate education solutions to over 400 clients, and continues to reach over 50,000 people in work each year in over 50 countries. Recently we interviewed Kim Wallace, Senior HR Manager at Alcoa Australia Rolled Products, about her take on leadership and how the HR landscape has changed over the last ten years.
Q1. Kim, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your role in Alcoa?
I’ve been working in the HR profession for about 25 years now and I’ve been with Alcoa for four. The way in which the business is structured, one of the groups is Global Rolled Products and the Australia Rolled Products business is part of that. I’ve got responsibility for the broad HR function within that part of the business.
Q2. As a senior HR manager of Alcoa, no doubt the HR landscape has changed dramatically over the years. What has been the biggest shift, in your experience?
I think one of the things that we are seeing as a trend is trying to create more consistency in HR practices and tools globally. We do a lot more benchmarking of our practices and not just against other Alcoa operations but against other large global corporates, to make sure that we are pursuing best practices and that we’re not just efficient but also effective.
Q3. That’s interesting. And in term of leadership, can you tell us – what does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a really interesting concept. It’s very much about being able to act in a consistent and confident way to provide guidance, support and development for people so they make an effective contribution to the business. That involves a wide range of things, to actually be able to achieve that. I think it is one of those things that is critically important in business but very hard to define. And if you are in the engineering business like ours, people are looking for definite definition and it is really hard to deliver that.
Q4. Why did you choose the CLE program?
We had a gap in our leadership development programs at Australia Rolled Products for a number of years and some of that was driven by the fact that we have been performing fairly poorly from the financial perspective. We had a new MD appointed and at the same time the Alcoa Corporation Worldwide had introduced a set of competencies that was going to underpin all of our Talent Management and Development practices. So really a number of things came together that said, ’This is an opportunity for us to develop a leadership program that is going to help us to support and to drive the competency requirements that we had of our leaders’.
Q5. What was it like to work with DeakinPrime?
It’s been a really good experience, from the time of engaging Deakin, [then] working together to get a scope and pull the materials together. I think, having worked in the learning and development space over a period of time, this has probably been one of those relationship that’s truly been a partnership, where Deakin have really brought good value to the table but they have listened to the needs of the business. The product is … what I would say is it’s been truly tailored and developed for us.
Q6. And have you seen any changes in the workplace as a result of the program?
I think we have been through a lot of cultural changes over the last few years, certainty the last three years. And in discussing where we’re at with the executive team, it’s clear that in a number of areas we would have struggled to deliver that level of change if we hadn’’t been growing and developing our leaders, in part through this program.
Q7. And what feedback have you had?
I think the informal feedback is probably the most powerful. From filling out the assessment at the end of the program, we have been getting some good stuff. But when people stop you and say ‘That was great, I got these things out the day,’ and then you hear similar things from their manager, you know they’ve been back in the business and been talking about it.
And then, we also have managers who have stopped us and said, ‘I’ve noticed this happening in the individual’ so we’ve been able to see some evidence of changes in behaviours, changes in how people approach things actually on the job’.