Creating a future-ready workforce at Australia Post

Australia Post is investing in the skills, capabilities and talent needed to create the workforce of the future. So what does it take to lead more than 70,000 people on a journey of change? I shared my insights at a recent HR summit.

With such a diverse, dispersed and mature workforce, Australia Post faces some unique challenges in creating a future-focused culture. Yet like so many other organisations across Australia, we’ve recognised the need to transform our operations in the face of significant market disruption.

During my keynote at a recent HR summit, I had an opportunity to reflect on our journey so far and share what we’ve learned with some of Australia’s leading HR professionals. Unsurprisingly, we’re not alone in grappling with a transformed marketplace where the pace of change will only continue to accelerate.

We have a long history of preparing for the future

Australia Post is one of Australia’s biggest employers with 35,000 employees and an extended workforce of more than 70,000, which includes our delivery contractors and retail licensees.

Almost half our people are aged over 50, giving us a much more mature cohort than the average Australian workforce. The average tenure here is more than 10 years, which means we also have very experienced people who know our customers and are committed to meeting the needs of their community.

Change is not new to our organisation. For over 200 years, our primary focus was on delivering letters, but we’re now witnessing a transformational shift as the rise of online shopping sees our parcel delivery business taking over.

During the 2018 Christmas peak, we processed over 3 million parcels in one day where we once would have struggled with 700,000. To handle higher parcel volumes, we’ve invested in parcel automation but unlike most postal organisations around the world, we’ve pivoted our business without reducing head count.

Other challenges, which will be familiar to most organisations, include heightened competition with new disruptors. In our case, this means we need to keep exceeding customer expectations for their parcel delivery experience. As we adapt to technology, we’re also responding to the opportunities it brings. With the right skills we can capture a new share of growing business areas. Our Workforce Verification solution is one example of this.

Attracting and retaining talent

At one extreme, we have almost 12,000 baby boomers on our payroll. At the other, we are bringing on Generation Z and millennials (about 9,000 employees now and growing). Designing an employee experience that attracts and retains talent across five very different generations means understanding that one size can’t fit all.

For example, baby boomers need support with transitioning to retirement as they continue to play an important role in mentoring our younger generations. Generation Z is more interested in virtual work opportunities, and seeks out ways to co-create and make a more positive environmental impact. Like their millennial siblings, they expect more flexibility in the way they interact with an organisation.

Developing our future leaders

We’re taking empowerment beyond just a feeling to a way of growing through ownership and action. And so we’re equipping current and future leaders to have the right conversations and build their internal resilience.

We’ve also shifted our leadership training from one-off courses to ongoing programs that embed changes in team relationship management. More than 1,200 leaders have participated in these programs. More broadly, 28,000 staff have used The Delight Program to positively handle change.

These programs focus on the whole person and not just job skills. They help our employees listen more effectively, and choose a more positive attitude and response. This helps them engage with customers and is also a valuable skill they can take home to their families.

All of these initiatives are creating tangible impact. Together, they will help us build a stronger, more engaged workforce across five generations and keep our people at the forefront of our future success.

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