GM HR Interview – Sharon Bell

What do you think are the biggest challenges for Graduates and Early career professionals entering the HR profession these days?
There are a lot of candidates and so competition is high. In addition to this, as with all entry level roles, more of the less complex process work has been automated and/or outsourced which means people are required to enter the workforce and undertake work which is more complex in nature.

What suggestions do you have for this group to make their transition more seamless?
Be open to different opportunities – your current experience or area of study may not be the clearest path to your ultimate career aspiration, or you may find yourself taking on a different direction entirely. Being open to this journey is key and I would recommend seeking a mentor in your new organisation to help along the way.

With so much emphasis placed on AI and digitalisation in the workforce when hiring, do you think that some companies have started to focus less on values, work style and attitudes? And at what cost?
As we do enjoy the greater efficiencies of technological advancements, there will always be the human element of the selection process which will become even more important to ensure we continue to hire to values and culture.

How much focus do CBA put on the development of their early career professionals, and do you offer your HR cohort specific development programs in regards to navigating the world of work?
At CBA, we use the 70:20:10 development concept across all levels of employees, which means 70% of an individual’s development is planned around on the job experience, 20% is through coaching and mentoring and 10% is through more formal development programs, either on line or face to face. For our HR graduates, we have a structured rotation program in place, which provides them with an opportunity to gain experience in both the business unit generalist HR teams and our more specialised centres of excellence. This helps them identify areas they would most like to work in once the rotation program is finished.

Finally, what do you remember most vividly about your own personal transition into the workforce when you graduated? And what advice would you give your 22 year old self just starting out?
Gosh, that was a very long time ago and in a very different world!! I actually started off in accounting and it was only when I joined my second employer that I decided to focus on a career in HR. This was within hospitality, where I spent time in each of the departments but then stayed in HR and have been there ever since in a variety of specialist and generalist HR roles globally.

My advice would be firstly, do what you enjoy as you are going to spend a lot of your life at work and we tend to perform better and have lower stress levels when doing what we enjoy. Secondly, be open to opportunities and do not be afraid to give things a go – seek out opportunities and grasp any that come your way. Thirdly, as I mentioned above, a great relationship with a mentor who you can have an open, honest and trusting relationship with is gold. And lastly, given the pace of change which will only continue or increase, keep an eye on the future of your chosen profession and ensure your capabilities are future-fit.

Sharon Bell is the General Manager HR – Financial Services of Commonwealth Bank. She has extensive leadership experience in the human resources field, spanning diverse industries in Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia. As a senior HR business partner working across all levels of leadership from line management through to executive teams, she has specialist experience in the areas of employee relations, cultural transformation, leadership development, employer brand, executive coaching, talent management and succession planning.