The road to becoming a top recruiter in a global company.
Location: London, UK
Soon after graduating, Amanda Vaughan (TC 1990), like many young Aussies, set off to live in London for a year … but never returned. Having worked in human resources consulting in Melbourne prior to her intended sabbatical, Amanda took on a number of HR roles in the UK before joining AXA in Singapore as a regional HR director. She quickly realised that, as a financial services company with more than 170,000 employees in 60-plus countries, AXA would give her career room to grow.
After eight years in Singapore, Amanda found herself back in London and now commutes between London and Paris as AXA’s Group Head of Talent and Development.
Her focus is the top end of the organisation, leading executive recruitment and development, and she’s helping drive AXA’s commitment to promote greater diversity within the workplace. ‘Our workforce should be representative of our customer base and we know that companies with high levels of diversity and inclusion perform better than others, so this is something we’ve taken a strong stance on.’
Amanda herself benefited from one of AXA’s gender diversity programs, having been ‘sponsored’ by a senior executive – who is now the company chairman – for 12 months to help her gain more visibility within the organisation. ‘He took me to events and dinners, and I got to know all the executives and they got to know me. If people know you’re supported by a senior executive, it makes a huge difference,’ she says. Having since secured a leadership position, Amanda is now helping AXA reach gender parity by 2023.
Along with shifting attitudes towards gender and diversity, Amanda notes the changing nature of HR itself. ‘When I started 20 or so years ago, HR was more personnel based and there was a lot of administrative activity,’ she says. ‘Now, HR plays a much more strategic role and it’s more interesting, as you can really influence business outcomes by ensuring you’ve got the right pipeline of people and seeing that policies are working.’
Consumer engagement has also changed, with Amanda citing social media and other online platforms as game changers. ‘Customers are a lot more active in sharing their views about how a company is behaving, and it’s great because it holds companies to account for their actions,’ she says. ‘We now use more customer insights to co-build products, rather than building the products and services that we wanted to deliver.’
Despite AXA having a customer-first approach, Amanda says the employee really comes first. ‘You can’t be customer first without being employee first, because if you’re not giving your employees the right engagement and experience, they can’t be customer focused – they’ll be too busy feeling worried or disappointed in themselves.’
One way Amanda tries to ensure employee satisfaction within the workplace is by finding people with the right attitude and cultural fit at the recruitment stage. ‘[When recruiting] I’m always considering whether a person will fit culturally into our environment. Do they have drive, resilience and engagement? Are they customer focused? To me, those things are at least equally, if not more important, than skills, because if you have learning agility you can do almost anything.’