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It’s all about people – Aurecon’s Global Chief People Officer wins ‘Young Executive of the Year’

Liam Hayes wins Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine’s ‘Young Executives of the year’ award

According to Liam Hayes, "this is a time in history when human-centric leadership is key".

14 July 2017 - With commoditisation, digital disruption, and the need to sustain growth shifting the dial for privately owned professional services firms across the globe, the importance of a new brand of leadership that prepares talent for a very different future has been recognised in this year’s Young Executives of the Year awards.

Liam Hayes, Global Chief People Officer for global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon, has been named one of six winners of the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine’s ‘Young Executives of the year’ awards.

Hayes was promoted to the role of Global Chief People Officer in February 2015 by Aurecon’s Global Chief Executive Officer, Giam Swiegers. He leads an international team of over 80 Human Resources (HR) professionals and is the only HR leader to receive this year’s award.

It was his focus on ‘human-centric’ leadership that impressed the judges. The AFR BOSS magazine’s article stated that "The 2017 cohort showed emotional maturity, highly developed resilience and genuine passion and care for their business, teams and the community around them.”

“Never before have people practices been as important as they are now,” explains Hayes. “We’re entering a period of dramatic change in which it will take a very different toolkit of skills to thrive in a globally disrupted marketplace.

“Organisations today must take their people on a journey ‒ including embedding an understanding of a new vision for a changing future; retraining, adopting new skills and, in some cases, redeploying them. This is a time in history when human-centric leadership is key.”

Run in association with DDI, Australia’s leading HR consultancy, the awards are Australia’s foremost recognition of aspiring leaders, with finalists facing a rigorous panel of heavyweight business leaders and required to participate in a grueling ‘CEO for a day’ simulation exercise in order to test their mettle.

“I have always said YES to every opportunity presented and my Global Chief People Officer role has definitely been my most challenging yet, but I was keen to make a difference both within Australia and across our global organisation,” says Hayes.

“In the case of Aurecon’s organisation, it has a workforce of 7 000 highly trained professionals successfully delivering huge infrastructure and building projects in over 80 countries.

“For them to be successful in future, we’ll need to ensure they are highly skilled and future ready. Weathering dramatic change starts with developing staff who are able to work with our clients in an era of growing automation, the rise of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, to develop business advantage.”

With the understanding that tomorrow’s customer will have very different expectations to today’s, Hayes has worked closely with his CEO to challenge the business to ask: What will engineering look like in the future? As a member of the CEO’s Future Ready team of nine leaders, his focus has been on the different skills, attributes and technological needs of a future-ready engineering workforce.

“Today, ‘Future Ready’ isn’t merely a buzzword at Aurecon...', says Liam Hayes.Hayes also reached out and engaged with universities, industry groups and other key stakeholders to help drive this workforce-of-the-future change, while leading his Aurecon HR team globally.

Founding Judge Bonnie Boezeman commented in the BOSS article: "The winners had an acute awareness of diversity and inclusion as well as strong communication skills and exemplary clarity of vision.”

The firm continues to attract top international talent, to stay focused on leadership and leadership development and has used a multidisciplinary collaborative culture, to generate diversity of ideas to help drive competitive advantage.

It is an approach that’s winning awards for Aurecon.  Last year, the firm was awarded the 2016 Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) Inclusive Workplace Award less than a week after also winning Engineers Australia’s highest honour: The Sir William Hudson Award for Brisbane's Flood Recovery Ferry Terminals. In June 2017, Good Design Australia awarded the firm its highest achievement, the 'Good Design Award of the year 2017', also for the Brisbane Ferry Terminals’ highly innovative, flood-sensitive design.

This heightened focus on people has also seen Aurecon recognised for its Mind Matters programme when, in 2015, the Australian Human Resources Institute’s (AHRI) distinguished judging panel named it the most outstanding industry contribution to improving awareness, attitudes and understanding of mental health issues among employees in the workplace and the wider community.

Hayes told BOSS magazine: “I realised my skillset extends far beyond traditional human resources skills. HR is often seen as the soft stuff, but this experience confirmed my view that when done well, HR can be the hard stuff.”

“Today, ‘Future Ready’ isn’t merely a buzzword at Aurecon. Experimenting with new service and product offerings that harness the talent of Aurecon’s workforce is ‘business as usual’. It also includes understanding and ensuring our own workforce has the appropriate skills to design and engineer the transport and social infrastructure, as well as the building and energy challenges of the future,” explained Hayes to the judges. And it’s a reality he’s worked very hard to bring to fruition.

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