Unitywater staff hold a meeting

Unitywater has embarked upon the most significant investment in HR technologies in its nine-year history.

Earmarked as a corporate strategic priority that will transform the working lives of every employee at the water and sewerage utility, program PERFORM will trigger a much-anticipated uplift to the people, finance and procurement functions.

And while PERFORM is tipped to deliver a range of time-saving new digital solutions around training, technology and processes, it is also expected to wholly enrich the people experience (PX) at Unitywater.

“The new suite of human capital tools that we’re investing in will ultimately give us a platform whereby leaders can have greater visibility of the skills and capabilities in their team,” Executive Manager of People, Culture and Safety, Kenan Hibberd, said.

“It will create space for leaders to interact more effectively with their people.

Unitywater Executive Manager People Culture and Safety, Kenan Hibberd

Unitywater Executive Manager People Culture and Safety, Kenan Hibberd

“A leader in the organisation will have information at their fingertips that will help them to have conversations about their team, what they’re doing well and where they are going.

“Right now, on one level, Unitywater is implementing a suite of new HR technologies and tools; but on another level, there’s a functional transformation occurring for HR.

“At the moment we rely on leaders to gather information through paper forms and Excel, but it’s only rear vision and point-in-time data that loses its currency pretty quickly.

“So much time and effort are expended on the collection and preparation of this data that very little time is left to utilise this information and to interact with teams for people to have a better experience and better performance.

“This is the biggest investment we’ve ever made in technology solutions from a people perspective, and I’m excited about the opportunities it will create.”

Mr Hibberd said identifying emerging skills of the future was one of Unitywater’s biggest challenges.

“Previously we have identified numbers of people around business need and accommodating that in a budget process,” Mr Hibberd said.

“Later this year, the organisation will launch a new strategic workforce planning process in partnership with some external providers who will help us build a future-focused framework.

“Technology will change the type of skills that individuals need to work in this organisation into the future, particularly around areas like data analytics and process engineering.

“If we truly want to be more efficient and harness technology for that purpose; and if we want to be safer and create the type of experience people are looking for, we will need to identify and then adjust our training and development mechanisms to support the new skills that are emerging.

“Our strategy has a heavy emphasis on digital transformation to drive efficiencies. I’m looking forward to getting a deeper understanding about the way the skills in our industry are changing. And next year, we’ll build those insights into our people strategies moving forward.”

Unitywater has been able to make some great strides already to enhance the PX – without the aid of technology.

In March 2019, it introduced its Healthy Families parental leave program, which offers industry-leading benefits, support and inclusion.

Unitywater people also benefit from: flexible working arrangements, diversity and inclusion programs, and the ability to spend one paid day per year doing volunteer work.

“People have higher expectations about what they will get when they go to work these days,” Mr Hibberd said.

“Individuals are looking for a more connected, mobile, fast and social experience. It’s about creating a great work experience.

“The opportunity for us is to create a culture where people are supported and open to doing things differently – that’s where innovation, technology and flexible working all come in.

Unitywater Customer Service Officer Anthony in the Contact Centre

Unitywater Customer Service Officer Anthony in the Contact Centre

“We need to embrace these concepts to address a more competitive skills market.

“There is a decline in new entrants to the labour market in Australia. As the population ages, the working participation group diminishes so there is greater competition for new entrants than ever before.

“So Unitywater needs to embrace technology, particularly in its people practices and the way it supports people, if it wants to continue to be an attractive destination for those new entrants.

“Jobs are changing and becoming so specialised so quickly.”

Mr Hibberd said for those businesses feeling like the ground is constantly shifting underfoot, Open Talent Networks was a smart, steadying option.

“An organisation has to recognise it cannot afford to have all of those skills across its process chain in its business all the time.

“You have a core team of internal team members who are critical to aspects of the way you work, and then supplement those team members with additional skills from other specialist providers when and where you need them,” Mr Hibberd said.

“You need your business and people systems to be able to accommodate that movement.

“If we embrace technology effectively, that will allow people in my opinion to have greater choice over where they do work and how they do that work.

“It creates a range of flexibility in their job which will allow them to integrate their work and family life more effectively.

“It can create a greater experience for our team, and it will also allow them to manage their psychological and physical well-being more effectively, so that’s a big plus for us.”

Enriching the PX at Unitywater

  • Program PERFORM to transform people, procurement and finance systems
  • Strategic workforce planning to identify emerging skills of the future
  • Safety programs: lone worker protection; injury reduction, especially musculoskeletal; ARC flash risk minimisation
  • Safety technology: Intelex app, Maximo-Intelex integration
  • Industry-leading Healthy Families parental leave program
  • One paid volunteer day per year
  • Flexible work arrangements

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications.
Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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