Tracey McPherson has been the director of human resources for Kuehne+Nagel Australia since May 2018. She has over 20 years of experience in HR, corporate communications, and administration, and is an integral member of the Kuehne+Nagel Australia executive leadership team.
Throughout McPherson’s career, she has led many mergers and acquisitions and played a crucial role in successfully managing change. She has transformed the human resources function to deliver best-practice talent management and development programmes, and in recognition of this, her team was a finalist in the 2013 Australian HR Team of the Year awards.
Prior to Kuehne+Nagel, McPherson worked in BASF as head of HR and organisational development in Australia and New Zealand. Before that, McPherson worked in a telecommunications role in foreign exchange for a major Australian bank, NAB. McPherson is a member of the Australian HR directors forum, Australian Human Resources Institute, and an International Coaching Federation and Korn Ferry executive coach for hi-potentials in Asia Pacific.
She is a graduate of The University of Swinburne in Strategic HR Management (2000) and a graduate of the Melbourne Mt Eliza Business School in HR Business Leadership (2008). Recently, she completed the Australian Company Director’s Course.
What are some of the major challenges and trends that have been impacting the HR industry lately?
According to McPherson, some significant challenges and trends impacting the HR industry lately have been more multi-faceted than in her 20 years in HR.
During the pandemic, she and her team's key challenges included keeping their workforce safe, enabling employees to work remotely, supporting their people's mental health, and encouraging and engaging their staff. Last year, as the world began to return to a new normal following the pandemic, McPherson and her team faced the challenge of anticipating how vital returning to the office has been for employees to reconnect and socialise and realising how important flexible work practices have been and continue to be for the overall good health of the workforce and the business.
Undoubtedly, HR has played a vital role in supporting our employees and customers through ongoing economic challenges and changing environmental or workforce factors. The people challenges and trends have remained around managing how best to anticipate ambiguity and agility when external environmental factors continuously change for our customers and people alike.
In 2021, McPherson was asked how HR “navigated and mitigated the Covid-19 challenges” and the importance of HR’s ability to influence in a time of crisis. Her managing director at the time said, “The way HR has stepped up to the plate during Covid-19 only scratches the surface of the value they add” and that “the value a pro-active, business-minded HR department can provide a business” is seen as crucial for business and cultural success in an organisation. Fast forward to 2023, which is still critical in navigating and mitigating the current trends and challenges.
What keeps you up at night when it comes to some of the major predicaments in the HR industry?
When asked what keeps her up at night regarding some of the significant predicaments in the HR industry, McPherson says it is what is happening in the current talent attraction and retention space. “Our people shape our future–they are our number one asset and will continue to be so in the future too. As a result of this belief, our management looked for alternative strategies to ensure our people remained with us during the global pandemic. We have been in the logistics business for over 130 years, and we know talent retention is vital even during these challenging periods. After all, organisational culture is why people stay and return,” says McPherson.
What are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of the HR industry?
McPherson says she is excited about the industry's future, with the organisation working on real technology improvements with real-time integrated data. In 2022, the company introduced an improved HR system and process and had plans for something bigger and better in 2023. These technological advancements will enable HR managers to read trends better, anticipate how to coach their people and guide the organisation's people strategy through aligned metrics, tools, and dashboards. She believed the new system and process would enable the HR community to support the ongoing business success and our human capital's performance beyond 2023.
"I'm happy that our global people and digitalisation strategies drive these technological and digitisation breakthroughs. It's fascinating to see the future of the Kuehne+Nagel HR community! At the core of HR is enabling our colleagues to leverage these insights faster than ever before and, as a result, be more agile business partners locally and globally.
“We are looking forward to increasing the bar inside our industry from within–now, doesn't that sound like a great company to work for and a great company to work with," says McPherson.