Universities HR Benchmarking Conference

Leadership and Culture

3 & 4 September 2019
Hyatt Hotel Canberra, Australia

Conference Topics

Pre-Conference Monday 2 September 2019




10:00am – 4:00pm

HR Benchmarking Workshop

“Influencing Workforce Strategies with Data”

Are your benchmarking reports regularly referred to, or do they sit on the shelf?

Is your workforce data used to make evidence-based decisions regarding your university’s workforce profile, its policies, its leadership and its culture?

This interactive workshop, facilitated by Sarah Wood, who has extensive experience of workforce planning and workforce strategy in universities, will explore how you may be able to more actively use your workforce data in influencing and shaping workforce strategies and policies for your university.

Focusing on a range of the reports produced by the AHEIA Universities HR Benchmarking Program, this session will provide you with some practical tips and tools to support you in your conversations with your university’s decision-makers. The workshop will also include opportunities for you to practise unpacking and more deeply analysing workforce data and how to incorporate this into a business case for change.

Another bonus is the opportunity to network with your colleagues throughout the session as the sharing of data stories, experiences and ideas will be encouraged. You will also create some clear next steps for action to go away with.


Sarah Wood
Director of Consulting Services
Brockhurst Consulting


Centenary Room 1
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

12:00pm - 5:00pm HR Directors Forum

Centenary Room 2
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra

6:00pm - 7:30pm

Welcome drinks and registration
(Sponsored by UniSuper)

Rose Courtyard & Terrace
Hyatt Hotel, Canberra


Conference Day 1 - Tuesday 3 September 2019

8:30am - 8:45am

Welcome and opening remarks

Stuart Andrews
Executive Director, AHEIA

8:45am - 9:30am

Keynote Address 1


Professor Deep Saini
Vice-Chancellor and President
University of Canberra

9:30am  - 10:30am

Plenary Session 2

Harnessing customer centric thinking to drive change and transformation

As a leader in Service Improvement, Business and Digital Transformation at the Australian National University, Lakshmi has worked to build a high-performing organizational culture that enables her team to achieve amazing results, through the power of creating an environment filled with passionate and positive energy that inherently promotes a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration.  Lakshmi is working to steer that energy to the wider University and transform the service experience culture for all.

Topics covered will include:

  • Putting the customer at the centre of all that we do;
  • Valuing and respecting people in the process; and
  • Leveraging data to drive decision making.

Lakshmi West
Director, Service Improvement Group
Australian National University

10:30am - 10:50am

Morning tea

Ballroom Gallery

10:50am - 11:50am

Plenary Session 3

Driving cultural change through workforce analytics

In this session, Adina will share with you:

  • Identifying strategic cultural capability gaps through workforce data analysis and analytical modelling;
  • Designing and implementing effective workforce management and organisational responses;
  • Engaging senior executives to drive cultural change (case study and practical tips) through business-aligned workforce planning processes; and
  • Realising and quantifying the benefits of cultural change.

Adina Leu
Assistant Director,
Workforce Planning and Analytics
Australian Financial Security Authority

11:55am - 12:50pm

Plenary Session 4

Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy

Professor Simon Maddocks
Vice-Chancellor and President
Charles Darwin University

1:00pm - 2:00pm

(Sponsored by Mercer)

Promenade Cafe

2:00pm - 2:45pm

Concurrent Session 1A




Concurrent Session 1B


Drew Davidson
Industry Leader, Higher Education
Rivor Advisory

Oliver Whiteley
Senior Advisor, Education
Rivor Advisory

2:55pm - 3:40pm

Concurrent Session 2A

Transforming culture through leadership and the way we work

In this session, Zemeel and Chole will share with you:

  • Strategy and culture – the La Trobe journey
  • Bringing culture to life through the way we work
  • Mobilising our people – the good, the bad and the ugly:
    • Two tribes, one culture
    • The road so far and how the dial is shifting
    • Lessons learned
  • Sneak peak: Where to from here?
    • Two innovative programs:
      • Cultural Influencers
      • Gender Diversity in Leadership


Zemeel Saba
Director, Culture, Diversity and Inclusion
La Trobe University

Chole Hall
Manager, Performance, Leadership and Capability
La Trobe University

Concurrent Session 2B

Women in Leadership



3:40pm - 4:00pm

Afternoon tea

Ballroom Gallery

4:10pm - 5:00pm

Plenary Session 5

Strategic Talent Acquisition in Universities

In this sesison, Vikki will share with you the following key issues:

  • Recruitment and Talent Acquisition, is there a difference?
  • What does this mean for internal talent teams?
  • Getting to know your academic colleagues
  • Focus on interdisciplinary hires
  • How do we do it?

Vikki Hartley
Director, Higher Education Practice
Mercer Australia

5:00pm - 5:10pm


Stuart Andrews
Executive Director, AHEIA

6:30pm - 10:30pm

Conference Dinner – Old Parliament House
(Sponsored by Voice Project)

Guest Speaker:
Professor Tom Calma AO
University of Canberra


Conference Day 2 - Wednesday 4 September 2019

8:45am - 8:50am


Stuart Andrews
Executive Director, AHEIA

8:50am - 9:40am

Plenary Session 6

Thriving during Disruption: The Critical Role of HR

Technology changes, demographic changes, shifts in public expectations and changes in government philosophy all suggest that the delivery of education is likely to be radically different 10 years from now compared to 10 years ago.  Given this landscape university performance will be closely tied to the development and support of workforces that have the capacity to support new innovations. Drawing on prior and on-going research, Professor Williamson will discuss how university HR practices can support the implementation of an innovation agenda in universities. 

Professor Ian Williamson
Pro Vice-Chancellor
Dean of Commerce
Victoria Business School
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

9:45am - 10:45am

Plenary Session 7


Creating a Data Driven Culture – Stories from Microsoft’s journey

In this session, Ray will share stories about the road ahead for the sector, what the impact of digital transformation will be, and examples of what it looks like. He will also share details about the cultural journey that Microsoft itself has been on to become better at data-led decision making, and the impact of that on the organisation 

Ray Fleming
Higher Education Industry Director
Microsoft Australia

10:45am - 11:05am

Morning tea

Ballroom Gallery

11:05am - 11:55am

Plenary Session 8

Panel Discussion

Liam Ackland
Managing Director APAC Acendre

Panel Speakers:

11:55am - 12:45pm

Plenary Session 9

The future of HR in a disruptive era

In this session, Natalie will discuss:

  • HR as a value add function;
  • HR in a world of technology and disruption; and
  • ‚ÄčThe future of work and HR.

Natalie Thomson
Human Resources Director
Merlin Entertainment

12:45pm - 2:00pm

(Sponsored by Acendre)

Promenade Cafe

2:00pm - 2:50pm

Plenary Session 10

Driving successful change: Insights from the winner of the 2019 AHEIA/Voice Project Award for organisational change

  • Since 2014 AHEIA and Voice Project have partnered to recognise universities achieving substantial positive change. Past winners of the award include Newcastle, UTS, Deakin and Swinburne.
  • The 2019 award goes to the university achieving the highest level of positive change in an Australian university, assessed using repeated employee surveys.

A key representative of the university will share insights into the role of HR and senior leaders in successfully driving a transformative change agenda while keeping employees onside and engaged.


Dr Peter Langford
Director, Voice Project

2:50pm - 3:00pm


Stuart Andrews
Executive Director, AHEIA

Disclaimer: This conference program is confirmed at the date of marketing.  However, AHEIA reserves the right to make changes to this program at any time as circumstances dictate.  Speakers and topics were confirmed at the time of publishing; however, circumstances beyond the control of organisers may necessitate substitution, alternation or cancellations of the speakers and/or topic.  Every effort will be made to ensure any unavoidable changes provide a program of equivalent standard and value.