HR & Culture / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Jane Shand, Chief Human Resources Manager at QLD Rugby League

Jane Shand is the Chief Human Resources Manager at QLD Rugby League, where she leads the People & Performance activity at the organisation.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I’d say I’ve had more of a ‘working life’ than a career because I’ve worked in a variety of roles across teaching, banking, publishing, tourism, telecommunications, consulting, disability, education and sport.

I graduated from University in a recession and knew I needed to head overseas to find work. I spent 7 years abroad working abroad, mostly in Tokyo before I returned to NZ in the middle of a further recession.

I left Tokyo because I couldn’t resist the pull of home but it meant I needed to start over. That was an early lesson that you can’t have everything – that it’s important to choose what matters most to you at any given time and prioritise it.

I also realised that I shouldn’t pursue happiness and that it’s an outcome of good decisions and timing – you can’t ‘catch’ it.

When I turned 30 I ran away to join the ski industry. I started as a medical receptionist for $9.80 an hour and six years later was leading the HR function across the largest ski resorts in NZ.

I don’t seek out leadership, I just can’t stomach unfilled potential in people or organisations so tend to sort of jump in and fix things.

COVID-19 has really highlighted where organisations are broken and there is a lot of ‘fixing’ underway as workplaces have had to overhaul their way of working so that it fits with this new paradigm.

Working in the ski industry taught me adaptability and resilience. You didn’t know how your day was going to pan out until 6.00am each morning when you saw the latest weather report.

That level of uncertainty, combined with massive storms, volcanic eruptions, and 1,000 new staff every season is not for everyone. But when you balance it out with getting taken to work on a snowmobile or getting in a few runs on your lunch break it becomes more appealing!

I met my husband working in the Ski Industry and we wanted to start married life with a new adventure so we moved to Australia. He’d always dreamed of watching cricket at the Gabba, so Brisbane is where we landed.

I didn’t understand that people worked within ‘industries’ in Brisbane, and Queensland didn’t have a ski industry which put me at an immediate disadvantage!

It was a difficult three months to even get a foot in the door but that initial feeling of inadequacy was eventually put to bed when I won the ‘Australian HR Manager of the Year’ Award and was a finalist in the Women’s Leadership Awards a couple of years later.

The main attraction of QRL was because it was in an environment about to undergo significant transformation.

I’m the Chief Human Resources Manager and this role gave me the opportunity to work directly with our CEO to create a vision of what was possible and then set about to implement it with our Senior Leadership Team.

That was three years ago and we’re leading the way in so many areas now, not just in sport but organisations across Australia. It’s a great team at QRL and it’s been a phenomenal experience.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Every day in HR can be pretty different because you’re dealing with people and people are unpredictable. Bad things happen to people that impact them deeply and the older I get the more empathetic I become.

Fortunately, we no longer expect staff to ‘leave their personal life at home’ which gives leaders an opportunity to support them in their suffering or share in their celebrations. I feel like I can be quite passionate when things are going well but I’ve been told my superpower is ‘calm’ in times of crisis.

I try to start every morning with yoga which I find stretches my body and slows down my mind (somewhat).

Someone told me once that if you have time you should practice 20 minutes a day, and if you don’t have time you should practice an hour. I don’t have the patience for an hour – I might be able to touch my toes but I’ll never be a true Yogi.

While no work day is ‘normal’, today I talked with one of our Board Directors about the organisation design, workforce planning and budgeting work the Senior Leadership team have done to propose a restructure model for the QRL.

Like many organisations we are needing to reset and are shortly looking to provide some further clarity to our team on what their futures will look like.

After that discussion I reviewed the Dynamic working guidelines we’ve just tested with our whole team. At QRL we’re looking to provide the opportunity to work smarter and more efficiently while embedding flexibility and wellbeing into our work.

Then I discussed learning resources with a potential provider, covering off our women’s leadership program ‘AWE’ (Accelerating Women Executives). I am enormously passionate about progressing the cause of women in leadership and was proud QRL decided to push forward with this program despite the current climate and funding challenges because ‘it’s the right thing to do’.

I then hooked into the weekly all staff ‘Game Plan’ update with our Managing Director and moved onto editing our Domestic and Family Violence Intranet support page.

The event of COVID-19 has meant that employees across Australia who are impacted by domestic and family violence are now facing increased risk. While reporting in Australia has decreased through this period, it is thought likely that this is because reporting is unsafe, not that homes have become safer.

At QRL we have also tracked the physical and mental health of our employees via an app since COVID-19 hit Australia. If an employee raises an alert that day then either myself or our HRBP call that person to see how they’re doing and to provide support where we can.

After that I checked the pay run, had a regular catch-up with one of our Senior Leaders, got grumpy about IT issues with one of my team, sent someone a contract and finally made sure I was prepped for the next day’s meetings before winding up.

It’s too easy to be reactive in HR and just jump from crisis to crisis, but if you’re not constantly focusing on the future while you’re hosing down fires you’re not doing your bit to move the organisation forward.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I work from home one or two days a week at present. Research suggests that generally personal productivity (what we can do on our own) increases when we’re working remotely, but collaborative efficiency (the ability of a team to solve a problem) decreases.

This means that although I am an introvert with a passion for getting stuff done, I also see real benefits in the personal and casual connections an office environment brings, especially in an HR or leadership role.

I also have an agreement for condensed hours which means I can work a nine-day fortnight if I choose to.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think I achieve balance ‘my way’. It might not fit what others call ‘balance’ but I find joy in work so I spend a great deal of time doing it.

I’ll dip into it over the weekend or early morning then go and do other things for a while. It is integrated into my life. When I didn’t have a job for a period of time I studied instead – my brain craves exercise.

I find balance with my work in spending time pursuing my two passions – travelling and watching MotoGP. While travelling opens my mind to other ways of doing things, MotoGP raises my heartbeat.

In MotoGP we see the ultimate high performance through talent and teamwork, constant innovation to pursue better results, calculated risks and stories that take you along for the ride – cold war defections, church bells ringing all night in celebration of a Rossi win, recovery from unimaginable injuries to then win world championships.

Preorder our Daily Routines ebook today! Featuring first-hand interviews, insights and revelations compiled from 50 of the world’s most successful people.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I’ve never been a good sleeper, but an unexpected and welcomed outcome of COVID and lockdown for me was sleeping better. I think it may be a result of less rushing from place to place because we weren’t allowed to go anywhere.

While COVID has been heart-breaking in so many ways, it has also provided a reset for many people who have made meaningful and considered changes to their lives.

Given the avalanche of extra work COVID has provided, I’ve recently started to begin and end my weekend with something just for me, like a tennis lesson or a massage.

The philosophy is that if the bits in the middle aren’t anything special or are filled with chores, then at least they will always be bracketed by something healthy and positive. This tiny action has changed my life by providing regular, scheduled moments of hope and joy.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Malcolm Gladwell is my author of choice – whether it’s his books or podcasts. His form of social commentary provides the reader with an incredulous situation and then takes us on the journey to discover how it happened. He is a magician and anyone with an ounce of curiosity will enjoy his work.

I’m also a fan of Patrick Lencioni because he provides leadership insights via storytelling which makes his messages stick. I believe his work should be a part of any good leadership program.

Because HR needs to be forward-looking, I also subscribe to the HBR because I want to understand what the smart people are thinking, and I prefer my facts backed up by research.

I read the Economist newsletter so I can better understand the global environment and the potential implications to us in Australia. Finally, I receive the daily Women’s Agenda newsletter to stay informed about the difference women are making in work and in our local and global communities.

I always meet one person outside my organisation for a coffee every week. I’m an introvert and loathe networking – but I love coffee and this activity broadens my understanding of life outside my immediate and current focus so I always walk away either feeling like I’ve helped someone or I’ve learned something.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Most mornings I hop on the ‘Yoga with Adriene’ YouTube channel. This woman is a saint – she runs yoga classes for almost seven million subscribers free of charge, and provides gentle reassurance (while you hold a plank pose for way too long) that life is about practice and not perfection.

The other app I can’t do without is Myki. This is a password app that securely stores my passwords to everything, so I don’t have to remember them. Lifesaver.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

My grandmother because she’d provide perspective to the phrase ‘work-life balance’. She was widowed post-war with two young children and worked as librarian while raising my father and his sister.

She died before I appreciated what she had achieved – how she managed her grief, worked and raised her kids in the 1950s while her own family were in Australia.

While it might not reflect the ‘balance’ that people strive for nowadays, I can’t help but think it was even more admirable because it was so selfless, she was alone, she was poor and she never complained. Perspective is the perfect medicine for when we start to feel sorry for ourselves.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Find your own way and don’t take any notice of what ‘people say’, i.e. people say if you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life but the reality is you’re not going to love your work every day.

If you want the rainbow you’ve got to put up with the rain. People say you should work to your strengths but in most jobs, you can’t pick and choose what you do, so you need to develop your weaknesses too.

Remember it’s your life so take the steering wheel: ‘You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.’

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.