Meet the team: Introducing Frances Hughes
Celebrating her 20th year at Wormald, Human Resources Director, Frances Hughes, has had a rewarding career describing her journey so far as like “being blind folded and put on a roller coaster”!
Frances sits across Human Resources (HR), Environment Health and Safety (EHS) and Industrial Relations (IR), which keeps her on her toes. While she continues to learn and embrace new challenges, she takes safety at Wormald very seriously, identifying complacency as one of the biggest challenges facing the fire protection workforce today.
In our latest blog, Frances shares her career journey and some of the traits that she believes make Wormald an employer of choice.
You’re celebrating 20 years at Wormald, can you tell us how you came to work for the business?
Prior to joining Wormald, I was working as the national HR lead for a construction and service based mechanical and electrical company that primarily focused on HVAC services. This role was a natural fit for me given my previous career history although, as fate would have it, on the same day I was offered this position, after what had been a lengthy recruitment process, I found out I was pregnant!
After taking a short period of maternity leave, I was asked to move into a different business division to help resolve some people related issues, and shortly thereafter was approached by the then general manager of the fire division to join his team. The rest, as they say, is history… although I recall paying for the coffee as the GM left his wallet in the office.
How would you describe your career so far?
Like being blind folded and put on a roller coaster! I’m constantly learning and facing new experiences and challenges which keep me on my toes.
While I started out in an Australian-based role, I eventually took on responsibilities for New Zealand which then led to a broader regional remit across the Asia Pacific region. One day, as I was sitting in my office, I received a call from the company’s head office in the United States. There were serious people related legal issues in Korea and I was asked to travel to Korea to help resolve these matters. It was snowing heavily when I arrived and there I was, in a court room with an English translator and no knowledge of local laws or customs. Talk about learning on the fly!
The next few years were a huge learning curve as I worked in different countries, becoming familiar with new and very different cultures and labour laws while managing client and business needs. After a few years of spending far too much time in airports and on planes, I returned to a Pacific based role which allowed me to spend more time with my family.
I was extremely fortunate to be offered my current position with Wormald following its sale from Tyco in 2016. The role has allowed me to use my skills, be a part of the senior management team and increase my involvement in safety.
What have been some of your biggest achievements while working for Wormald?
Over the last few years, I have learnt more about the overall business, rather than just HR. I was part of the senior leadership team involved in the sale of the Wormald business from Tyco and our establishment as a standalone business has been a significant achievement. It was a very challenging period, and I don’t think anyone understands just how much time and effort was invested by a small team into getting Wormald to where it is today.
How important is culture in the workplace and how does Wormald help foster this?
We always hear that people are our biggest asset and this is very true. Without the great team that we are fortunate to have, we would not have been able to remain one of the industry leaders for as long as we have and be at the forefront of the fire and security industry.
Our values drive our culture – the environment in which we work. By focusing on zero harm (more on this later), together with our ongoing pursuit of superior levels of customer service, not accepting anything less than 100% compliance with our ethical requirements and working together as a team, we make Wormald what it is – a brand that we are proud to be associated with.
I am very lucky to have an amazing team of HR, IR and EHS professionals supporting the initiatives that drive our culture.
What are some of the traits you look for when recruiting? Have the skill sets required by fire protection technicians changed in recent years?
First and foremost, I look for passion and a willingness to “have a go”. I would much rather hire someone who has these qualities and needs a bit more experience in the specifics of their position as those factors can be taught. Passion and willingness – you either have them or you don’t.
Regardless of our positions, we all need to keep up with the changing world. Whether that be technical, products, computer literacy, customer service or the like, we can no longer solely rely on our core skill sets – our customers demand the complete package.
You also oversee EHS at Wormald, can you explain how important this is to the organisation?
Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is our number one priority. There is nothing whatsoever, under no circumstances, that is more important than keeping our team and those we deal with safe and well.
Twice in my career, I have been involved in telling a family that their loved one isn’t ever coming home, and the team that their colleague didn’t make it. On another occasion, I held an employee trapped by both his arms up to his shoulders in a printing machine. I frequently think of the “what if’s”.
On each of these occasions, it was a small mistake or oversight that resulted in the permanent and significant disability or the fatalities. All were so easily avoidable, but we can’t redo time. We have to get it right each and every time.
What do you feel are the biggest safety issues or challenges when it comes to workplace safety in the fire protection industry?
Given how experienced many of our team are, I would say complacency. Saying, “I have done it this way for years and nothing has ever happened to me”. Until it does, and by then it’s too late. Sometimes, it isn’t until there is a consequence for our actions (or inaction) that we stop and pay extra attention.
What initiatives do you have in place to help foster better safety amongst Wormald employees?
Our initiatives include our safety training programs, tool box talks and safety alerts that allow us to learn from incidents. The Wormald 5 app enables hazard identification and risk assessment to be conducted “live” before works starts. We have a strong reporting culture and our investment in a national team of EHS experts to provide us with their technical expertise and support.
What do you enjoy doing in your downtime, do you have any special interests or hobbies?
When I am not working, I like to spend time with my family. I am an avid reader of almost anything as long as it isn’t crime, have recently discovered the joys of Netflix and love to spend time at Hallidays Point on the mid north coast of NSW.