After his first six months with Interflow as an intern, promising young engineer Matt Cremona was offered a place in a program that would introduce him to all parts of the business.
“It was all about experience and opportunity,” Cremona, now Delivery Manager at Interflow, says.
“I was given the opportunity to rotate around different divisions, for six months to a year each, within the organisation. I spent some time with operations, asset creation, repairs and maintenance, product development and tendering.”
Most valuable, Cremona says, were the relationships he developed during that time with people in various parts of the business. The strong connections he has built across the business has helped his career ever since.
“Having those relationships meant that when I was given opportunities in other divisions, I could rely on those relationships to help me in my new roles,” he says.
That was 13 years ago. Interflow’s approach was built on Bill’s passion for developing his people to be their best and formalised more recently as the H J Weaver Development Program.
“The program is all about supporting and developing people over the years by creating a business environment that encourages, enables and supports learning,” says Fiona Warnock, Interflow’s People and Capability Business Partner.
“It’s looking not only at the entry level. It’s also about our existing team members. One gentleman who is in his late 30s or early 40s was a supervisor in the field and is now wanting to do a mature-age heavy vehicle mechanic apprenticeship. So we’re supporting him to do a four-year apprenticeship through TAFE.”
More like an education assistance policy than a pure graduate program, the HJ Weaver Program is made up of two streams that promote learning and development at every level, Warnock says.
One is for the business’s interns, undergraduates and graduates. The other focuses on existing team members who want to develop or change their careers.
Chosen education programs are eligible for funding, including fees, textbooks and union fees. For the graduate, that can represent an investment of over $30,000 in their professional education.
“Many businesses offer rotations into various departments or programs,” Warnock says. “But this financial support for education programs, on top of coaching, rotations, mentoring and other development opportunities, are a real value add for our people.”
In this employment environment, Warnock says, it’s vital that businesses planning for growth are also putting internal talent development structures in place to ensure the future growth can be supported.
“It’s no secret that there are great challenges in recruitment,” she says. “You can’t always find someone who has all the necessary skills. So, we want to develop people and have a pipeline of talent that will help enable our growth trajectory.” “At the same time, when people realise they are a vital part of that growth story, when they realise they’re valued and are being nurtured and developed, that’s what makes them want to stay with us.”
The most important steps in the evolution of the HJ Weaver Development Program have been the analysis of what types and levels of talent the business will require over the next five to eight years, and the creation of a talent map that informs the business of what it has in place right now.
Then, there has been a framework built around how the program works, ensuring there are clear channels in which people can request, report on and record progress within specific educational programs.
“My aim has been to provide rigour and a structure around how it works,” Warnock says. “We first had to understand what the business needs and what we have in place.”
The next step comes from mid-year and annual performance reviews, during which a development plan is discussed. Development opportunities that are identified during those reviews are then run by the individual’s line manager and the Executive General Manager.
“It also needs to be in line with the skills needed for the future of the business. But if it’s beneficial to the person and also to the business, then we’ll absolutely look at it,” Warnock says.
There is great longevity at Interflow in terms of average employment periods. Part of this is explained by the fact that the business demonstrably values its people, putting its money where its mouth is.
“It really does create a personal touch, a sense of investment in the individual,” Warnock says. “Education can be very powerful in a person’s life. I have a 23-year-old son, so I feel strongly about this.”
The program made a measurable difference in Cremona’s life.
“It felt pretty special,” he says. “I was given an opportunity to set myself up in terms of career and development.”
A lot of other graduates he’d gone to university with were struggling to find careers or job opportunities while he was being developed through the HJ Weaver Development Program, he recalls. “But I had that security,” Cremona says. “As I graduated I was also being exposed to different avenues, different divisions and different relationships.”