Leading wellbeing with passion and purpose at Telstra

My time at Telstra has been packed with an abundance of opportunities.
Sharon Tan · 11 November 2022 · 5 minute read

When I joined in 2018, I was brought in to work with the Head of Talent Acquisition (TA) to transform Telstra’s TA operating model. Together as a team, we set up a new team, new operating model, created a new TA strategy, looked at our global model to ensure we have the right team in place beyond just Australia, and drove our employee value proposition (EVP) and branding.

In January 2021, I took on the Product Owner of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). I was tasked with managing one of the biggest projects at Telstra, bringing all licensees’ stores back under the Telstra umbrella. The other large acquisition that the mission and I worked on was Digicel, looking at highly confidential pieces of work and opportunities to expand the Telstra growth engine. It was a huge 12 months!

In January this year, I jumped at the opportunity to take on an operational senior leadership role as the Service Delivery Principal in People and Workplace Services. I manage four core lines of business: international HR, international property, workplace strategy and EVP, and people solutions. It’s an incredibly varied portfolio, but at its core, it’s all about the heart and soul of the employee journey, looking at all services and touch points along the way, and ensuring that people have an exemplary employment experience at Telstra.

Over the last four years, I love that Telstra has enabled me to have three very diverse jobs to constantly grow, learn and create something new.

Fostering open conversations about wellbeing

I’m very close to my family, so losing my Dad in 2008 and then my Mum five years ago hit me really hard. Despite having a successful career and knowing the best approach to take in my professional life, I felt like a complete failure for not having the answers in my personal life. I ultimately realised that I wasn’t coping.

I sought professional help, and while it took quite some time before I started to feel like myself again, I now realise that I was being very hard on myself and needed time to grieve and process this huge change in my life.

From this experience, I am a huge advocate of leaders being open and transparent when they’re not doing well, and inviting those conversations within their team.

Being able to have an honest chat with your manager or colleague about what is going on outside of work brings about the most amazing conversations and sharing of life stories. You feel so much stronger knowing you’re not alone and have a supportive group around you.

Mental wellbeing is incredibly important and I am passionate about helping leaders learn how to ask supportive questions, share coping tips and strategies, and know when to seek professional help.

A culture of genuine care, connection, and support

I think one of the unique things about Telstra’s culture is the openness of discussions about mental health and wellbeing. People genuinely care and check in on their managers, colleagues, and team members if something is different or doesn’t feel right.  Its OK to not be OK sometimes and being able to talk about it.

On a fundamental level, we have a number of fantastic support structures in place. Telstra’s Work Life Coaching (WLC) program provides professional EAP and counselling support services for all employees and their families worldwide.

Additionally, our Thrive program offers tailor-made, practical strategies to help our people build resilience, take care of themselves, and support others.

Creating personalised and impactful wellbeing initiatives

We have a range of wellbeing initiatives across Telstra, but three of my favourites are wellness hours, Thankful Thursdays, and STEPtember.

Wellness hours are all about prioritising time in our week to do something that brings us joy. It might be taking a walk, hosting a podcast, or doing a yoga class. From a capacity planning standpoint, it’s all about honouring the importance of that activity, locking it into the calendar, and having everyone in the team conscious and respectful of that important “me” time.

Another ritual in my team is that every Thursday is Thankful Thursday. We all take a moment to think of someone (or a group of people) who have made this week easier for us and we acknowledge them with a thank you or a small note of gratitude. We all have it in our diaries so that it makes us stop, reflect on the past week, and give a shout-out to the people who have helped along the way.

We have all just come off the back of STEPtember, supporting our team member Kylie Powell from Western Australia whose son has cerebral palsy. One of my superpowers is relationship-building, so the recruiter and networker in me put out the word and we’ve had over 400 people involved. Collectively, we’ve raised over $180,000!

One small chat with a team member can make such a big difference in their life. Through daily photos and updates, we’ve all learnt more about each other as well as Kylie’s son’s journey and his exercises. It’s become so much more than just doing STEPtember – we’re supporting Kylie and we’ve galvanised a village of support along the way.

Want to join an inclusive environment where talented people with a broad range of skills, experiences, beliefs, and backgrounds can all thrive together? Explore open roles at Telstra

By Sharon Tan

Service Delivery Principal

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