As Xero’s Chief People Officer, Rachael Powell is working at the frontline of innovation, technology and people. It’s her ambidextrous background, with roles across accounting, marketing and talent management as well as her unique approach to people management that landed her the role at Xero in early 2016. It’s also what makes her a perfect judge for the SEEK Annual Recruiter Awards (SARA).
Powell is driven to stretch and improve herself at every turn. She started out as a graduate accountant with a business degree but always had broader career horizons, taking on challenging roles across business development, marketing, consulting, recruitment, talent management and people experience.
Today, the mother-of-three has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA), a Bachelor in Business (Accounting and Marketing) and is close to completing a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology.
Currently working in the tech sector, a constantly changing and volatile industry, Powell knows it’s crucial to think outside the square. When it comes to recruiting the right people for Xero, the people experience and talent team needs to think about this through multiple lenses. What’s valuable is that she understands things from both the client and recruiter’s perspective.
After spending several years as an Associate Director of a boutique recruitment firm, Powell says it helped her understand the complexity from the client’s and recruiter's perspective. “I worked with an array of organisations, from start-ups to multinationals and across a wide range of industries, so I understand their needs and how important it is to get the right people to help you grow your business - both from an aptitude, and culture fit perspective.”
Powell believes that in today’s complex and fast changing environment a new breed of recruiter is required. They need to be innovative and challenge much of what has been the traditional role of recruiters where it’s more transactional and just about finding candidates to fill jobs.
“I really believe that today no matter what industry recruiters are working in they need to have a repertoire of skills which include knowing how to tap into a passive talent marketplace, thinking longer term, focusing on relationship building, and importantly digging deeper than what’s outlined in a candidate's CV and the company job description,” she says.
“This requires a flexible approach, highly-tuned emotional intelligence, and importantly, a commitment to the time and effort to understand beyond what’s written on paper.
“They need to delve and consider important things like the candidate's aspirations, strengths, and intrinsic motivational drivers. Do they connect with the organisation’s purpose, and have they got the growth mindset and attitude required to succeed?” she says.
“At the other end of the equation they need to understand the commercial strategy of the organisation they are working with, whilst assessing their appetite to think outside the square when it comes to finding the best talent for the job at hand and for the future of the organisation. Both these elements require the recruiter to play the long game with both the candidates and the clients - as only then can a true business partnership exist.”
Finally, Powell also wants to see recruiters are actively making a positive difference in the world. “I am hoping to see recruitment firms who are establishing workplaces that enable their people and teams to flourish,” she says.
“In doing so they are ensuring that they are engaging their workforce in meaningful activities, fostering positive relationships and ultimately giving back to the communities in which they live and work.”