How Foxtel breeds innovation through its people

Developing and moving talent around in Foxtel is a natural process, according to Emma Hogan

An ability to be agile in fast-changing markets can be hard for larger organisations, and the journey for Foxtel over the past few years have been particularly challenging from a workforce perspective, according to its director of customer service & installations, Emma Hogan.

As Foxtel has grown and diversified, it has brought in other skills in the form of digital and broadband capability, as well as in sales, service and marketing capability, said Hogan, who previously served as executive director of people & culture for more than seven years.

“You can never throw the baby out with the bathwater, but you do have to bring in relevant skills to help you gain or maintain an edge in the next stage of whatever your competition is – and I think we’ve been quite good at that. Foxtel is of a size where it can provide people with diverse opportunities,” she said.

“Some of the competitors in the VOD space, for example, would be much smaller businesses. So they might get maybe more diversity in their role itself, but the opportunity to progress and move might not be the same.”

“You do have to bring in relevant skills to help you gain or maintain an edge in the next stage of whatever your competition is”

In the world of pay TV, subscription video on demand (SVOD) providers such as Netflix and Stan have joined industry incumbent Quickflix to challenge existing business models, and IBISWorld has forecast that SVOD revenues will grow at a compound annual rate of 14.5 per cent over the next five years.

Developing and moving talent around in Foxtel is a natural process, according to Hogan, who said that talented people tend to get noticed in an environment in which change and challenge are constants.

“Because there is a focus on innovation internally, we recognise when people are good on a specific project and say ‘you were really good on that, how about we put you on this?’ So we don’t necessarily have a super formal way of managing talent, but we organically do talent placement quite well,” she said.

“So I think we’ve been deliberately putting the right skill set, right people in the right roles, as well as organically giving people opportunities where we know that it could work.”

Shifting from HR to the line
Hogan took on the role of executive director of customer service & installations in March this year, and she said that taking someone out of a people & culture role and placing them into a bigger leadership position has been a positive move in a number of ways.

“I think it was seen as a positive for Richard Freudenstein, as the CEO, in thinking outside the box and having the faith that an exec could do a completely different role,” said Hogan.

“My experience in the company has helped me get up to speed quicker too. But the people and culture role is more wide, and a couple of inches deep, while my new role is not as wide but super deep. I’m reading more data than I’ve ever read before, but it’s been really exciting.”

One step which Hogan says was important in her new role was not to make any changes for the first 100 days, and to listen, learn and ask questions for the first 60 days.

“Given I’ve been with the company a long time, I think it would have been really easy to come in and say ‘right, fix this, fix that, move this, move that, this is what I want done’ – and that was tempting, but I think that would have been a mistake,” she said.

“It’s kind of like the difference between watching a movie and reading the book. The book always had so much more detail in it.

“The people and culture role is more wide, and a couple of inches deep, while my new role is not as wide but super deep”

“So I’ve watched this movie for quite some time, but now I have to actually take the time to read the book and understand all the chapters and the characters and what went into it, before I think about doing anything differently.”

Hogan said she made a very conscious decision not to be the people & culture director anymore, but she acknowledges that she knows how to utilise a people & culture team better than anyone else.

“I know who’s in that team, I know what everybody’s capable of and I know who can help me, so I will absolutely use that to my advantage,” she said.

“I think the trick for me will be to truly model what a business partnering relationship should be.”

For the full interview with Hogan and story about Foxtel’s leadership journey, see the next issue of Inside HR magazine. Photo: Scott Ehler