Antonio Climent is Vice President of Human Resources for Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific (EMEAA Region) for Laureate International Universities, and recently visited us in Sydney. On Thursday, October 25, we interviewed him at our head office.
Antonio, what led you to a career in human resources?
I’ve always had a fundamental belief that it’s people and culture that make the difference between a good company and a great company – so human resource management has always felt like a natural area for me to work in.
Before joining Laureate in 2015, I ran my own executive coaching and HR consultancy company across Europe for nine years, while also working part-time as a lecturer at a leading business school. Prior to that, I was Vice President of Human Resources for Southern Europe for PepsiCo, and prior to that, HR Director for Asia Operations for Adidas.
Looking back, there were three reasons why I was incredibly passionate about joining Laureate
- The mission of the company. Helping individuals succeed in education, and having such a positive impact on society was the strongest drawcard. The philosophy of Here for Good resonated strongly with me, as did the promise of creating access to quality higher education around the world.
- I’ve always believed people are our most important resource, and at Laureate, our ‘product’ is the development of people (through quality higher education) – as opposed to consumer goods. This also made Laureate extremely attractive to me.
- My first task would be to support our universities across seven countries in Europe – which were operating independently and to create synergies and promote collaboration between them. I knew this would be a challenging, yet fulfilling, task.
What’s your role with Laureate?
I take the lead on building and implementing the HR strategy and function for Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific – the EMEAA Region. The core objective here is ultimately to become a more effective organisation, working in the most diverse and complex region within the Laureate network. Diversity and Inclusion in this region is something we value deeply and work hard to nurture.
One of the things I’m most proud of is how we have transitioned from a very traditional HR function to an HR partner role, ensuring HR is more strategically, thoughtfully, and pro-actively positioned within and across the company. The feedback I consistently receive from CEO’s and management teams across the region is that this model is working extremely well.
I’m also very proud of the work we have done with 31 high potential leaders across the region (including 10 from Australia and New Zealand). This was the first formal program within the Laureate network for high potential leaders, and it’s great to see these staff moving into more senior positions, and continuing to positively influence the future of our company.
Our talent management, recruitment, compensation and benefits across the region are now aligned with best practice – something else that has taken a great deal of effort and focus.
One of the challenges we continue to face is moving from operating as stand-alone businesses to being an integrated, collaborative, multi-national company.
You’ve spent a lot of time with us in Australia and New Zealand. What have you seen that has inspired you?
I made my first visit to Australia and New Zealand in March 2017. I remember this visit vividly. There were a number of things that immediately stood out to me –
- The size of the operation, and the complexity.
- The combination of multiple business acquisitions, with extremely different cultures. Therefore, the associated challenges with creating a unified brand and culture which results in everyone feeling a sense of connection and belonging.
- The open-mindedness of people in Australia and New Zealand.
- The ability to reinvent the business, and always thinking outside the box.
- A unique, creative and flexible approach to growing the business.
What do you believe are the critical elements for achieving a thriving company culture?
Most importantly, believe in what we do. Walk the talk. Make it real.
All companies have a culture. The challenge is to make sure the culture is real. It needs to be a genuine reflection of the people who are part of the company, and needs to enable people to be successful.
A thriving company culture will only be achieved with a leadership team who truly, and consistently, lead by example. Leaders need to believe in the culture and behave accordingly.
As Torrens University starts to make the promise of ‘Love What You Do’ to prospective students, it’s more important than ever that staff across Laureate Australia and New Zealand also embrace and model this.
What can each individual do to help make this happen, no matter what their position?
Everyone needs to lead by example, not just senior leaders.
Believe in what you’re doing and behave accordingly.
When a decision is made, we must go forward with one voice. When this does not happen, culture can be destroyed.
Learn from other companies. Typically, I find the greatest lessons can come from fast consumer goods, sports and the technology industries (Coke, PepsiCo, Adidas, Nike, Google and Amazon – for example), as well as from startups such as Uber and Alibaba who are breaking traditional models and being bold and creative.
Embrace millennials. Millennials are different. Companies need to adapt to millennials who work for them, not the other way around.
We all need to have fun. If we lose the fun, we lose our magic, and then we lose our people.
What’s your hope for Laureate Australia and New Zealand in 2019 and beyond?
My aspiration for Laureate Australia and New Zealand covers three broad areas
- Growth – This is one part of our network where we are growing in double digits, and we need to do all we can to ensure this continues well into the future.
- Innovation – To become the engine for innovation and growth of Laureate, globally.
- International – 10,000 students from 103 countries is an incredible achievement in just four years. This positions us exceptionally well to continue to become a hub for students from around the world.
To achieve this, we must ensure we are student-focused, we need an effective organisational structure, we must continue to ‘Simplify the Business’ by eliminating complexity and inefficiency, and we need to continue to strive to become a more agile organisation.
Finally, what message would you like to send to our HR team in Australia and New Zealand?
This is a brilliant team, and they really do make great work happen. Despite turbulence and complexity, the delivery and commitment of this team is amazing. This is a team I respect and value greatly, and I know I can consistently count on them to deliver well above expectation.
For all of these reasons, my message is simply, thank you.
Antonio was recently featured in HRO Magazine – one of the most widely read and globally respected publications for HR professionals. You can access this edition (with Antonio on the cover) here.
You can reach Antonio at firstname.lastname@example.org
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