Shaping the people and culture future - Meet Clarissa Fraser

The way many of us work today is significantly different from how we worked four or five years ago. For many, hybrid working is the norm, while the much-talked-about, and very real, war on talent means businesses need to create employment opportunities and experiences that encompass far more than the day-to-day role and responsibilities.

Leading Northrop’s People and Culture initiatives is Clarissa Fraser.

After joining the company in January 2022 as an HR Advisory Lead, Clarissa, who spent more than 15 years in HR roles primarily in the professional services arena, successfully applied for the new People and Culture Manager role in August 2022.

The position offered the opportunity to work directly with the business leaders and to help Northrop realise its potential.

“Culture is the bread and butter of a business,” says Clarissa, who moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and is based out of Northrop’s Brisbane office.

“It starts with what people do and how they do it, but it also includes why people do what they do.

“Our culture sets the framework for everything we do every day – if you don't have a healthy culture, you've probably got a low-performing business. Equally, if you've got a great culture, the business should be flying because people are more satisfied and remain energised and positively contributing within the business.”

Creating a consistent, multi-office culture

With ten offices across four states and territories, developing a consistent culture across each location is challenging, however, Clarissa says it’s all about the underpinning values.

“We’ve got our four values – we build relationships, we empower, we develop and we care – and that anchors everything we do, everywhere. From that perspective, it’s about working with our local leaders to ensure that behaviours align with our values.”

“However, it’s also important to recognise that each office is on its own journey, may have different focuses, and have its own local personality, so what’s important is maintaining and fostering that individual flare, whilst coming together as one big team, living and breathing the same set of values and fostering the same culture.”

To better understand how employees feel about the business, and what they want from their careers, Clarissa is working on the roll-out of an employee engagement survey tool.

“Our people are our most valuable asset, so making sure they feel heard and valued is crucial. We’re also reviewing our reward and recognition scheme, with the goal of empowering managers and rewarding value-aligned behaviours.”

Creating a pipeline of future Northrop employees

In the past, recruitment was relatively straightforward. Place a job ad, wait for responses, and pick the best.

Today, it’s a far more proactive process, with connections being made and conversations taking place continuously to build the pipeline of potential employees.

Three talent specialists have been added to Clarissa’s team, with a remit of identifying the best talent out there.

“It's a war for talent within most industries, and especially within engineering, so it's about proactively reaching out to candidates who may not actually be looking for a role and showing them why they should be interested in an opportunity at Northrop,” explains Clarissa.

There are many ‘boxes to tick’ for every potential hire, from experienced engineers to university graduates.

From showcasing the exciting and diverse range of projects Northrop works on, to the direct access to business leaders and potential career development, Clarissa’s team works hard to paint an attractive – and realistic – picture of what working at Northrop would look like.

“The challenge we've got is some people know us really well in certain industries and locations, while in others, this is still a work in progress. While this may be a challenge, the Talent team also see this as an exciting opportunity. We believe in our brand and our culture, which makes Northrop an easy sell” she says.

“We’re also currently reviewing our brand and marketing. As this project progresses and we've got a clearer idea of what it looks like, we can really start to push the employee value proposition further to attract and retain great talent, which is really exciting.”

The importance of retaining talent

Of course, while Northrop is taking a proactive approach to recruitment, so too are other firms – meaning that it’s imperative for Northrop to be a place people want to stay, as well as join.

“You’ve got to be authentic and real about the opportunity as well as the challenges that come with it. Not everyone will thrive in the same environment and culture, so being upfront and transparent during the recruitment process is important for both hiring and retaining the right people.” Clarissa says.

One of the aspects that emerged from the pandemic that people value enormously is flexible working, and Northrop’s ‘where you work best’ approach is focused on getting the best outcomes from individuals, the teams they are part of and the clients that they support.

“We have a flexible approach to where people work from, and ultimately it’s up to the local manager to implement what works best for them and the individual, although most people do a mix of days in the office and from home each week.”

There’s still work to be done. However, the Northrop values of building relationships, empowering and developing people, and caring, will guide everything the business does, particularly when it comes to attracting the right people – and keeping hold of them, too.



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