Carolyn Noumertzis, Head of People, Jetstar

Head of People is a great job title – is the omission of ‘HR’ intentional?

Carolyn NoumertzisYes it is actually. In our businesses we talk about 'people' - creating careers for people, engaging people, and getting the best from people.

Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka is one of only two female CEOs in global aviation. What is your view on the ongoing debate about getting more women on Australian boards?

I think Jetstar has done a good job appointing women to senior roles because we decided to be good at it. We've got Jayne Hrdlicka as our group CEO and Miyuki Suzuki is CEO, Jetstar Japan. The Qantas Group as a whole is committed to being an equal opportunity employer with women in senior positions across the board. Allan Joyce, for example, has three female executives in a team of eight. It is a conscious effort to achieve gender balance and diversity in our workforce. It means we can better understand our customers and canvass lots of different points of view.

The rise of the contingent workforce is a big change in the Australian workforce in recent years. What is Jetstar's strategy around temporary and contract staff?

An airline is an incredibly flexible business that is always changing. The routes we're flying, what our schedule looks like and the destinations we're travelling to change regularly based customer needs and preferences. Even at our seasonal peaks, we're primarily a leisure airline. We're travelling when the Australian public wants to go on holidays most, so our staffing levels fluctuate. Access to a contingent workforce allows us to respond to those needs with the maximum flexibility and keep our fares low.

How has Jetstar's use of temporary and contract staff changed over time?

I think the relationships we have with those staff has changed. We've recently started offering staff travel benefits to some of our key providers and their employees because the way we see it, they're part of the Jetstar family. We expect our staffing partners to performance manage and recruit the way we do – so temporary and contract staff feel just like any other Jetstar employee. When you put on the Jetstar uniform, the customer doesn't care who you are employed by. They need to feel they're dealing with one brand, one culture, one set of policies and procedures.

Being responsible for people's job satisfaction is serious business.  What keeps you awake at night?

A key focus is helping people understand what engagement means. We run regular engagement surveys and have an engagement action plan based on the feedback. We're determined it won't end up stuck it in a drawer somewhere - this plan is a living, breathing document to ensure we're always talking about engagement. We talk about how the projects and initiatives we deliver can improve engagement, as well as how we can do things in a more engaging way. We make sure frontline managers are debriefed on the results which are also published on our intranet and out in the ports.

Some things actually do keep me awake at night...

I play another role in the business - as an executive customer manager. When we have a disruption or cancellation, this means someone in the executive team is thinking about what it means for the customer and how we're going to recover that flight. I'll also get involved if an issue arises in relation to the safety and security of our operating crew - at any time of the day or night.

Jetstar seems to be associated with fun. How do you foster playfulness in your employee culture and throughout the recruitment and on-boarding process?

When we launched Jetstar Hong Kong, everyone in our network got to crack open fortune cookies to celebrate. For the Japan launch, it was a paper plane competition. We recently had StarKids Day on the airlines, and we had special T-shirts for the cabin crew. An overwhelming number of people wanted to wear those T-shirts; we didn't have enough of them. One of the cabin crew was doing the chicken dance in the aircraft because a customer promised to donate money if they did!

There's plenty of fun at work, but our travel benefits provide the most amazing opportunities to have fun and see the world. My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary in New York (sans children) followed by a family trip to Phuket- to make it up to them!

Can you tell us about any interesting or unusual happenings on a Jetstar flight?

We held a Powderfinger concert at 38,000 feet – that was pretty unusual. We had a customized Powderfinger plane which they used for their Australian tour. There were decals on the outside so the whole plane was wrapped in their logo. We've also had in-flight proposals and we were lucky enough to fly Princess Mary to Tasmania on her trip home in 2011.

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