Talking courage with a Global Head of People Experience

~3 minute read

Georgia Murphy-4682Georgia Murphy joined IDP Education in April 2009 and now holds the Global Head of People Experience for the Group.

Prior to joining the Company, Georgia served in senior human resources management roles where she was responsible for the management of complex, multi-site human resources operations, organisation development, strategic planning and change management.

Georgia holds a Masters in Business from Victoria University of Technology, a Graduate Diploma in Organisation Development from Deakin University and a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT.

Join us as Georgia shares her stories of courage past and present.

How would you describe workplace courage?

To me workplace courage is fundamentally about having the inner strength to act and do what you believe is right for both an individual and the organisation. Being in the HR profession this can sometimes be a difficult balancing act and heavily influenced by the context of the operating environment.

Across the industries I have worked in I have witnessed many people act courageously, sometimes considering the potential personal cost from raising an issue or taking an action, and other times not!

In my current role, I see it through people taking stands on principles they believe in.

In my earlier roles I saw it manifest through individuals acting at great personal risk to save the lives of others, at times paying the ultimate price for their bravery, but in doing so saving the lives of thousands of others.

What does courage look like in your workplace?

Today I work with IDP Education, a global leader in international education services with offices in over 30 countries. We help international students study in English speaking countries and are co-owners of IELTS, the world’s most popular high-stakes English language test among other things.

So, what is a high stakes English test?

Well they are used by lots of different recognising organisations to make decisions about people’s lives. As an example, universities use them to decide whether they will accept an international student and help them achieve their career aspirations. Governments use them to determine whether a person’s migrations dreams will be realised.

So, if you could cheat to ensure you have the magical score that will change you or your family’s life, would you do it?

Well you might think about it for a second, right?

Turns out you can buy the test result you need.  In my workplace some of the most courageous acts I see are those taken by IELTS whistle blowers. These are customers who have enrolled to take the test. Along the way they are given the opportunity to buy the test score they need to change the direction of their life.

Rather than doing so they report it. This takes incredible courage as the risks to their personal safety and their families are enormous.

This is an example of what real courage looks like in our environment.

Please describe 1 or 2 examples of times in which you have been courageous. What did you do? Who/what enabled you to be courageous? What was the outcome?  

As a Human Resource practitioner I see courage as being about the day to day actions I take to care for my colleagues, and the work we do with our business leaders to provide environments where our people around the world share great experiences and have the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.

A few years back I worked at sea as a HR Manager on a cruise ship. At the time the HR role was very new with the responsibility for employees previously the domain of the second in charge of the vessel, the Staff Captain.

As I started my career at sea I worked with a Staff Captain who was not overly happy with the introduction of the HR role, and even less enthused that women were being introduced into senior leadership roles on board his vessel. So, I had the great luck of being the first female HR manager he was working with. Double win!

One day whilst on the ship, an employee was identified as being at serious risk of suicide and a decision had to be made on how best to care for him until we arrived into our next port of call. A variety of options were open to us; I gathered expert opinions from our Doctor and the Head of Security and we were all aligned in the view that the crew member needed to be secured for his own safety.

As I met with the Captain and Staff Captain on the main employee thoroughfare of the ship to gain approval for next steps, it was quickly very clear that the Staff Captain violently disagreed with our preferred approach. So being new in the role (less than 8 weeks) with a large audience looking on, I needed to argue a position under significant fire aimed both at my profession, gender and lack of understanding of the operating environment.

What helped me to stand firm was my fundamental belief that it was the right thing to do.

It’s a serious decision as it meant the crew member would be locked in a small holding cell under 24-hour supervision for a couple of days.

Ultimately the Captain decided to secure the employee and with relief, I made the arrangements. My biggest surprise was the feedback I received after the event with many of my colleagues saying they would not have held firm in the heat of the discussion. That’s the great thing about ships, everything is recorded, and the video was well shared!

Of course, not every display of courage has such a serious overlay. This week I have been working on our Global Excellence Awards program which recognises outstanding achievement across the business. Now all submissions were due on 30 June. The submission on a project our CEO is leading missed the deadline and I’ve refused to accept it. I’ll let you know how that works out!


I met Georgia when we were both studying for our Graduate Diploma in Organisation Development.  I have always admired her strength of courage which is driven very clearly by her values and the principles she holds deeply.  She is a constant role-model for me in being values-driven and courageous, with a good dose of playfulness and humour thrown in.

@CourageChick

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