Rachel Scheel: the HR leader fostering a positive work environment
Rachel Scheel is the Global Culture and Employee Engagement Leader at GE Healthcare, based out of London. Leaving Australia for the UK 12 years ago, Rachel’s international experience resonates with many other global Australians – she initially planned to relocate overseas temporarily which ended up becoming a permanent/ long-term move.
Rachel’s role is the glue that sticks company culture, business and employees together. She drives employee engagement, empowering employees to be at the forefront to make positive impacts in their roles, which is an intangible asset that goes a long way to help the company to never stand still and keep moving forward.
We spoke to the HR leader about her career path, the positive impact of employee engagement and her #BornGlobal experience.
Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.
How did you wind up in the UK?
I just turned 30 years old and had been working for the GE Capital business in both Queensland and Melbourne for just over four years. Having had a light-hearted conversation with my manager during a career discussion that I’d be willing to look at opportunities in Europe, I was swiftly encouraged to apply for a short-term international assignment as Organization, Talent and Development Leader with the GE Capital business in the UK. I was originally meant to be just twelve months in the UK, but further opportunities presented themselves to me, and I decided to stay for a little while longer. That was twelve years ago, and I have since married, set up house and a family.
What are the hardest things about enhancing employee engagement?
From my perspective it is about helping our employees to feel that we are making a difference and that engagement is a key business priority that helps to shape the company’s success and their satisfaction in the workplace.
The other piece is helping our leaders to support improvement actions to enhance employee engagement and given our leaders the right tools and guidance to communicate to their teams.
Improving employee engagement is not just words on paper or written down targets, it has to be actual actions that feel tangible – that’s what really drives a call to action on improvement.
How important is employee engagement?
Employee Engagement is critical to any business’ success. There is significant research linking engagement to productivity, business growth and customer satisfaction. It’s the most sensible solution for any leader to focus on understanding what drives employee satisfaction and to focus on engaging their teams to the business’ purpose, as a happy team stays and wants to contribute to the business and its success. An engaged workforce, drives strong links to a positive company culture, and delivers a reputation externally that the company is a great place to work – essentially if you want to attract and retain the best talent, it is what the company offers and the way people feel that drives connection and a positive employment experience… people don’t leave a company, they leave the culture of the company and the leadership.
What's the most and least interesting thing about working in the HR department?
I find this question difficult to answer as generally a day in HR is different, every day. Because we are working with people and the business, every day is different, as the market shifts, and working with different teams and people. This is what I love about my job most, as we work with so many different people across the business, helping them to make an impact on their roles and the business’ success. If there was one thing that I find least interesting, it would probably be reporting and managing spreadsheets (as it relates to my role) but that is a very small part of my role.
You've been living in the UK for a while and travelling, what's your favourite place and why?
I really enjoy the opportunities working in Europe gives you. Firstly, you get to work across many different cultures, languages, customs and practices, and therefore you really need to adapt and work in a way that enables you to collaborate and respect the many complexities of Europe. I love the UK and its history, and I particularly enjoy venturing out to the English Countryside, exploring small villages, and large heritage properties that have so much history behind them. When I get tired of the English weather, I love the beaches across Europe with my favourites being Greece and Croatia.
What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from leaving home to live and work abroad?
My biggest lesson was to ask for help and to form a strong community of colleagues and networks who could support me. Moving to the UK at what was a mid-point in my career, felt like starting over again in many respects. I had to admit that I was new to the UK HR systems, legal systems and practices, and things worked somewhat differently in the UK. Then there was the rest of Europe which was even more complex. I had to feel ok to say I didn’t have all the information I needed straight away, and I had to learn fast!
What's your favourite Australian place in London?
When I first moved to the UK there was a fantastic little shop near Covent Garden – The Australia Shop. It sold vegemite, Twisties, BBQ Shapes and more Australian goodies I couldn’t get in the UK. Even though it was slightly higher priced than what you’d get in Australia it was my treat to myself to give me that little piece of home. Unfortunately, the shop has now closed and I need to wait for relatives to transport my snacks over to the UK on their travels!
What do you miss about Australia?
One hundred percent the weather! I miss the beaches, the lifestyle at your fingertips and sometimes just enjoying late evenings outside enjoying an alfresco dinner. Especially as I grew up in Queensland where the sun shines for ninety-five percent of the year. When I go back now for holidays I certainly do not take any of it for granted.