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The power of HR: Monica Watt

From ice cream parlour attendant to commercial contract cleaner, Monica Watt, who is now the Chief Human Resources Officer at ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll, has had a diverse career path. It’s the variety of experiences gained along a 20-plus year career that has shaped Monica’s approach to building a people-centric culture.

Monica Watt, Chief Human Resources Officer of ELMO Software

“I’m a firm believer that if you’ve got the right attitude and passion, you can learn or teach anyone anything,” she reflects. Monica discovered her enthusiasm for people training and development while working in events. “I was an events manager for four years while studying at university and raising six children on my own,” she says.

“It was a massive juggle, but it’s something I love, and feel it had a profound influence on my career and how I view leadership.”

Since joining the thriving tech business ELMO, which provides cloud-based HR, payroll, rostering and attendance solutions, Monica has not only transformed the culture but also developed the HR department into a powerful voice with strategic business influence and presence.

“HR is the secret herbs and spices of ELMO. Ultimately, we’re a key ingredient that brings everything together,” she says, adding that unlike many traditional HR departments with a ‘set and forget’ approach to strategy, her team is constantly developing and challenging its strategies.

“I learned early in my HR career that I didn’t need to be traditional and perfect,” she says. “I needed to be delivering in real time and continuing to evolve and improve. It’s not waiting for perfection; it’s doing and then evolving as you go because you’ll never achieve perfection.”

Straight spoken and passionate, Monica is clear about her goals and expectations – a skill she mastered from years of training and self-education. She describes herself as someone who is not a governance person nor a supporter of policy for the sake of it.

“I’m a strong fan of guidelines, hiring the right people and then giving them the tools, measures and autonomy to perform,” she shares. Throughout her professional experience, Monica witnessed poor leadership and inequality, alongside an acute awareness of what a strong HR department could offer.

“It is more than hiring and firing,” she notes. The aspiration to learn more took Monica to the Middle East and across Australia, where she worked in private and government organisations, not-for-profit entities and publicly listed businesses.

“It took me a while to find an organisation that understood the importance of HR to business success. Then, in 2015, I joined ELMO,” she tells. Monica believes that businesses must understand that HR is more than people; HR is business success.

“HR is ensuring that business leaders succeed, that they walk the talk, to listen, engage and respond,” she says. Ever since the launch of ELMO in 2002, the technology organisation has continued to grow, reinvest and expand.

From 2014 to 2017, ELMO released five additional modules (adding to their previous Learning and Course Builder modules) to help its customers manage and automate recruitment, onboarding, performance management, succession planning and HR administration.

In June 2017, the business listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and made the ASX300 just three years later. To support the growth of ELMO and its workforce, Monica has introduced a culture of effective productivity.

“We are highly ambitious and driven,” she shares. “Hunger and drive are always there. But how do you harness that and know that being busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re performing? Capacity is not capability and output is not outcomes.”

Culture is a significant part of ELMO, and something the business prides itself on. “ELMO has a culture of acceptance, accountability, innovation and collaboration,” Monica tells. “Community, collaboration, communication and consultation are the four Cs that I’m focused on.

We are in a complex environment, this time isn’t for the faint-hearted, and having the right level of resilience, ego, humility, integrity and gratitude means that you are deliberate in what you’re trying to achieve for the greater good.

My attention is keeping ELMO and our people safe and focused.” Through the global pandemic, ELMO has amplified its attention on retaining talent through training opportunities. “HR is busier than ever, yet there is time on your hands due to the changing operations and environment,” Monica says.

As an avid reader and listener of Audible, she is passionate about self-improvement – something she aims to instil in the culture of ELMO. She shares a lesson from early in her career that has formed her leadership philosophy.

“They say learning comes from failures, but I disagree. There are no failures if you’re constantly responding, adapting and changing.” Monica concludes.

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