Perspectives: No lone wolves; we hunt as a pack!

No lone wolves; we hunt as a pack!

Perspectives: No lone wolves; we hunt as a pack!

As Human Resources Director of USG Boral’s Australian and New Zealand operations, Sheri Tarr oversees the building of potential within an innovative new entity, based on employee engagement and value engineering.

Sheri was working with Boral when its plasterboard division broke off to form a joint merger with USG. She remembers it as a busy time. Apart from the changes in company structure, the company was re-gearing plants to manufacture SHEETROCK®, an innovative new lightweight plasterboard product.

Joining USG Boral in 2015, a year after the change, she noticed a positive vibe around the new joint venture. “Staff had been though a stressful time, but there was also a lot of recognition of the hard work undertaken during that first tough year. If we hadn’t had the people of the calibre that we do, it wouldn’t have been as successful as it turned out.”

Sheri also puts down that success to USG Boral’s client base. “That year of change was also a profitable year – and gave our team faith in a strong and successful future. There was deep gratitude that our customers believed in us, worked with us during a time of great change and helped see us through it.”


Sheri has led some significant employee engagement initiatives since joining USG Boral. “We’ve now conducted two surveys to measure engagement of our employees, with a third due in 2018. We’ve already seen some positive results from the initiatives implemented to respond to the employee feedback.”

“Employee Action Groups have been created and empowered to address areas identified for improvement, develop solutions and present them to our Executive Committee for approval. When we called for volunteers, we weren’t exactly swamped! I think some people decided to watch to see whether the EAGs could actually deliver. But the Executive Committee has been very supportive of the process and we’ve been seeing some excellent results.”

One initiative from EAGs, the Employee Suggestions System (ESSYST), has been transitioned to the National Strategic Development Manager. Sheri says ESSYST momentum is building with staff and is one of the ways they’re demonstrating their encouragement of all team members to make a difference. “There’s a recognition that innovation is not just about products and can be in the form of continual improvement, right through to ideas that change the way we do business.”

Another area identified for improvement by the staff surveys and addressed by the EAGs was Leadership Development. “We’ve been running a program for managers and supervisors since April. At another level, our Internal Traineeship program is being relaunched in January. It offers our own people the same opportunities given to graduates. In the first year, we rotate them around different areas to gain a broad understanding of the business. After that they’re placed for a year in a more senior role, or one that will further their on-the-job development and career opportunities.”

Sheri sees the principal role of HR as ensuring development of potential. “We’re building capabilities and new skills for the future. Our industry is changing so our business must be ready to lead the change and remain ready to respond.”


USG Boral has clear goals when recruiting for new employees. “We look for people who are leaders,”Sheri says. “People who aspire to lead others and demonstrate the qualities that reflect our values. It’s essential that everyone understands how we add value to our customers across the business. An example of this is our technical team who provide value engineering amongst other services, and how they work with all areas of sales is so important.”

She adds, “USG Boral people must be able to work across teams and collaborate. There are no lone wolves; we hunt as a pack!” Sheri says that the USG Boral joint venture brought many new opportunities for existing employees. “Several of our local managers now have roles in our Asia Pacific operations and are making a group-wide impact.”

“Right now, perhaps the biggest area of growth is in New Zealand. Before the joint venture, we only produced metal products in the NZ market. Now we’re really making a mark with our range of plasterboard products – so there’s more potential for growth in that market than in Australia. We’ve got a great bunch of people over there, and anyone looking to advance their career within USG Boral should consider crossing the ditch.”