Lynette Mayne, business luminary and co-chair of The B Team Australasia, sets the property industry a challenge: prepare people for the future of work and support a just transition to decent green jobs.
Mayne has spent the last three decades leading companies both large and small, working on most continents. As a chief executive officer of two Lendlease divisions in the 1990s, Mayne took the developer’s fledgling corporate financial services business from the bottom of the pack to number one in just three years.
She later led Lendlease’s information technology and telecommunications investments division, creating four major international joint ventures with tech and telco giants like IBM and Telstra.
In 2000, Mayne established Work Wear World with her partner, property legend and long-time Lendlease managing director Stuart Hornery AO. Her business was to become a leading provider of work uniforms with an innovative approach to employee ownership.
After selling Work Wear World in 2016, Mayne took on the role of co-chair of The B Team Australasia, a not-for-profit established by Richard Branson and other global leaders to drive a new way of doing business – a ‘Plan B’. Among the B Team’s powerful Australasian collective is Scentre Group’s chief Peter Allen and Mirvac’s CEO Susan Lloyd Hurwitz.
Mayne calls the B Team’s work her “heartland”, and she’s determined to bring Australian business leaders together to catalyse a better way of working “for the wellbeing of people and the planet”.
A $38 trillion opportunity awaits
The opportunity for business to do well by doing good is enormous, Mayne emphasises.
She points to the New Climate Economy’s 2018 report, Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century, which estimates that the shift to a low-carbon economy could create a US$26 trillion growth opportunity – that’s $38 trillion Australian dollars – as well as 65 million new jobs by 2030.
Global megatrends – climate action and automation among them – guide the B Team’s agenda in Australasia, and Mayne is focused on two areas: the future of work and a just transition to “green and decent” jobs.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, released last year, predicts a seismic shift towards automation, with the percentage of task hours undertaken by machines leaping from 29 per cent in 2018 to 58 per cent in 2022.
“Most people are talking about what is going to happen tomorrow. But there are actions we can take today to start preparing for the major changes coming to the business world,” Mayne says.
“The earlier companies start preparing for the changes, the more likely they are to bring employees on the journey and not leave anyone behind.”
She urges property companies to start thinking strategically about the impact technology will have on their business and to “tell people what you are going to do about it”.
“This isn’t just about technology. In the States, more than a third of workers are no longer full-time employees,” she adds.
Property companies must start to create new career growth opportunities for people within their organisations, focus on the “whole person” by building cultures that support mental health and wellbeing, establishing networks to help people as job roles change. “And be accountable – tell people what you plan to do, measure your success and report on that publicly.”
People are at the heart of purpose
Mayne has lots of inspiring examples of companies taking a proactive approach as the working world changes. She points to Carnival Cruise Line, one of the B Team members, that has introduced a nine-day fortnight. The result? “Better attendance, productivity and performance.”
Another B Team member, EnergyAustralia, has set aside $20 million, with a top up facility, to transition employees to “totally new jobs as they automate”.
Mayne also admires Mirvac’s “amazing” academy that identifies employees’ special skills and then retrains them in new jobs based on those talents.
Mayne says Stuart Hornery’s example set the gold standard during her days at Lendlease. “When I joined Lendlease employees owned almost 20 per cent of the company – and it was amazing the impact that had. Stuart tried to come up with something new for employees every year. I think that mentality sends a signal to employees that they matter.”
At Work Wear World, Mayne handed over 25 per cent of the company’s profits to employees every year.
“Most of our employees hadn’t finished high school and here we were asking them to prepare and present their business plans. They were frightened at the beginning, but boy did they learn quickly about profit, fixed and variable costs.”
Mayne says one of the reasons why Work Wear World was “able to take on our competitors and more often than not beat them was because of the employee ownership.”
“Everyone talks about customers, but if you have passionate committed employees they will look after all your stakeholders.”
Time to take faster steps
Mayne is also director of Chief Executive Women, and for the last decade has been a driving force behind its leadership program which support the career trajectories of 200 women each year. She also runs a similar leadership program in the Pacific for the Asian Development Bank and represents Australian interests at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
“I’ve always believed it’s the obligation of people more fortunate like me to help others achieve their dreams. For me, that has been helping senior females to get into more leadership positions.”
Mayne says APEC has given her deep insights into how the 21 member economies tackle gender equality. Australia “stands out” as a leader in several respects, she says. “The fact that we have an organisation called Chief Executive Women is a point of difference, as is the Male Champions of Change.”
“But I am restless – I know we’ve taken a lot of positive steps, but I still think we could go faster.”
Lynette Mayne joins a stellar panel of purpose-driven business leaders, including the Green Building Council of Australia’s Davina Rooney, Charter Hall's Greg Paramor and AVID Property Group's Bruce Harper, at The Property Congress from 11-13 September.
Registrations are now sold out. However, spaces are still available for the extreme networking package, providing access to 750-plus delegates at the three main networking parties: Welcome Luau, Woodstock Festival and Bottomless Brunch. Register today.