Human on the Inside with Laminex’ Laura Staples


5 min read

Laura Staples, Laminex Australia.

We’re big believers in the power of human skills. But don’t just take our word for it – the evidence for excellence powered by human (‘soft’) skills is everywhere! In this engaging, ever-enlightening series, we speak with industry leaders, innovators and game-changers to learn a little about their personal career journeys, and how human-led strategies, philosophies and cultures are proving a force for good in their working worlds …

Welcome Laura, and thanks for stepping into the #SuccessIsHuman Spotlight! You’re Head of People and Performance at Laminex Australia – the leading marketer, supplier and manufacturer of premium decorative surfaces in Australia.

In 1 sentence (ok, we’ll give you 3), what does your role entail?

Having fun! But seriously, my role is about bringing the best out of our people so they can deliver on our strategic goals as an organisation. As one of Australia’s Best Places to Work, we have to ensure our people feel valued, inspired and motivated to do great things. My role is about bringing all of that to life and leading an amazing bunch of HR folk.

Prior to your current role, you were Head of Talent & Experience for ~2years, and pre Laminex, held diverse career roles spanning many sectors. To name a few; Creative Producer for Business & Arts Publication The Cleverness, HR & OD Manager for Hickory Group and Group R&D Manager at RCR Tomlinson. How does all this work speak to your personal purpose and what drives you as an individual?

When I first left school I thought I was going to be an artist – I’m very creative by nature and love to bring that side of me into all the roles I’ve held over the course of my career. 

I live by the notion of being Antifragile (a concept by the brilliant author, Nasim Taleb). To me, being antifragile is one step beyond resilience – I don’t brace for impact, I thrive from it. I consider myself curious and brave, and this shows up in my willingness to experiment and try new things in the workplace. Sometimes I get this right, while at other times I fail but learn alot from giving it a go!

My personal mantra is “surprise and delight” because I believe no two experiences should be the same. My background is diverse because I want to experience as many things as possible – this allows me to bring a unique perspective to the organisations and teams I lead.

Tell us a little about your personal education pathway/s – what led you to where you are now? How closely do your formal qualifications match your current career?

My qualifications are diverse, but all relevant. I completed a Bachelor of Arts straight after secondary school, majoring in Organisational Design and Development. I’ve since completed a Graduate Diploma in Executive Development, plus a Diploma in Graphic Design too – a mixed bag of formal qualifications so to speak! 

I’d like to study more in future, and I imagine that taking shape in the form of a career sabbatical where I’m able to fully immerse myself in an area of interest, and curate a learning experience like no other. One day!

If you could share one piece of career advice to your 21-year-old self it would be …

Don’t be afraid to be a round peg in a square hole – embrace your differences!

Maximising the potential of individuals, communities and businesses through the power of human skills is the reason Maxme exists. Can you tell us a little about the role and / or value of human skills in your work / workplaces you’re involved with right now?

Human skills are absolutely king right now. Even more so after a two year global pandemic. People are craving human energy and connection, but when I think of the #1 human skill we all require to survive, thrive and succeed … it has to be EMPATHY. 

I listened to a fabulous TED talk the other day by Lisa Leung who is an ABC Broadcaster. Lisa called out the one skill robots will never master is empathy, making it truly critical to the future of work. 

The last two years have really tested leaders’ ability to relate to, and empathise with employees, and the struggles of juggling homeschooling, working from home, job losses, family sickness and more. I’m really proud of how Laminex has adapted over the past two years – we’re completely different to what we were pre-pandemic – it’s so refreshing and energising to see.

Self Awareness sets the critical foundation for all Maxme learning experiences. With that said … what’s your strongest trait / personal super power?

That’s easy – creativity. I’m an artist living in the corporate world. Where people see roadblocks or challenges, I see opportunities to do something no one has ever done before. I love to experiment and try new things, and I’m not afraid of failure. That’s why I think being an artist or a creative is such a good superpower to have. Artists spend their life experimenting with different techniques or mediums to finally have a breakthrough. I like to think I bring that philosophy into everything I do.

And on the flip side, what’s one human / ‘soft’ skill you’ve had to really work on improving over the course of your career?

Patience…I’ve had to learn over the years to not get frustrated when change doesn’t happen as fast as I’d like. I’m much better at it now, but have had to remind myself to step back occasionally and let things grow organically, as opposed to breakneck speed.

If you could share one piece of career advice with recent secondary or tertiary graduates, or other individuals keen to join a company like Laminex Australia, what would it be?

Find ways to stand out from the crowd. When I applied for the role at Laminex – I actually drew a picture of my career experience rather than sending through a typical CV to the recruiter. I figured everyone would have sent a polished CV with thousands of words, so in an effort to stand out, I drew my career in a bunch of stick figures instead! My illustration represented the career journey I had been on, and how I believed I’d add value to Laminex. All I had to do was get their attention long enough to give me a call … the rest is history.

Bottom line – do something that makes you stand out!

You’ve been granted approval to add one University graduate to your team, but have 100 applicants, all with outstanding academic results. How do you find your perfect candidate – what are you looking for?

To be honest – I’m not looking for academic results at all. People thrive in different environments. Someone who excels in an exam may flunk a face to face conversation. 

Similar to what I’ve already shared, I’m looking for that one person who does the unexpected. Skills you can teach, but personality and cultural fit is hard to mould. 

Show me your authentic self, and then let’s have a conversation.

In the words of John Dewey, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.” What’s next on your #learning agenda?

After the last few years at home – my next learning experience will definitely be through getting out and seeing the world again!