People & Human Resources

How an Australian business owner left a lasting impression on Richard Branson

Matthew Elmas /

Richard Branson

Richard Branson. Source: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire.

An Australian refugee who now runs her own business is a perfect example of why employers should look beyond CVs and resumes when they hire, Virgin founder Richard Branson says.

Reflecting on a recent trip to Australia in a blog post, Branson says he has a renewed focus on human resources reforms as a way to further business progress in Virgin and across the world.

The entrepreneur sat in on a forum in Sydney earlier this month, hearing from a refugee who arrived in Australia after five years in a refugee camp, before going on to become qualified as a lawyer and eventually joining Virgin in the UK.

The worker, Theresa, who said at the time she was worried her English wasn’t good enough to join Virgin, has since returned to Australia and owns her own business.

If Virgin had hired simply based on the content of Theresa’s CV, it may have missed out on a worker Branson says “grew into a wonderful member of the team”.

“Her story illustrates perfectly how we should hire not just based on CVs, but on characters — and always be willing to give people a chance,” Branson reflected.

“Be kind, praise more than criticise and you might change somebody’s life and make a huge positive difference to your business too.”

Branson says the nature of work is changing rapidly in the 21st century, as technology changes the structure of organisations and the “fundamental idea of what work is”.

But businesses, he believes, should be doing everything they can to consider how this changing landscape can make the lives of humans better.

Putting his money where his mouth is, Branson says he’s been focusing on a new HR initiative called ‘100% Human at Work’, which aims to bring people into the Virgin business who share a view that business is about making the lives of people better.

“When you spend so much of your life working, you should do everything you can to make it fun. It should be something you can be passionate about and care deeply about,” he said.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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