HUMAN RESOURCES : Managing People – From the HR frontline

The employees you want to keep move on; the skills you need are thin on the ground; change is constant; and raft of new employment regulations keeps feeding the ever-growing piles of paperwork. Meanwhile, the cultural climate in the organisation needs rev up and lack of enlightened leadership isn’t helping staff morale…
Whether they operate in big, small, public or private organisations, HR advisers and managers inevitably share common people problems as well as facing issues unique to their company or industry environment. In tight market, recruitment is an issue that absorbs both time and energy – and the need to attract and retain staff puts stronger emphasis on developing the sort of organisational culture that inspires loyalty.
We asked HR practitioners from five very different organisations to tell us what issues absorb most of their time, which they find most challenging, what’s changed and what resources can they call on.

Teva Loos
Group director Human Resources, Frucor Beverages
(500 staff in NZ, 150 in Australia)

The issues on which our HR department spends most of its time are as follows.
1) Coaching managers in leadership, and understanding the HR processes that can help them to achieve greater people performance;
2) Facilitation of our inhouse leadership programme, presented to all of our 160-plus people managers across New Zealand and Australia;
3) Assisting managers with recruitment processes and decisions;
4) Designing and implementing succession model across all staff to assist with inhouse development and retention of our people;
5) Sitting in on disciplinary matters to ensure compliance and fairness.
The issues we find most challenging to address are:
1) Leadership/management consistency aligned to our culture and values;
2) Organisation-wide communication that helps all staff to feel engaged in their role, their department and the company as whole;
3) Talent retention within our organisation, and generally New Zealand’s growing talent retention problem;
4) Understanding work/life balance issues and how to provide organisational solutions.
Some five years ago, we started an organisation-wide HR strategy specifically focusing on leadership aligned to values and culture. This has been major focus and continues to address many of the issues raised above. At times we are forced to react and be more tactical, but our belief is that sustainable change and competitive advantage is long-term process, and we are staying on track.
New Zealand’s inability to retain young talent is macro issue that many high- performing organisations are struggling to solve. Attracting Australians and other nationalities is increasingly difficult given this country’s tax structure and relatively low income levels. Many of our young people are still going overseas in search of better opportunities.

Catherine Taylor
General manager HR, Kiwibank
(+700 staff)

As start-up that is in rapid growth mode, Kiwibank’s HR challenges are bit different from more established companies.
In terms of where our time is spent, recruitment is key focus. Another has been training development both for our staff and providing banking training for PostShop staff.
Our HR team is continually developing our people processes, policies, and programmes to ensure we are meeting the business needs. We also take into account the need to be flexible around what people are looking for at work (eg, work/life balance) while being consistent and fair.
The Kiwibank culture is really important to us – we want staff to enjoy their experience working with the company. Our HR team is very conscious of this in how we role model our culture – using the right language, behaving in the right way and most importantly, in the advice that we provide.
We also concentrate on change management. As we’re evolving as an organisation, roles can change, as do structures. We provide advice to our leaders, and guide them through change management, ensuring that we deal with any staff impacted in such way that they feel respected and listened to. We also believe in having good relationship with the union (the EPMU) so that we can work constructively together on any staff issues that may arise.
Ultimately, of course, our efforts must be where we can add the most value to supporting or helping to drive business priorities. We have challenging business targets that must be met and HR has an important part in this.
The people management issues we find most challenging really reflect where we are focusing our time.
Recruitment is getting harder. It is an applicants’ market at present and we’re competing with other companies for similar skills and competencies.
Training and development is always challenge – ensuring that value is gained from learning and it is supported on the job.
Retention is concern. Our people are “Kiwibank” and we have great team. This is where our growth works to our advantage in that there are many opportunities for staff in terms of new roles.
Business strategies and how best to support these with appropriate programmes is an ongoing challenge – requiring our people to work well both within and across teams, always thinking about “being in the customer’s shoes”.
Most important is preserving our great culture. We want people to join Kiwibank because they believe in being able to make difference and being part of an important New Zealand-owned organisation, not just because they feel like changing jobs.
The allocation of time and priorities have changed since I first started at Kiwibank. Going forward, it’s important to have great HR team which really understands what must be focused on in the business, along with strong relationships with leaders, having staff trust, maintaining really good working relationship with the union, and also having strong relationships with external partners eg, preferred recruitment and training providers.
However you always have to keep working on developing the HR programmes, policies and processes to support or help drive the business priorities – as well as meet your customers’ expectations of course!

Gerda Gorgner
HR advisor, Pacific Flight Catering
(180 staff)

Our company provides catering services to international airlines and employs chefs, catering assistants, aircraft loaders, scullery assistants and range of administrative staff. Employees mainly come from South Auckland and English is often second language.
I’ve provided generic HR services to the company for the past three years. The things that keep me busy are:
1) Expansion of business: recruitment
2) Consolidation of rapid business growth
3) Improving management performance
4) Staff personal problems
5) HR administration.
What challenges me the most is:
1) Improving managers’ performance
2) Improving managers’ performance
3) Improving managers’ performance.
Our departmental managers have no formal management training and it is difficult to provide the coaching and training needed within the time constraints.
Over the past two years we have managed major business expansion – almost tripling staff numbers. I received great help with this from WINZ staff member. This phase is finished for the moment and less time is now devoted to recruitment.
Presently, the focus is on consolidation of growth, strengthening of systems and fine-tuning efficiency. lot of time goes into facilitating the clarification of management roles, improving managers’ skills (coaching) and addressing performance issues – which can be very challenging area. I get internal support from my managing director and couple of very experienced staff members.
In terms of personal problems with individual staff members, I get advice from several different social services as well as from the managing director. Such problems seems to have increased lately which could be attributed to number of reasons: our staff have been encouraged to

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