NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year: Claire Szabo

The award recognises leaders, innovators, team builders and high achievers aged 35 and under who make positive impact on the growth, productivity and morale of their organisation. The judges described Claire Szabo as strategic and visionary thinker and dynamic leader who has very professionally steered her organisation through period of significant change.

“I have restructured twice since starting as CEO in June 2006, as strategic plans have taken us in new direction,” says Szabo. English Language Partners offers migrants and refugees range of English-language programmes delivered by combination of qualified professionals and trained volunteers.

Szabo says she inherited an organisation dissatisfied with the way salary funds were dispersed by the national office for organising and delivering services. It was seen as inequitable and out of step with the market.

“Working with senior managers, I implemented programme of change on salary funding for members. This involved participatory processes to prioritise range of possible changes, external sizing of 200 roles, sourcing of market data, significant fundraising, and two-stage process to move salary funding to benchmarked bands over six-month period.

“We took the opportunity to move salaries from one-size, one-salary-level model, to differentiated model that better reflected responsibilities. There has been tangible shift since then towards recognising, for example, the management component of work done, the skills associated with that, and the need to commit to ongoing management training and development.”

Hard on the heels of that restructuring and name change to better reflect the organisation’s role, Szabo went into year of strategic reviewing and planning, resulting in 39 recommendations.

Working with senior staff member, she drafted strategic framework encompassing vision for the community, vision for the organisation in three to five years, four result areas and 13 specific goals.

Charles Berridge, National Board chair of English Language Partners New Zealand, says the award is very much deserved: “Claire is seen in the organisation as strong, clear communicator with knowledge and passion. Her commentary is sought by other organisations, both within and beyond the sector.”

Claire Szabo loves her job, but knows part of her role is to equip the organisation for the future. “If I were to leave tomorrow, I feel confident that the association would have very strong management team and national office, clear strategic direction focused on partnership with migrants and refugees, and set of compelling plans and ideas on which to build capability and performance for the future.”

Other finalists:
Sharon McCook, Group Manager, Health Research Council
Brendon McWilliam, Operations Manager, Christchurch Engine Centre

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