HRINZ HR Conference 2012 Student Ambassador Highlights – Deborah Versluys
Te Papa is ‘Our Place’; however for a few exciting days at the beginning of August, Te Papa was HR’s place. While windy Wellington certainly lived up to its reputation, the rain couldn’t keep away nearly 200 enthusiastic human resource delegates as they descended upon Te Papa for HRINZ’s 2012 National Conference. We were spoilt for choice with inspirational, thought-provoking speakers who were experts in the HR profession.
The State of the HR Profession members clinic was my personal highlight of the conference and set a high standard for the remaining three days at Te Papa. The panel of New Zealand CEOs created a session that was controversial, fresh and engaging. As the profession of HR evolves, one can ask, ‘What is the role of HR?’, ‘Does HR add value to organisations?’, ‘In what way does HR hinder the success of organisations?’ and ‘What does HR need to do in order to be considered as a true business partner?’ I was particularly impressed that the panel presented a balanced approach and consideration of both the positives and criticisms of HR when addressing these questions.
It was clear that the value HR adds to organisations depends on the type of organisation and industry that it operates in. For example, Brian Dunn of EQC identified that HR at a strategic level has been fundamental in managing the exponential growth of EQC employees since the Christchurch earthquakes, while at the same time managing organisational culture effectively. Sarah Williamson from Mt Cook Airlines explained that HR played a unique role in the Airline Industry through largely managing and mitigating risk within the strong regulatory environment. Furthermore, Mike Bennetts of Z Energy and Gary Diack of Solid Energy argued that HR enables their organisations to deliver on strategic outcomes and build a competitive advantage through attracting talent. In wake of these encouraging arguments, Geoff Smith of ProCare was a brave man to profess to a room of HR managers that HR is a confused and irrelevant profession that does not contribute to the success of organisations. Geoff did a brilliant job at justifying this view through arguing that HR is primarily an administration role, based on theoretical rules. This can actually hinder strategic direction and stifle innovation and creativity within an organisation.
As a student, the remainder of the session for me was an amazing opportunity to interact with top HR managers from around New Zealand and discuss key actions for change that would enhance the purpose and usefulness of HR. A clear theme of the need for HR to know its business better and take a strategic view quickly became apparent. As one group stated, it is essential that HR “avoids putting difficulties in front of solutions”. This can be achieved through influencing business mindset, talking in business terms and demonstrating added value through measurable performance indicators. As a result, HR is able to build organisational capabilities more effectively and be a key driver of success.
Overall, the conference was a fantastic experience that broadened my perspective of the HR profession in a very practical and real way. It was thought-provoking, inspiring and encouraging to be around so many like-minded people with a passion for HR. A number of the sessions were particularly relevant to my studies and I look forward to sharing what I learnt with my HR classes and colleagues at Waikato University.
HRINZ Student Ambassador
University of Waikato