Alison Sherry, FAHRI, is unusual in being an HR professional with role on two boards. She discusses her experiences in the public and private sectors, as well as where HR professionals can continue to add value.
Tell us briefly about your career to date.
I currently work as general manager, people operations at Ranbury. I worked previously at Ergon Energy and as HRD for Currie & Brown, an international construction consulting business where I helped to transition the privately owned business into AMEC, a global FTSE 100 company. I have held senior strategic and operational positions with the Queensland State Government.
You have extensive experience in the public and private sectors. Are the challenges for people management very different?
The fundamentals remain the same, but the environment and culture can be very different. Public sector can be very process, policy and procedure driven which can make decision-making much slower in the HR arena. On the positive side, work-life balance, diversity and equal opportunity employment are far more developed than in the private sector, resulting in higher levels of commitment. Private sector employees are generally more self-motivated and less risk averse (sometimes bordering on maverick). This sometimes makes it more difficult to show the value that HR brings to the organisation – you have to be able to articulate the cost-benefit analysis of the function.
You recently secured your second board position. Why is it important to have more HR professionals on boards?
Insightful companies are realising the importance of good governance over all things people related, and that foundations for success of an organisation lay with its people. Board members should take into account the impact decisions have on the functioning and the behaviour of a company’s employees. This is where experienced and confident HR professionals can add value.
What do you think of AHRI’s new certification framework?
AHRI certification will distinguish those HR professionals who are practising effective, commercially-minded HR practices, and are capable of bringing their HR expertise to the role of true partner to the business and board. Certification will demonstrate to the wider market that your professional knowledge and skills are at an expert level.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the February 2016 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Meet … Alison Sherry’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.