Building organisational capability is a key outcome of HR certification. Candidates of the AHRI Practising Certification Program are addressing this directly in their APC capstone projects. We spoke to two of them about their work.
Michelle Hill CPHR, Manager, Organisational Development, State Library of South Australia
When the State Library of South Australia did high-performance workplace benchmarking in 2015, leadership strategy was revealed as an area that needed work, says Michelle Hill, the library’s manager, organisational development. It seemed a good moment for her to investigate leadership strategy requirements as part of her capstone project for AHRI certification.
“The library is going through quite drastic changes in terms of what we collect, how we collect it and what people expect us to deliver,” she says. “And that requires a shift in what our workforce does and how it approaches its work.”
The leadership strategy Hill developed last year is being regarded as a draft while changes are being made to the organisational structure.
“We have been able to use what is coming out of the leadership strategy and matching it up with the structure. The leadership strategy will help to determine what roles we need in the new structure and how we match people with those roles.”
Hill’s surveys with managers have resulted in an agenda for future leaders, composed of four parts: looking after people, processes, partnerships, and products and services.
“We also have seven leadership capabilities that need to be developed to drive the transformation we require.” she says. “They include great communication, being customer-focused and comfort with ambiguity.
“A lot of organisations struggle with that last one. Historically, libraries have adapted to change, but they’ve done it in a risk-averse way, where people know what the end product is going to be and work back from that.
“Now we’re in a situation where we don’t know what the world will be like in even a few years’ time – what the technology we use will be like – so we need leaders who are comfortable moving towards an uncertain destination.”
State libraries are treasures, says Hill. “Many people don’t really understand the sheer depth and quantity of the local history they hold. They explain where we come from and where we are going as communities, and our staff [130 employees and 100 volunteers] are the champions of that.”
Hill had worked in a variety of roles in the SA public service for 20 years before she moved to the library six years ago seeking a service-delivery role.
“My job morphed over time into predominantly HR-type work. I sort of fell into HR, and that’s why I have been doing AHRI certification over the past two years.
“I wanted to understand the academic as well as the practical side of HR, and the certification program was perfect for me.”
It has helped to make her more confident with facing ambiguity, she says. “In a world with so many grey areas, we have to be comfortable with perceiving, making decisions and moving ahead while not quite knowing how it’s going to turn out, but having the confidence to make a start.”
Darren Sharp CPHR Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
Darren Sharp readily admits that his capstone project – undertaking a workforce plan for the department’s finance branch last year – was a daunting task.
There are around 100 finance staff who work in diverse roles within DFAT, including postings all over the world. The department is also in a state of change.
“DFAT will be a provider of shared services to other agencies and the finance area needs to move to a broader service delivery model than has previously been required,” says Sharp.
“That’s not traditionally how our people were recruited or trained, or developed their mindset.”
Having determined that finance services was lacking a workforce plan, the first thing he did was to consult with fellow AHRI member Kim Jerrim, who works in the branch and has done workforce plans for other agencies.
“I’ve had many roles at DFAT during my 20 years here,” says Sharp, who has moved on to run the contract services branch. “But I had not done a workforce plan before and I knew my limitations.
“Kim and I outlined the areas that needed to be covered, where we wanted to end up and how to collect the necessary data, distil it down and work out what it means. Kim’s now working on the second part of the project – a workforce development plan for bridging the gaps we’ve identified.”
Compiling the workforce plan started at the top, at a strategic level, to work out what the department would require of the finance branch going forward.
“Then we sat down with the directors of each of the different finance areas to get a snapshot of their strengths and development needs.”
A criticality matrix was run over each of the positions in finance services, with the eight criteria including whether they had legislative requirements, the need for specific qualifications, length of lead-in time and whether a position would be particularly difficult to fill.
“We also looked at some of the risks, such as facing constant churn. We’re a mobile organisation where people tend to move to different places in the world every two or three years. People in critical positions, such as running our financial systems or IT components, are constantly shifting and we need some stability there.”
In gaining AHRI certification this year, Sharp was granted Recognition of Prior Learning for the first three units, with
the finance workforce planning as his capstone project.
“Through my varied roles in DFAT, I have become an accidental HR specialist,” he says. “Early on I found that people were the cause of, and solution to, almost any problem, so I started focusing on the people element of any workplace issue. Very rarely was there a structural issue. So I sort of grew into the HR role and did some studies of my own to broaden my understanding of how people operate as individuals and in groups.”
Interested in finding out more about AHRI’s Practising Certification Program Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) pathway? Find out if your skills, knowledge or work/life experience are recognised as prior learning by applying for an eligibility check by 1 February 2019. Apply now.