Tracey Holdsworth CPHR started her certification capstone project as an online efficiency measure, but it soon evolved into something much more far-reaching.
Tracey Holdsworth notes with amusement that her application for AHRI certification would have been considerably easier had she been able to use the system she implemented as her capstone project.
Her project involved trialling an online performance and development recording tool at Morse Group Accountants and Advisors, where she is the standalone HR consultant, in-house and for the firm’s business clients.
The trial was successfully completed in July last year, shortly before she gained her certification. The 40 staff at Morse Group, in regional New South Wales, now use what’s called the Online Team Member Development System to record their goals, KPIs, and training and development activity.
Holdsworth was eligible to apply for recognition of prior learning (RPL) for the first three units of the AHRI Practising Certification Program (APC).
“I’ve been in HR for 20 years, stretching back through hospitality, health insurance, and training and development before I came to Morse Group five years ago,” she says. “But the APC process is robust and I needed to provide evidence of recent generalist HR experience and that required trawling through the projects I’ve completed for Morse Group and its clients, involving pieces of advice, newly developed policies, notes from meetings and about 7,000 emails. I’m a shocking hoarder of emails.”
With the new tool, that kind of information would have been already summarised and readily available.
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“One of the motivations [for the project] was that we are located in four offices around regional NSW, so for me to obtain people’s hard copy documents was quite a challenge,” says Holdsworth, who’s based in Orange.
“Cloud accounting is key now and into the future but being a smaller business, rather than purchase an expensive, not cost-effective online system, I adapted an existing program we had.”
“Then it morphed into something quite different. While it was more efficient to put things online, streamline processes and get people updating and tracking their own performance and KPIs, it became a natural progression to examine our whole performance review process.”
In her trial report, Holdsworth says all of the project’s stated objectives were met, including:
- To provide greater transparency to team members and their reviewing managers by having access to up-to-
date performance information and data, to better assess and measure each member’s contributions and development.
- To improve the firm’s ability to identify performance and productivity levels, career readiness and progression, and/or succession opportunities.
How they motivated people to participate was important, she says.
“This should be communicated as a tool whereby team members are motivated to do well by focusing on recording, tracking and reviewing their own career development activities, rather than driven by the reviewing manager or HR.
“This will not replace a performance review, but will add value to the information included.”
She also recommended that staff be given an appropriate KPI relating to the expectations and outcomes of the new tool, linked with the firm’s performance and development strategy and process. Holdsworth made sure she was available to consult with each team member on how to use the system and chart their progress. Training was provided for managers on how the system supports performance and development strategy, and how to motivate their team members to track their own progress.
Holdsworth says the RPL assessment was an opportunity to take a step back and assess her performance from a theoretical perspective.
“I took a trip down memory lane and then collated relevant examples, projects, initiatives and challenges I’ve worked on,” she says. “It confirmed how my work achievements fitted into the Model of Excellence competencies and behaviours.”
“Knowing where to start was a little daunting. But once I understood the learning outcomes for each unit, it was a matter of thinking about the examples that demonstrated my best work.”
Holdsworth, and Morse Group, have since had another reason to feel pride. In late February it won the Employer of Choice award at the Orange Business Awards.
“This recognised our focus on performance, development and high quality training, as well as our flexible and family friendly work arrangements,” she says. “Our new approach towards performance and development was reinforced at the awards by a working example or ‘product’ of the process.”
Reflecting on the APC process, Holdsworth says it indicates the need for HR professionals to pay attention to their own professional development. “Sometimes we tend to put all our efforts into the development of others in our organisations and we forget about ourselves.
“Another aspect I’d like to mention is that AHRI lists your name in HR Monthly when you are certified, and as a result I’ve had former colleagues contact me out of the blue to congratulate me.”
“Some of them enquired about the program and were considering whether they should do it too. I only had positive things to say. ‘I could do it – you could do it too.’ But I’m also telling them that it’s a robust process. You can’t go into it half-hearted.”
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