Senior HR executives have a wealth of experience in their favour, but many are without one crucial qualification that can take their career to even greater heights.
It’s fair to say that the future of the human resources profession is a fairly hot topic in the Phipps household. Both Rob Phipps (FCPHR) and Michelle Phipps (FCPHR) are senior HR executives for major multi-national corporations.
Rob Phipps is chief people officer at KFC South Pacific and his wife, Michelle Phipps, is HR director for Asia Pacific of Brown-Forman, a global spirits company.
Both of them are keen advocates of AHRI’s drive towards raising the bar for the profession by clearly defining what good HR looks like through adherence to the AHRI Model of Excellence. As such, they have both put their names forward for the AHRI certification senior pathways program that is geared towards qualifying senior HR executives who already have many years of experience.
“I have a passionate belief and a philosophical view that this is the right direction for the profession rather than seeing it purely through the lens of self-development. I wanted to support AHRI in this endeavour as it’s something that we in HR need,” says Rob Phipps.
“The AHRI model is very sound and it makes sense to adopt an Australia-wide HR certification based on the same principle as CPA (Certified Practising Accountant). Having certified practitioners in HR, working in companies, will bring even more integrity to the profession,” says Michelle Phipps.
The Phipps acknowledge that there will be HR people out there who question the need for further qualifications; who will ask why they should embark on more study when they have already been qualified and working as senior HR executives for years.
“Yes, it is a question that will arise. But the truth is, I think integrity and competency is lacking in certain areas. Disruption will change the profession for the better and it will help AHRI to ensure that the whole profession – not just AHRI members – are on the same journey,” says Rob.
The senior pathways program, which the two have recently completed, was “similar to doing an assignment at university” they say, except without the quantity of research, as it entails reevaluating work that you have already done. Michelle chose as her case study the work she did on helping build a strategic diversity and inclusion culture.
“It was based on setting up a diversity and inclusion council and using employer resource groups (ERGs) to establish a vision, charter and plan, not only at the executive level but at the team member level, to contribute to the organisation’s strategic agenda. “Brown-Forman has a council in Australia and another in south-east Asia. One of the ERGs is dedicated to helping women play a greater role in the beer, wine and spirits industry. Another has been built around LGBTQI awareness and extending the company’s sponsorship of Sydney’s Mardi Gras.
“We are in the middle of building awareness around diversity and inclusion, particularly inclusion, and the different ways to involve our employees,” says Phipps.
The senior pathways program requires the Phipps to detail and demonstrate how they have applied their knowledge and skills as senior HR executives in the workplace, measured against AHRI’s Model of Excellence. “I was particularly proud of this project,” says Michelle, “because it really brings about cultural change and is linked to our local and global company goals. I really felt that I led this one rather than simply participated in another executive group initiative.”
For her husband, it has involved diving deeper into what KFC has been doing around engagement. “I’m outlining the way I’ve brought an enterprise-based social network to life throughout our organisation – with our team members and restaurants. The aim is to get 20,000 on board and, so far, we have 11,000 members. It demonstrates to the casual employees on the front line that the organisation has something to say beyond great customer experience and service.” Rob says it has married his HR skills with marketing, with the departments working closely to bring the project alive internally.
“We now have a cross-functional group across marketing, operations and HR, deciding where content needs to be published: internally or externally, in video or in the form of a competition. All that is fairly new for me.”
The Phipps have already submitted their projects, which will be followed by interviews with representatives from AHRI to demonstrate how the projects are aligned to AHRI’s Model of Excellence. Final assessment will be judged by the independently appointed National Certification Council.
Michelle says the experience has been like a case study for a masters level assignment but is less time consuming because you are already working on the program. “It’s a great way to recognise the work that you are doing and have done and how you have developed and changed,” she says. Rob says being married to someone doing the same thing has kept them both on course. “Each evening, after dinner, we took several nights to make sure we completed it and checked each other’s work. But we were both motivated – you have to have the overall big picture view that the profession needs something like this to happen.”
To learn more about AHRI’s certification program and the senior pathway, click here.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the March 2016 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Professional Pioneers’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.