Back to basics HR

by 17 Apr 2007

Thank you for this down-to-earth article (issue 124, 20 March 2007, p 8), written for real people by real people. Having come through financial services, hospitality HR (as an outsider) and then a manufacturing environment – always as a one-person HR show, I can tell you that Malcolm Jackman has it nailed!

Hospitality taught me to get down and dirty with every aspect of the operation. Even as a regional HR manager looking after three upmarket hotels (sounds grand doesn’t it) I would polish cutlery, bash pots and pans, make coffees, park cars and carry bags. This enabled me to fully appreciate the needs of the operation and the people in it.

HR became to me a responsibility – to protect us from ourselves, across all levels and throughout the operation. Being one of the only HR managers without a degree, I’m an outsider to the profession. Taking a humble approach enabled me to gain access and more importantly, trust and respect from all levels. When I obtained this trust, I found I could create effective cultural change and deliver bad news as powerfully as good news, and people understood why they were getting bad news. Fitting round pegs into round holes with compassion and operational integrity is the major function I see lacking in corporate HR – if HR is not deeply involved in the business.

I would very much like to meet Mr Jackman one day, and I will absolutely keep my eyes open for a HR position in Coates Hire. Thanks again for the article.

Andrew Harvey, Metric Australia

What a fantastic article and a great approach to HR. I am currently studying a foundation course in HR with AHRI. I have not studied for a while and as you can see I am not in the HR field, I am an executive assistant to a CEO. I am studying just to learn more about HR. As you would understand I am reading a lot and I do come across a lot of jargon, but I have also learned a lot as well. I must say that most HR is exactly what Malcolm says: “It’s not that bloody complicated,” It actually reminded me of the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life, at the very end of the film after trying to work out what the meaning of life was, they come up with the following: “M-hmm. Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

It was a refreshing article and I enjoyed reading it very much.

Jennie Hille, executive assistant to CEO, Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF)

Untapped talent overlooked and undervalued

I write with concern and frustration at the lack of leadership and political will to promote employment opportunities in the public sector for people with disability. At a time of record low unemployment levels and significant skills shortages, qualified, skilled and motivated people who also have a disability are still finding it difficult to get a job.

The solution is not to throw money at the disability sector. It is about taking on the role of making the employment of people with disability a political and economic priority. It is more than just making motherhood statements or issuing media releases. It is about making sure that there are identified strategies with clear outcomes and timeframes in place to ensure that there is an even playing field in the labour market.

It is about taking responsibility to represent the interests and concerns of all sectors of the community. This is an economic issue which will bring both economic and social benefits to the whole community, creating more taxpayers and consumers, and less welfare recipients.

While the corporate sector has taken a lead in removing barriers to employing people with disability, the public sector seems to have lost any inclination to follow, let alone lead. In the corporate sector this direction and motivation comes from the top.

Our political leaders have so far failed to show any leadership or take the initiative on this important issue. For example, although the annual Prime Minister’s Employer of the Year Awards are well publicised in the media and well attended by corporate organisations, our prime minister has failed to attend four out of the last five awards ceremonies. While I understand that he has many demands on his time, surely he can make time to at least drop in and present an award or two. Even this simple commitment would demonstrate to corporate Australia and the community that he is serious about the issue of employment of people with disability.

What is the message our political leaders want to send to corporate Australia and the community? It is fortunate that corporate Australia does not follow the example of our elected officials. Business leaders, at least, clearly understand the economic benefits of including the (approximately) 20 per cent of our population that has one or more disabilities, both as employees and valued consumers.

When will our elected representatives, those responsible for the public sector, do the same?

Deborah Barit, associate member, Australian Employers Network on Disability