Bonita Croft – my brilliant career

by 19 Feb 2008

What is your current role?

Group executive human resources and communication, Investa Property Group.

What qualifications do you hold?

I have undertaken a wide range of study in Australia, the USA, England and Europe spanning psychology, organisational change and development, process re-engineering, sales and marketing and a variety of tools and processes related to understanding the motivation and actions of people. Every year I set myself a goal to learn something new. I love learning new things and finding practical applications for what I learn.

Why did you get into HR?

The better question here is “why do I stay in HR?” The answer to this is the belief that business success really does come through people and that the vast majority of people are capable of being more skilled year on year – if they want to be. The magic that HR can create comes through finding people with this desire and energy, harnessing the energy to drive success and creating an environment where continual growth and performance improvement is a way of life. That is all rather idealistic but is most certainly what keeps me in this field.

What enticed me out of consulting into corporate was the opportunity to see if I could take the advice I had been confidently dishing out to others and make it work.

How did you get into HR?

Accidentally. I commenced in sales and then went to sales management and ‘training’ others in sales. Unfortunately at that time I thought training was telling people to do it my way, so my first foray into training fell a long way short of success. I moved from there into sales-based project work, then to consulting largely around development, training, performance and process improvement. Crossing the line into a corporate role meant being ‘filed’ somewhere in the structure – and HR was the place. This is quite usual for me – my whole career path has been a retrospective analysis not a forward plan.

Where do you see yourself in five yearstime?

Back in a consulting/project work. I would be much better at it after spending the last 11 years in corporate roles

What has been your biggest career high so far?

Working in a global role with a culturally diverse, clever and demanding group of people. It was a time of relentless challenge and constant learning. Working with the complexity and diversity of thinking and views that accompanies a global team was intellectually stimulating and professionally and personally satisfying.

What do you think it takes to succeed in HR?

Apart from technical competence and keeping up with your profession I think it comes down to business acumen and perspective – really understanding the organisation within which you are trying to achieve results. You should be able to have a credible conversation about the business without one bit of HR jargon. Then make sure the basic operational things work. It’s a bit hard to have the value-adding, trusted advisor role we so covert if the payroll doesn’t work and the employment contracts take ages to prepare. After that you need all the skills of observation, analysis, good judgement and fearless communication to allow you to apply your professional expertise effectively.

How do you manage relationships with senior executives?

By listening to and observing what is important to the individual so I can build the rapport necessary to create a relationship. It takes time to build the trust and credibility necessary to be able to support and influence people. I also aim to learn about the business and its success factors in order to provide ‘fit for purpose’ services, advice etc. If I get it right then an honest, open, robust relationship emerges that forms the basis for a really productive working relationship.

What advice would you give to graduates considering a career in HR?

As soon as possible work for a year in a line role – experience what it is to actually do the work of the organisation. It’s a different way of operating, it has different pressures and, if you choose to learn from the experience it broadens your perspective and makes you a better HR professional. It does wonders for your ability and for your credibility to have ‘walked a kilometre in their shoes’.

Describe yourself in three words

What, only three!?! Finding this a very difficult question to answer I enlisted the help of my team, insisting of course on positives – perceptive, responsive, spirited.

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