Five minutes with... Rachael Fitzpatrick, HR director for APJ at Akamai

Akamai HR director Rachael Fitzpatrick tells HC why she would like to see a focus on softer skills and why Beatle George Harrison would be a great dinner guest.

1.What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
HR is such a vast area (if you are a generalist), however the best piece of advice I have received was from one of my managers - ‘You do not have to know everything but you do have to be half a step ahead of everyone else.’ 
2.What are some of the biggest challenges that HR deals with?
Throughout my career, one of the biggest challenges I found HR needs to deal with, regardless of geographical location is the inherent conflicts within the function. I believe that most HR representatives come to work with the intention to make people’s lives better, more fulfilling and look to provide the tools to make employees become better in their professions, and in turn, contribute to driving the business that you support forward. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way and HR sometimes ends up having to carry out some difficult tasks. This can create dents in that ‘trust relationship’ you have with both employees and the management team.
3. How do you see the role of HR changing in the future?
One of the key changes I hope to see for HR professionals in the future is a shift in focus from transactional activities to transformative driven activities. I recently read an article that suggests nearly one quarter of the HR population in Asia Pacific spends over six days per month on HR reporting. While reports are useful, this is transactional and does not offer transformational results. 
The real transformational results come from softer skills such as coaching, mentoring and developing and this is where I believe HR should focus most of their efforts. In saying this however, it is difficult to show return on investment (ROI) on these types of activities. If we are able to figure out a way to show ROI, then HR teams and businesses as a whole will benefit significantly.
4. What’s your favoured style of coffee?
I am a chocoholic so my favourite style of coffee is mocha.
5. If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would that be and why?
I would invite Aaron Sorkin, who has produced some of the most interesting television I have seen. In particular, I would be interested to understand his take on current societal challenges. I would also invite one of the Brontes – probably Emily if I had to choose one - to discuss how families cultivate their own creativity, as well as George Harrison because I think he would have some interesting stories to tell. 
6. Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t in HR, I’d be… extraordinarily bored! 

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