HR in the hot seat with Sally Pedlow, HR manager, MSS Security

Sally Pedlow talks about why HR professionals need to speak up and push themselves out of their comfort zone.

Sally Pedlow talks about why HR professionals need to speak up and push themselves out of their comfort zone.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 
It was something to the effect of “don’t be afraid to speak up and push yourself out of your comfort zone – after all what’s the worst that could happen?”. Early on in my career I would often hesitate to speak up, thinking that if I did, it would come out the wrong way and I would upset people etc. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor (the person who gave me the advice) who worked with me and really encouraged me to speak up – after all, what’s the worst that could happen? I think I am now, in part, known and valued as someone who isn’t afraid to speak up, and I’m a firm believer that it’s outside your comfort zone where the magic happens.

The other piece of advice that has stuck with me is “Sometimes it is better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission.” This is a card you need to play carefully and you need to be prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences of course, but sometimes it is just better to get on and do it, rather than endlessly discussing and consulting about an issue.

What challenges do you think HR will face over the next 10 years?
Partnering with the business to successfully navigate through a challenging economic climate will be key. I think the aging workforce will be a big challenge facing HR and businesses in general, and combined with that attracting and retaining key talent. Mental health and wellbeing issues and how that intersects with the workplace will be an ongoing challenge.

What is the favourite part of your job?
The fact that it is never boring and every day is different and challenging makes the job really interesting and enjoyable. I love developing and coaching line managers and turning them into what I call “mini HR Managers” or HR Champions – essentially giving them the skills, knowledge, support and confidence to be able to manage most people related matters on their own. It always makes my heart sing when I get to see the fruits of my labour and the mini HR Manager in them starts to show. 

Working alongside such a fantastic HR team at MSS is also a real treat, not to mention working in a business that values and embraces HR, and celebrates us stirring the pot and challenging the status quo.

What do you feel is your biggest professional achievement to date?
As part of the People and Culture team at MSS I have been so proud of many of our achievements, including some recent accolades we have received. We made the list of HR Directors Magazine Innovative HR Teams, 2016; Winner, ASIAL Awards for Excellence – Training; Indigenous Employment, and Gender Diversity; Winner, Australian Business Awards 2015 - Human Resource Management.

From a personal perspective, perhaps one of my biggest and most significant professional achievements has been developing and managing a successful Indigenous training and employment program that started in WA in 2014. The program has been successful in increasing Indigenous participation in the MSS workforce and providing real employment and training opportunities for Indigenous Australians, with Indigenous participation rates of 10% across some contracts. The program also led to the development and launch of the national Employment Parity Initiative (EPI) earlier this year, which is a partnership with the federal government, involving a commitment by MSS to employ 350 Indigenous Australians over a 4-year period. I also had the joy of travelling to India recently, for the annual conference of our parent company, SIS Group, and was named as the Winner of the SIS Group Award for Outstanding Contribution for the Year in 2016.

What attracted you to a career in HR?
For my undergraduate degree I studied a Bachelor of Arts, and majored in Anthropology and found the study of people, culture and society fascinating. When I finished my undergraduate degree I wanted to do some post graduate studies to get myself a more “job ready” qualification – I looked around and found they had a Post Graduate Diploma in HR/IR and thought that it looked like a practical application of my major, Anthropology. At the same time as I started my post graduate studies I got my first office job and quickly worked my way into the HR team…10+ years later and it’s safe to say I chose wisely.

What is the hardest part/least favourite part of your job?
Those times when you have to deal with really heart breaking employee situations, where they might have really tough things going on in their personal lives, particularly if there is a termination involved. The key for me is making sure that we always approach and deal with those situations with dignity, respect and compassion, and provide the employee with support, so that hopefully, all parties walk away from the situation feeling supported and are able to move forward.

What are some of the challenges particular to your organisation and your industry?
The aging workforce and mental health are two areas where we face a few challenges. From a broader business perspective, we operate in a cost competitive, low margin industry. In the current economic climate everybody is looking to cut costs, and as a contracting business we survive by winning contracts and we will often lose contracts on cost. There are also some in our industry who cut corners, and as a business that doesn’t cut corners and pays people correctly, it is always disheartening to lose contracts over price when we suspect the winning quote will mean people won't be paid appropriately.

If you could host a dinner party and invite anyone in the world, who would it be?
My Mum’s Dad (he died long before I was born), Lena Dunham, and Barrack Obama…because why not?

Please complete this sentence: If you weren’t working in HR, you would be…
To a certain extent I couldn’t imagine doing anything else as I feel as though I have found my calling in life. But perhaps I would be working as an Anthropologist, studying people, culture and society somewhere. Either that or I might have moved into Medicine – my Dad is a doctor and was always keen for me to follow in his footsteps.
Sally Pedlow is presenting: Making people love HR: How to win supporters and influence leaders at the HR Summit Perth on 25-26 May 2016.

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