thinking hr on holiday in fiji


Now most of you are probably thinking you’re mad why were you thinking about HR and work whilst relaxing poolside in Fiji? Well mostly I wasn’t; email was off, phone was off, social media was off and it was all about time with friends and family. But some things you can’t help but notice, like exceptional customer service.

Our family of three, part of a wider group of fourteen on the holiday each experienced a staff member at the resort going above and beyond during the course of our stay. Let me explain…I got into a routine of a glass of bubbles by the adult pool in the afternoons during the three hours of “kids club”. After day one a fantastic lady working in the bar named Ana brought it to my sun lounger at the same time every day, along with one for my sister in law, and a beer for the other half, she was quick to our sides to replenish or suggest food and complementary fruit during the course of our time out. For the other half, he only had to go near the main bar and an ice cold Vonu was ready for him by the head barman, Sam, during happy hour each day. As for Miss Four, she delighted in returning to our room each day to discover what tropical flowers Anita had decorated her bed with and tucked behind Minnie Mouse and Barbie’s ears. Miss Four and I both appreciated Sita in the smoothie bar pre making our daily breakfasts and ensuring Miss Four received a pink cup each day…on reading this I’m reflecting that we are creatures of habit!

But my point is this…these four staff members in a resort that must have hundreds of staff to keep it running every day stood out above all the rest. These were the ones that went one step further, through a little extra effort, time, detail and attention and they are the ones that made our trip and will have us returning to that resort and recommending it to others (Radisson by the way!). They are the ones we remember, the ones whose names we learnt and who we went out of our way to thank and show our appreciation to come the end of our stay.

And this is where I got to thinking about HR. Are we going the extra mile? Are we taking the time to really partner with our organisations? To do all we can to add value, to learn about and understand the business and its requirements? To think outside the square and provide new and progressive solutions to age old HR issues?

I’m back at work refreshed and revived, and with a renewed enthusiasm and mandate to make sure I provide the best possible service I can to all my ‘customers’ – staff and managers alike. To increase my knowledge of the departments and teams I work with, to strive to better understand their business failures, successes and needs going forward and to work towards providing them with solutions that work now and into the future. My aim is to streamline systems and processes and to utilise new technologies, ideas and thinking to help drive them to future successes and hopefully to create more time for them work on the business while I partner with them to work in the business through trust, connections, engagement, communication and productivity.


no make-up organisation


First up I have to confess I’ve stolen this idea from Paul Jacobs (@pauljacobs4real and/or well if I’m really honest, from a comment he made, on a comment on his LinkedIn post: we’ve got it out of the way that the idea for this post was not mine….the rest is my thinking on Paul’s phrase “ The No Make-Up Organisation”.

For those that didn’t click on the link and read Paul’s post…and for those same or otherwise people who missed the no make-up selfie phenomenon on Facebook recently, some back ground. The no make-up selfie trend originated with woman posting pictures of themselves on Facebook and Twitter with no make-up to raise money and the profile of Cancer Awareness and Cancer Research in the UK (see this BBC News article 

I for one am not much of a make-up wearer. For those in the know I wear mascara religiously – ever since my Mum gave me a mirror aged 20, for my first yacht prior to a 3 week cruise with my then boyfriend “so I could put mascara on for New Years’ Eve at the Barrier” (completely unnecessary for the Barrier if you’ve ever been there – particularly more than 10 years ago, on a 19ft yacht that didn’t even have a toilet). Not much has changed since then – I’ve added Thin Lizzy. A bronzing powder to “make me look tanned”. And as the current love of my life told me “make-up looks professional on a lady, but I love you as you are”, and at the advice of one of my best girlfriends, GM of Wendy Hill Cosmetics (shameless plug for, I now apply “yellow stuff” to my red nose before the Thin Lizzy. But I digress.

My bestie and I (I’m in my 30’s now, but like Pauls usage of new terminology), vowed and declared we would never succumb to the no make-up selfie trend on Facebook, despite the fact that she’s an at home mum, and I run every lunch time I can and never reapply post workout, so sit red faced all afternoon at my desk and in meetings. Again, I digress.

My point in this post is what are we hiding? Make Up blurs / blends the reality of a person’s face…so to organisations? Do we hide behind a façade? Have we portrayed a “culture” on social media enhanced for what we want to project? Do we display a different persona at work than we do at home with friends and family? Are there groups / teams / departments within an organisation not quite what they outwardly appear to be? And would we all be better off just laying ourselves bare and being the essence of our true selves all the time?

One case in point I have is a beautiful girl I work with; she doesn’t wear make-up, doesn’t conform to dress expectations (only wears NZ made & designed, preferably second hand), and refuses to change who she is whether at work or at play; what you see is what you get regardless, and as a result she’s one of the most liked and trusted people in the company. How many of us have a work persona? How many of us conform to what is expected at work? In the role, the team and/or the organisation? And how does this affect both us and the people around us?

What would the workplace look like if we were all as real as the no make-up selfie’s on Facebook (assuming they are real of course!)? How would this affect communication, employee engagement, organisational culture and the like? What would happen if we were all inherently who we are? 

I’m not sure how honest we need to be; after all, we who work in HR need to be taken seriously right in the organisation right? Don’t we have a reputable for being boring and staid a lot of the time? But are we any less serious if we bust moves on tables on a Saturday night along with the Sales Director? Maybe.  Maybe not. But perhaps we should give the no make-up organisation a try and see where it leads us?

Keep it simple stupid


HR Coordinator, HR Advisor, HR Manager, Performance and Culture Advisor, People and Talent Manager, Culture Manager, Acquisition and Talent Director the list of ever changing HR titles in the workplace goes on and on. What do they mean? What do these people actually do on a daily basis? To some it no doubt sounds like gobbledy gook – something made up.

So too HR terminology. Strategic workforce planning, transformational HR, organisational culture, employee engagement, talent identification and succession planning, training fatigue, institutional knowledge…to name a few.  For those of us actively working in or closely with HR (or otherwise named departments with same or similar functions), we know what we’re talking about when using these terms. But what about everyone else? To the rest of the company are we again speaking something of a foreign language with our jargon?

I participate regularly, or as regularly as life allows in twitter chats and the like on all manner of subjects HR related. I find it a fantastic way to extend my own knowledge of the construct, at the same time building and growing networks with like-minded people. Something I’ve been struck with through the course of this is that even people within the same industry can have very different ideas about what these things mean, how they work and what they represent. And I think often it’s a result of them growing and changing to keep up with an ever evolving world of work.

I’m taken back to a past life where I was a sailing instructor. The confused looks I got from first time groups of students when I referred to sheets and halyards, port and starboard as opposed to what they knew as ropes and left and right, quickly taught me to adapt my language to something they knew, understood and felt familiar with. The red rope meant so much more to them than the gib sheet. I had to bring it back to their level.

Perhaps this is something we as HR should consider for the rest of the organisations we work in? Perhaps through breaking what we know well, down to a basic level the rest of the organisation would achieve a better understanding of what we stand for and are trying to achieve. I think this will become increasingly important through HR’s continuous battle for a seat at the top table (and here it works twofold as HR’s need for a greater understanding of the business grows) and for those in HR trying to change the HR construct and shake it up for the future. 

Now I’m not saying we stop changing titles and terminology or do away with them at all, as by and large I think something along the lines of the emerging “Talent and Culture” is a much more apt term for HR. The former implying that organisations actually value and care for their employees, whereby the later implies they are simply “resources” – a means to an end in business. I’m simply saying that when it comes to the rest of the organisation I’m reminded of the old KISS acronym used time and again by those in HR and related disciplines, Keep It Simple Stupid.

employer branding 102

Post my first blog on this topic I’m left wondering…is the grass greener or is it only perceived / portrayed to be that way?

I’m researching all companies who on the outside project this amazing employer brand; a place everyone, myself included half the time aspires to work in. But is this truly the case, or is this clever marketing? For instance is the vision, mission and culture as it is implied, or is this the vision of HR or the marketer in charge of the employer branding? In other words is it real?

I say this as I sit on the cusp of producing an employer branding campaign / marketing plan for a major player in the NZ media world. I know what I want to project – I know the brand I want to portray, the culture I’ve been working for years to put in place and project. However is this only my mind-set? Am I portraying my loyalty to the brand or that of the vast majority in the workplace? And how do others in my position fare?

It seems to me from my research that it’s a mixed bag. I’ve discovered since my last post that looks can be deceiving. In other words some of those shouting the loudest employer branding praises have little to back it up, and others with zero in the market in this realm do an amazing job. Therefore does it once again come back to marketing and how you package a product? Or does word tend to get around re the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of employers?

Either way my take on it is you have to be honest. Project the positives in the workplace, tell the good stories and promote the progressive culture through employer branding. Be very wary of promoting your take on it if it is not the perception of the majority, and take the time to find this out first. Why? Employees are attracted and retained through employer branding, among other things. If it appears to be false, if they don’t realise it before they come on-board, they quickly will afterwards. To avoid disappointment and disillusionment in new employees, and to quickly build a repertoire and engagement with them, keep it honest and keep it real.

Thus you will position them for a better on-boarding experience and introduction to both the team, the organisation, their mission and values.  This should also ensure that they are indoctrinated to the culture sooner, performing faster and feel a much greater sense of identity with the organisation from feelings and perceptions they’ve formed about the organisation pre-employment. Ultimately, all leading to faster and higher levels of productivity.  But what would the case be if they were to come on-board and find the opposite is true?