The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2015 – #1

Staff Photo - Meredith Blacker - Dec 2014To get us underway this year we have a post I have wanted to read since I saw this initiative win the HR Game Changer award earlier this year. It’s the sort of thing I have often thought HR teams should be doing. Meredith Blackler heads up the People & Capability team at Horowhenua District Council and believes that HR should add value directly into the community and also have an external focus. You can find her on twitter (@meredithkblack).

The gift of giving

Christmas is usually associated with a time of giving. And, if you’ve been a very good boy or girl, you may get a little something too. As a generalist HR practitioner, I have to confess that I often associate Christmas with increased employment relations.

This usually comes about because people are tired and stressed. Stressed about money; stressed about meeting deadlines before going away on holiday; stressed because they’re going to have to see a family member they’d rather not see on Christmas Day but feel obliged to; or, stressed because they have no one to spend Christmas with – and the organisation closing down over that period is a sore reminder of impending loneliness.

Endless Christmas functions sap what little energy you have left as you crawl towards your well deserved Summer break (disclaimer: this may have the opposite effect for extroverts). It’s easy to get sucked into this mentality and forget about ‘giving’. I for one am already picturing the drive home on the 24th December at 5.00pm eagerly awaiting a cold bottle glass of Pinot Gris… bliss… but then reality hits, and I realise that as a senior manager in my organisation, I need to suck it up and lead by example right up to that drive home.

Christmas also serves as a reminder that another year has come to an end. Reflecting back on the year, for me personally and my team, it’s been a full one. We’ve rolled out multiple initiatives and completed some major projects. Over and above our organisational goals, we also provide HR services to our community. We operate a service model that sees us providing low cost HR consultancy to the SMEs in our community that cannot afford to have a dedicated HR role or pay the high rates of consultants.

Our model is linked to the District’s ‘Economic Development Strategy’, which was developed in response to various shortages in our community. The challenges our District faces are significant, as they are in many regions. Namely, our District struggles to attract and retain skilled workers, we have the second highest aging population in NZ, and we have higher than average unemployment.   There are some amazing businesses in the Horowhenua, but they’re struggling to attract the talent they need to get to the next level and stay there. HR has a role to play here and essentially can provide a “gift” all year round. That might sound corny… okay; it does… but let me explain:

I believe that as HR professionals, we have the power to make people’s lives better. And we should. Not just internally in our own organisations, but by using our wide range of skills to help our communities and the 99% of businesses with less than 50 staff who are hiring 43.5% of New Zealand’s workforce (Statistics NZ, 2013). HR professionals have the expertise, knowledge and competencies that belong in every business. Stuff that is ‘101’ for us isn’t so obvious for many small business owners and it makes a tangible difference when properly applied to both the business and their employees.

My team accepts the challenge to provide HR services to our community’s businesses because for them it could be the difference of staying afloat and keeping their doors open. It creates stronger organisations, which in turn creates jobs… this is what economic development is all about.

Love him or hate him, Nigel Latta said something that has resonated with me since I heard him speak two years ago. He said “do what’s right, not what’s safest, easiest, or makes the most money”. Even though it often stretches us as a team, providing HR services to our community is the right thing to do. It’s our gift to our community.

So, in a time of year when we’re thinking about giving – turn your minds as to how you can give throughout the year instead. Give the gift of your knowledge, skills and expertise as the amazing HR professional you are. Get on a school board (they always need HR advice… yikes!), offer your services to your local hairdresser or coffee shop owner. There are no shortages of businesses looking for the advice and strategic solutions that HR can bring. You’ll not only get more exposure to other businesses as an HR professional, but you’ll potentially be helping keep a business’ doors open, or helping them grow so that they need to employ more people. What a great gift!

And finally, I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes about giving to ponder while you sit back and relax over your summer break with your Pinot Gris wondering how you can make a difference in 2016:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. Anne Ritchie, 1880

8 thoughts on “The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2015 – #1

  1. Maree Hawkins says:

    Thank you for this gift, it is great to see such an outward facing HR focus and has got me thinking what is my gift back to my own organisation and community- what a wonderful way to start the 12 blogs of Christmas!

  2. Sally Blackler says:

    Wonderful words and thank you for reminding us all to take it all back to what matters in life, and the gift of giving to each other. Merry Christmas!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments… it was great to meet you at the unconference in wellington and to hear more about the great work you’re doing overlaid with the christmas context, is even better. merry christmas!

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