Home' HR Monthly : October 2015 Contents 26
A VISION THING
SAMANTHA ROBERTSON has been working in HR
since she graduated from Sydney University in 2012.
Robertson currently works in the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet in Canberra and is one of the first
intake on the 18-month AHRI Practising Certification
Program (APC). Here she talks to Amanda Woodard,
Editor HRM, about her reasons for joining the program
and her experience to date.
What were your reasons for doing the certification course?
Two years ago I participated in a debate at an AHRI networking
forum where the topic was: Anyone can do HR. I was arguing on
the negative side. That view frustrated me and I felt that HR was
getting lost in the fluff of organisations. The financial sector has
mandatory certification, so why not HR? I thought it would really
strengthen HR's role in the public sector and more generally. And ask
the question: how can we as HR professionals align ourselves with
business objectives. So when I read about Tanya Hammond's work and
research into the professionalisation of HR and heard about the pilot
program, I wanted to be part of it.
What do you hope to get out of the certification program?
I want to be more critical and solutions-driven in the way I approach
my work. Having already worked in strategic workforce planning, I
have learnt to become more future oriented and remind myself of the
bigger purpose of what I'm doing, what the department is doing and
where we all fit into that.
But I think the program will enable me to look at ways to solve
problems rather than just getting caught up in the operational side.
I also want to develop my influencing skills. Sometimes I can get
caught up with other people's ideas so I want to be more active in
challenging those and applying critical thinking. In public service it can
be very hierarchical and risk-averse, so I hope everyone doing the APC
program will be more equipped to bring new ideas that challenge the
status quo and provide good evidence on what works and what doesn't.
What has the course been like so far?
The important thing is the APC course incorporates into my normal
work so I can apply the learning as I go. We have a few work-based
assignments where we work on something that can be implemented in
our normal jobs and we can see what limitations there are, if any.
To date we have had one workshop with around 15 of us. The
instructor has worked in the public and private sector and it's good that
he has that broad perspective because people who have only worked in
the public sector their whole career may be more limited in their
To begin the facilitator got us to line up in terms of our job
seniority. Then to line up again in terms of how many years of
experience we had in HR. By doing that, he showed us that the
number of years in HR doesn't necessarily equate to seniority.
That initiated a lot of discussion around management theory
and practices. We looked at the competencies required by HR
professionals today, in particular AHRI's model of excellence
and the different behaviours that HR practitioners need to
understand in themselves and in others. Taking that, we applied
it to our different roles and the particular challenges we face.
Were there any concerns about the certification program?
Some people, including myself, were quite apprehensive about
balancing the workload with doing day-to-day work. But I
found as the program is focused on the work you are doing,
the teaching actually helps you to do your job. For some
people it has been a long time since they have done any formal
study and that transition of moving from writing at work back
to academic writing was daunting at first.
Any unexpected benefits?
People were keen to go back and talk about the ideas that came
out of the program with their bosses and that's good because
it shows senior management that what we are learning can
contribute to what they are doing in our departments. When I
talked with my supervisor about our current human resources
strategy, he then immediately involved me more directly in what
we were doing.
We have to keep a learning journal and I can see already how
useful that is for reflecting and my critical thinking. I keep a
written list of action items that I want to follow through.
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