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ST U DY, LEARN, PRACTISE
Research can help to define HR expertise, says senior lecturer and newly certified HR
practitioner Dr John Molineux FAHRI.
BY AMANDA WOODARD
WHAT CAN ACADEMICS BRING TO THE HR PROFESSION?
That’s the question that John Molineux asked himself as a senior
lecturer at Deakin University, where he moved to following a long
career in HR.
“If academics are doing work that influences thinking around
HR practice, then that is worth considering in terms of the
understanding and knowledge that feeds back into the profession.
It’s another way of ensuring high standards of expertise,” he says.
Currently teaching human resource management and leadership
to MBA students at the Melbou rne Burwood campus, Molineux
says that his students have a varying degree of knowledge about
HR. Some have worked in engineering or IT, for example, and
wouldn’t have practised any HR before being thrown into a people
“Once you start managing people, then you realise how much
you don’t know,” says Molineux. But increasing knowledge and
expertise in HR is essential, he believes, no matter who is taking
on people management tasks or where they are coming from.
Molineux teaches some of the complex areas of strategic HR,
about how to get the best out of people and the qualities that
make for good leadership. He acknowledges that management and
leadership styles can vary enormously. “You can be a charismatic
leader who is inspiring, but you can also be a leader behind the
scenes, encouraging and supporting people as a coach and mentor.
Often this approach is more sustainable.”
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Besides training a new generation of leaders in HR , Molineux’s
commitment to the futu re of HR extends well beyond his 35-year
career as H R director, manager, practitioner and strategist in
As a member of AHRI’s Victorian State Council, he was
responsible for co-ordinating the diversity and work-life
balance network. More recently, he has been helping assess HR
practitioners’ work for achieving professional certification as a
member of the National Certification Council (NCC).
“It’s been really exciting to see some of the high-level work that
senior H R people have been doing in organisations,” he says.
“One example was a major international project that saved a huge
amount of money, based on assessment of people capability within
Prior to accepting the role on the NCC, Molineux wanted to
complete the senior certification pathway towards professional
“If I am going to show leadership in HR, then I thought I should
do the program, even though I am no longer in an operational HR
role.” For Molineux, professional certification is the capstone piece
of the jigsaw in a career that began as a payroll clerk in the 1970s.
“I didn’t know back then that HR was for me – but it didn’t
take long to discover that I really loved it.” Joining the Australian
Taxation Office (ATO) as a personnel manager was one of his best
moves, with lots of staff to organise, and studying in the evenings
to complete his business degree in personnel management.
Between 1999 and 2002, he managed a large cultural change
project at the ATO that taught him how HR systems could be used
in a strategic way to influence employee behaviour and, ultimately,
change the culture of an organisation. It was this subject that he
would go on to explore further in his PhD, completed in 2005.
ON THE PATH
Embarking on the senior certification
pathway, Molineux submitted a case
study on his work with AHRI on a
project around positive psychology and
experience of work for HR professionals.
His research took the form of a diary
study whereby HR practitioners recorded
what they were doing over a 10-day
period and how they were feeling about
that work. Follow-up interviews informed
an AHRI member survey. A third step was
a workshop presented at AHRI’s national
convention in 2015, which revealed the research
findings and ideas about how H R practitioners can
be more effective and really enjoy their work.
Molineux’s research also explored the
effects of different kinds of stress. Time
pressure, he found, was more
stressful than creative pressure.
“Creative pressure is
more satisfying than time
pressure. So our lesson to
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