Meet Kerry, HR Professional of the Year for 2023
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It’s Oscars month – and soon before the glitzy Hollywood evening, a similarly glamorous event was held in New Zealand, only this one celebrated some of our best and brightest HR professionals.
They were in Auckland on March 9 for the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand’s 2023 NZ HR Awards, which was, says Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Hawke’s Bay associate Kerry Tattersall, perhaps the closest she’ll get to The Oscars.
By the end of the night she’d be a winner, scooping the prestigious HR Professional of the Year award. She hadn’t prepared a speech “because there were four really good finalists” yet her thrilled reaction and impromptu gratitude spoke volumes.
It was a culmination of 22 years of hard work in the field and, for Kerry, the ultimate confirmation of the difference she makes in the lives of her clients and those she supports.
Attitude led to a career in HR
For the tale of how it began, we need to wind back the clock to when she was about 18 and Kerry’s intended medical studies didn’t go as planned in her then homeland England.
She gave herself a breather before deciding her next career move, instead working for a large international pharmaceutical organisation, where she became PA to the HR manager for manufacturing while completing a degree in Business.
She watched on, fascinated at the way her boss Jan deftly navigated the “grey areas” of HR. “You've got guiding principles – the legislation – but how you apply them can be quite different depending on the situation,” says Kerry.
When Jan left, Kerry was offered her role. “Barry – the pharmaceutical manufacturing director – said to me, ‘I like the way you work… and people like being around you so I'm giving you this opportunity. You can't go from being the PA to being the HR manager overnight, but here's the plan...’. So we talked about that and he offered to pay for me to do my postgraduate qualification.”
Kerry chose employment law and industrial relations as her specialist study areas and never looked back. “Love” is a word she regularly uses when describing her career – and naturally, she’s now an advocate on hiring for attitude.
Barry later offered a GM of People position, but the operations were shifting to a distant city and Kerry was pregnant. She decided against relocation and instead worked as an HR manager with another company until the family moved to New Zealand.
New beginnings at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway
These days Kerry is a Senior Employment Relations/HR consultant and Licensed Private Investigator for Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Hawke’s Bay. She is also the regional HRNZ branch president and a chartered membership assessor.
“Baker Tilly Staples Rodway’s strong set of values mirrors my own and I love working as a consultant because no two days are the same. I get to work with a diverse range of clients and some inspirational leaders in neat businesses.”
While specialising in employment relations and employment law, she describes herself as a generalist, offering everything within the HR portfolio including leadership coaching and organisation development.
She describes the latter as the heartbeat of businesses, with a strong, healthy rhythm when staff are happy and engaged.
The evolution of HR
Human Resources has changed since Kerry’s earlier years when it was called the Personnel Department “and you saw Personnel if you needed to have a little cry or your employment was being terminated”.
While the industry hasn’t wholly shed the myth that it exists to hire and fire, HR’s vital role in aligning organisational People Strategy with Business Strategy is increasingly recognised as a key specialism around the top table.
“Creating a great workplace culture is never a one-size-fits-all. People want different things and we need to be agile to deliver that because it’s what keeps great employees.”
It’s what’s kept Kerry, too – all the variety and the feeling of making a difference. And as a last word, she has some great advice for those embarking on a shiny new HR career:
“Don’t sit in your ivory tower in HR. Our customers are internal and the best way to understand what they need is to be open-minded and curious in getting to know them and what they do and how we can support them to achieve their KPIs.
“Spend time on the production line, if there is one. Get out and about with each service area because then you’ll get a sense of what's really going on in the business. It’s about living and walking in their shoes.”
See here for a list of the HRNZ 2023 NZ HR Awards winners.