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Sharon Bennett DistFHRNZ

What was your first role in HR, and what role do you currently have?

My first HR role was as an HR Advisor within the Health and Disability Sector.  Now I’m in an executive HR role as the Group Manager People and Performance for Rangitīkei District Council.


What led you to a career in HR and the position that you are in currently?

I was completing a Bachelor of Science at Massey University and took an organisational development paper as an elective option.  I really enjoyed the people aspects of the study and it opened my eyes to the possibility of a career in HR / leadership.  I finished my science degree and went on to complete postgraduate study in HR management. My career has been a somewhat diverse journey where I have stepped in and out of HR roles, but have always been involved in people leadership and staff development.  Now, I really enjoy working in HR at an executive level where I have the opportunity to shape and influence the people aspects of organisational strategy and performance.


What do you like about working in HR? 

I love seeing people succeed and thrive at work, knowing that myself and my team have been part of shaping a great employment experience.  We spend so much of our lives at work and I believe it should be a place that enhances our mana and wellbeing, and one that we enjoy turning up to each day.



What role/s have you enjoyed the most in your career?

I’ve enjoyed all of my roles, particularly those where I have been involved in transforming cultures and developing leaders.  I absolutely love what I am doing right now.  I work with an amazing team of passionate people and have plenty of opportunity to innovate and make a difference.


Do you have any specific career highlights?

Getting my first executive HR leadership role was pretty awesome; I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to sit at the executive table and add a people focused lens to organisational strategies and directions.  I also really enjoyed my three year term on the Board of HRNZ.


What career advice would you give to someone early on in their career in HR? 

Get as much generalist HR experience as possible early on.  If you get the chance to take on roles and leadership opportunities outside of HR, do it - it will build your capability and credibility as an HR leader.  Get as involved as you can in the business you work in; the better you understand the business, the more well equipped you’ll be to deliver value to both the organisation and its people.  Finally, remember why you are there: he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.


Please describe your journey towards becoming a Distinguished Fellow. How was the experience?

I’ve been a member of HRNZ since 2004 and gained my Chartered membership in 2014.  I became an Associate Fellow and then Chartered Fellow in the years following and was extremely honoured to be named as a Distinguished Fellow in 2023. My experience at every step of the journey has been positive, and even though I went through the previous chartering system the experience was valuable and I felt very well supported by HRNZ.  I have always held my chartered status in high regard and I truly believe it adds value to my standing and credibility as an HR professional.  I encourage everyone in HR to set themselves the goal of becoming chartered, and then to continue to follow the HRNZ Professional Pathway.


Are there any goals or projects that you are currently working on that you wish to share? 

Right now, myself and my team are focusing our energy on employee engagement, culture, learning and performance.  There is a lot of reform happening in local government at the moment - we want our leaders and workforce to be well equipped to respond to change and have positive experiences while doing so.


As a highly experienced and valued member of the HRNZ community, we'd like to know - what do you love the most about HRNZ, and what value have you gained as a Distinguished Fellow?

Being a member of HRNZ has had a profound influence on my development as an HR professional.  Through HRNZ I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous professional development courses and conferences, networked widely with peers, been a local HRNZ branch committee member and branch president, been part of the HRNZ Board, experienced the benefits of being both a HRNZ Mentor and Mentee, and been a member of the Chartering Assessment Panel.  HRNZ has provided me with far more exposure and professional experience than I could have ever gained had I not been part of the Institute.  I greatly value the professional standing and credibility the title of Distinguished Fellow offers and I am excited about the opportunity to contribute further to the profession.