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Beryl Oldham DistFHRNZ

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

My first HR role was as a Training Development Advisor in the Royal New Zealand Navy and I am currently the Managing Director of Complete Learning Solutions, an organisational learning and development consultancy. So I guess you could say I've come full circle. :-)

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

When I was in the Navy I started a business studies degree and I was looking for somewhere I could apply what I was learning. The Navy had a vacancy in the Training and Development department and so I applied and got the role. That opportunity also helped shape the direction of my studies - I ended up with a Masters degree in Business Studies from Massey University with a major in HRM. Then when I retired from the Navy I had the qualification and the experience that helped me land some good roles and progress my career to where I am now.

What do you enjoy about working in HR? 

People are very complex beings and the environments they work in are complex too. There are lots of moving parts to consider. Building relationships and getting buy-in for projects along with the alignment required to make them happen effectively can be a challenging process but it is incredibly satisfying when it all comes together and you can feel (and measure) the lift in culture. 

Are there any specific highlights of your career that you wish to share?

I am fortunate in that there have been many, but a few that stand out are the completion of a Defence-wide competency framework back in 2002, my role as training analyst on the ANZAC Ship Project, leading the Training and Development cell for Navy, HR modelling and workforce planning for Navy and Defence, completing my first big ROI study, my time as People Capability Manager and then later as HR Manager at North Shore City Council, my HR Manager role at Humes Pipelines, and for the last eight years running my own business, have all been very satisfying.

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

You need to have business acumen and you need to understand human psychology - some of the best HR people I know have organisational/industrial psychology backgrounds.  If you are doing university papers, take all the organisational psychology electives you can. And learn about the business - with HR you need to understand that you are there for the organisation. You must learn the financial imperatives that drive the business while convincing its leaders that looking after their people is in their best interests financially and ethically. You must also learn about behavioural theory - psychology again! :-) Organisations get what they reward and they often unwittingly reward the wrong things so make sure they have some measurable people KPIs in the mix. Some of this may sound a bit much for someone early in their HR career but I believe that's what they should be aspiring to.

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

I started my early HR career in L&D, then moved into OD and workforce planning before landing some more generalist HR roles in a number of government and corporate organisations. I've always believed in the importance of professional organisations and I've been a member of HRNZ for 26 years - when I joined it was called the Institute of Personnel Management (IPMNZ). I guess you could say I've been an "active" member. Not long after I joined I became a member of the Auckland Branch Committee and later on I did quite a bit of work to bring HRNZ and NZATD more closely together. I've attended most of the HRNZ conferences while I've been a member. I used to be a regular at HRNZ events and I've spoken at some. I've entered projects in the HRNZ Awards a couple of times, and I served on the HRNZ professional membership grading panel for 13 years. My professional membership journey started early - I became a professional member in 1997 when we were still the IPM, and I was awarded Fellow in 2007. I've also been a sponsor and exhibitor at conferences, and more recently I have supplied its LMS.

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

Nothing specific comes to mind. But I like to be able to share with my clients what I've learned in my 30+ years in organisational L&D and HR.