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Peter Boxall DistFHRNZ

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

My first role as an HR specialist was as an HR consultant at (what was then) Price Waterhouse. With them, and for several years afterwards, I tended to specialise in two major areas of HR work: helping design, implement and review performance appraisal/employee development systems, and helping organisations review and plan their overall HR strategy. I was appointed as a lecturer in personnel management at the University of Auckland in 1987 and have been a professor in HRM since 2001. I am currently the ‘disciplinary area lead’ for HRM and Organisational Behaviour, involved with a very talented and supportive team of colleagues.


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

My first degree was mainly in economics and I also gained a secondary teacher’s college diploma but went off to London in the late 1970s to work in accounting. There, I met HR professionals in the multinational I worked for and I admired what they did. After coming back to New Zealand, I was teaching at (what was then) Manukau Technical Institute and colleagues there encouraged me to study management. That led to doing a Master’s degree part-time and, after some time as a lecturer at Auckland, I went off to do a PhD at Monash University in HRM, one of the first ever conferred in the subject.


What do you like about working in HR? 

Well, like other HR specialists, I love the people side of organisations. I am fascinated by the way people work and the ways in which management tries to manage them. I am very motivated by studying HRM in organisations and have really enjoyed working on the theory of strategic HRM and the study of well-being at work.


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

I have had the privilege of, and thoroughly enjoyed, being an academic in a university business school. The teaching side is always challenging and fulfilling. You learn a lot from your students! I like to help people apply good theory to analyse how to enhance performance and well-being in a job or workplace. The assignments I design, including with undergraduates, are anchored in the reality of their working experience and are designed to help them learn management skills. I am also very motivated by the research programme I am engaged in and by the opportunity to lead and serve colleagues. I have grown personally through the challenges of various jobs as an academic manager, including as a head of department and ten years as an associate dean of the business school.


Do you have any specific career highlights?

It’s always great to see people going through our programmes and on to good jobs and careers, including those who get jobs as HR specialists, which is less common but very gratifying. Working with PhD students is always very special. As a researcher, each time you conduct a study that gets published in a good journal, it’s very satisfying. Receiving the Dutch HRM Network Award (from the Professors of HRM in the Dutch universities) in 2003 and 2019 for research contributions to HRM has been a key highlight of my career. In terms of my books, highlights include co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management (Oxford University Press) with John Purcell and Patrick Wright and co-authoring Strategy and Human Resource Management (Bloomsbury Academic) with John Purcell, now in its fifth edition.


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

I advise all my students to seek out roles and organisations where they can get the best experience and training they can and then use this launching pad to keep growing. After leaving university, the key thing is to build the career through work tasks and assignments that are progressively more challenging, including working with senior people who can guide and mentor. Of course, while in high school and university or other forms of higher education, it is extremely valuable to have part-time jobs and/or internships that bring engagement with the real world of work and that start a record of good performance.


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

It goes back quite a long way. I was in the personnel branch of the NZ Institute of Management in the 1980s, then a member of the Institute of Personnel Management when it split off (around 1986) and then, in due course, I became a member and fellow of HRINZ and so on. A key step was advocating for the formation of the Academic Branch in the late 2000s and serving as its inaugural president. A vital part of this was gaining HRNZ’s approval to admit academics to professional (now chartered) membership based on what they had achieved in the core tasks of their academic jobs (teaching, research and service/leadership in HRM). Getting the HRNZ Research Forums up and running was another highlight, as was being involved in the working party, led by Ross Pearce, that researched and developed the policy recommendations to the HRNZ board on continuing professional development (CPD).


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

Well, at the moment, I am excited about various research projects being worked on by my PhD students. For example, I am supervising Charles Cayrat who is working on the development of HR analytics and the role of artificial intelligence in it. He has been interviewing HR professionals and managers in large organisations in France and Canada, studying how they are building their teams and projects in HR analytics, including the challenges, the benefits and the risks in all this. It’s cutting-edge research in terms of the way measurement and analytical capabilities are advancing in HR functions around the world.


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?

I enjoy meeting the people in HRNZ, learning from them and about their working lives, and building relationships with them over the years, including through committees and working parties. HRNZ is a great network and it provides a range of opportunities to learn (e.g. through special interest groups, conferences, webinars and surveys of the membership). The Academic Branch has become a key part of this wider network. We are engaging more effectively with HR professionals and with each other because of it. I have benefited from all this.