An analytical approach to HR

Kym Waters CPHR, Senior Manager HR Operations, RAA

Kym Waters CPHR used an engineering mindset to transform the learning and development function in his organisation - an so demonstrated the capabilities of a Certified HR Practitioner.

When faced with a difficult problem, former engineer turned HR manager Kym Waters puts on his analytical thinking cap. The senior manager HR operations at the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia (RAA) and AHRI State Councillor for South Australia switched careers around 14 years ago while filling a much-needed gap at his previous employer – but he still draws on his old engineering skill-set.

Acknowledging that people management is more his speed, the Darwin-born, Adelaide-bred Kym says it’s necessary to take an analytical approach to the human resources profession in this day and age in order to have an organisational impact.

“One of the key competencies in the HR profession now is business acumen and commercial sense,” says Kym.

“Particularly in my new role in HR operations, a big part of it is managing all of our systems – digital or otherwise. So the perspective I developed as an engineer certainly helps me along the way.”

A learning problem

When Kym opted to undergo certification through the Senior Leaders Pathway, it seemed only fitting that he chose to overhaul an outdated system that was slowing down the company’s HR operations. Kym and his team identified that the learning management system (LMS) that RAA had in place was not streamlined, and each business unit across the organisation was managing the learning and development function in its own way.

“We have 900 people at RAA, and each business unit has its own L&D team,” he says. “Without a central group overlooking the function, a number of silo systems developed over time around elearning and the way that training was captured. It was difficult to understand what training was happening, or where it was being recorded.”

Kym’s team recognised that there was much to gain by implementing an enterprise system, and set to work bringing it to life.

Rebooting the system

What they came up with was a digital interface that all employees were able to access, complete with a cross-organisational elearning course library. Employees can now go online and choose from a number of courses to enhance their professional knowledge. The new LMS also ensures that RAA’s core competencies are met throughout the organisation, and that employees live up to the standards set by leadership.

“We have a number of compliance-based elearning modules, for example, that employees undertake when they start, and refresher and efficiencies courses,” says Kym.

“We can now easily monitor who has done them, and whether they have passed or not. It has created an environment across the organisation where all the L&D teams are working together. We’re now all speaking the same language.”

Designing the system in-house means that the elearning courses are specifically geared towards improving RAA’s capability. “There are so many opportunities now to develop and roll-out other courses,” says Kym.

From an HR perspective, one of the key benefits of the system is the time that it takes to coordinate and manage learning activity, particularly the administrative aspects. “We did a before and after assessment of the timings of these processes, and we are now saving 11 hours a week for the L&D function. This has been a significant advantage from a cost perspective.”

Kym’s certification case study has obviously, and measurably, has made a strong impact on his organisation.

Preparing for the future

While Kym has a successful and established HR career, he says certification was a future-proofing exercise for him. “Moving forward, it’s going to be more important to have that level of recognition that you know your stuff in this profession,” he says.

“Getting certified was a professional decision for me. It was about demonstrating my competency in the field. In the future, it’s going to be more and more relevant as HR certification inevitably becomes further recognised by employers.”

Kym sees certification as a distinguisher that will put him ahead of the game in a tight job market, given that a professional body has recognised his capability. Much like in engineering, HR certification is a marker that you are qualified and fit for the job.