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Profile: Clare Murphy FCPHR

Clare Murphy headshot

Top of the class or just peddling along?

By Clare Murphy FCPHR
Director of People and Strategy, St Michael’s Grammar School, and 2016 AHRI Award winner

“One of the biggest challenges for small to medium-sized businesses is there are usually only one or two people in HR and there is so much of the operational aspects of the role that take up the time, it is hard to find the time to be strategic. But the fact is, you have to show that you can work at a strategic level. Businesses are no longer going to employ HR practitioners unless they are sure they are going to contribute strategically to the success of the business.

“Change and disruption is the new constant. With everything evolving at such a rapid rate, it gives added priority to continuous professional development, to networking and to sharing best practice with our colleagues.

“I undertook the HR certification's Senior Leaders Pathway and I had been weighing up for some time when to do it and how I was going to fit it in with all my other responsibilities. After discussing it with other colleagues who had done it, I decided I just had to put time aside to get it done. But it was nowhere near as time consuming as I had expected. Although I did it in chunks, I think in total it took me a day and a half.

“A lot of the documentation was already there as there was an enormous amount of work that I had already done. So it was really pulling it all together and reflecting on that. Often you get so busy that you move from one priority to the next without having time to pause to reflect on what went well and what you would do differently. The certification program was a good process that enabled me to do that.

“I think completing AHRI’s HR certification program is also about taking shared responsibility for the profession as a whole. It’s usually the CFO who is seen as the second in command, but if HR is to have a seat at the table it has to be genuinely seen as an equal and to have professional standards that we are held accountable to. And that includes behaviours and how we conduct ourselves.

“One of the most challenging things that I have had to face in my career is when I was asked to do something that wasn’t legal under industrial relations legislation. Ethically it wasn’t the right thing to do. When you are instructed by people above you, it puts you in a position where you question where your responsibility lies. I refused to do what they asked me. At the time I was on a short-term contract and it didn’t last long after I took that position. But courage is part of the behaviours that HR is expected to show. There are so many horror stories in the news where HR hasn’t done the right thing and that gives the HR profession a bad name. It is why I think certification is so important – to build credibility for yourself as an individual and the profession as a whole.

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