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The Human Resources Institute of New Zealand

Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ) is the professional body for those involved in Human Resource Management and the development of people.

HRINZ represents the interests of 3,000+ individual members who make up around 45% of the known New Zealand HR market. Read More

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2016 Student Ambassador Conference Highlights

Tegan Ireland, Waikato Branch, University of Waikato

The 2016 NZ HR Conference was bursting with new experiences and informative insights. Inspirational keynote speakers, stimulating topics, and the opportunity to network with HR Gurus combined with an extremely entertaining master of ceremonies, just to name a few. The overarching theme of this year’s conference was “Our Place in the World” which was certainly thought provoking in the discussions surrounding the presence of HR in New Zealand versus the global context of HR. I can honestly say that every keynote speaker and concurrent session provided a valuable insight for me as a student moving into the profession.

Day one began with keynote speaker, Jennifer Overbeck – “The Importance of HR in the Age of Mental Shortcuts” which was one of my personal highlights as it focused on implicit bias. Having an unconscious bias within HR practices is often something which is not openly discussed; however, we all need to be conscious of it. Jennifer Overbeck provided an insight into strategies of avoiding the implicit bias in common HR practices which I think everyone found very accommodating. Day two’s highlight was keynote speaker, Sally Anderson – “From tragedy to triumph.” With no knowledge of Sally Anderson prior to this session the presentation was simply unforeseen and inspirational. I will not forget Sally Anderson and this experience anytime soon and would recommend this session to anyone.

The NZ HR Expo was exciting and attention-grabbing with lots of giveaways and a great opportunity to converse with industry experts. The Expo provided myself and others with an abundant of ideas of HR related technologies and initiatives that are currently on the market. It is clear that a number of these technologies and key ideas will be taken back to organisations to implement as a result. Overall, the conference was an amazing opportunity as a student to learn more about the HR profession, network with inspirational HR leaders, spend time with my outstanding fellow ambassadors and experience an excellent conference. I left the conference with a new perspective of the HR field and “Our Place in the World.”

Laura Duquemin, Nelson Branch, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology

Gazing out the airplane window on my way to the NZ HR Conference I contemplated this years’ theme, “Our Place in the World”. It’s funny really how every day we become so consumed in our own routines, our own strategies, our own way of doing things. We never really stop to consider if someone else, somewhere in the world, has discovered a better approach. It was then that I understood exactly what HRINZ was trying to do with this years’ event - to open our eyes to the methods used by our international colleagues. We need to look at the bigger picture; HR professionals are not simply cogs in an organisational machine, we are the drivers of international change and partners in the creation of a better world for all.

Day one started on a high note as the MC, Jeremy Corbett, took to the stage to run us through the schedule and provide his personal opinion on the acoustic effectiveness of the materials used in the Te Papa theatre. Little did I know, having not routinely watched 7 Days on TV, just how funny Jeremy really was. He certainly provided us with a number of laughs throughout the conference, whether it be “roasting” each speaker on their content, excitedly informing us of the free goodies we could find at the Expo stalls, or photo-bombing my tutor and I during the lunchtime networking session.

When Dave Ulrich took to the stage, the audience was immediately captivated by his charismatic presence; a world leader in the HR field, a man with indispensable knowledge and a smart husband whom recognised that “listening is not about understanding, it is about the other person feeling understood”. Dave reinforced to us the value of teamwork in an organisation that the individual is never going to be as powerful as the collective. It is ultimately the role of us as HR professionals to create an organisational culture where success is defined by the multiplication of others, not the isolation of one. We must focus on creating a common purpose, respecting differences, sharing experiences and ensuring collaborative growth.

A cooked breakfast and an entertaining speaker was exactly what we needed after such a late night, and the Kathy Tracey Executive Education breakfast on day three definitely didn’t disappoint. An inspiring story about her journey toward individual resilience in the face of change was illustrated with an activity in which we were asked to pair up and change three things about our appearance. Despite struggling through the activity only wearing a dress and a pair of tights, I realised the point that Kathy was trying to make. Many of us resist change because we fear the unknown, the personal loss that we may suffer as a result. Often when change occurs, our automatic reaction is to return to our original state, however, failing to give new things a chance hinders both individual and organisational progress. It is essential that we, as HR leaders, are able to build a resilient organisational culture in which change is embraced by employees, rather than feared.

There were a number of inspirational keynote speeches throughout the day, ranging in topics from leadership to the living wage and to women in the workplace, all of which provided me with a notebook full of knowledge that I will carry with me into my future career. Before we knew it, 5pm rolled around and Jeremy roasted the final speaker, Dave Currie, on his leadership advice to “ask for forgiveness, not permission”. It was truly bittersweet - the other ambassadors and I had been given a once in a lifetime opportunity that we never could have experienced from a lecture theatre. Whilst we didn’t want the conference to end, after such a jam-packed schedule we were also ready to kick off our heels and get some sleep.

If I had to sum up the 2016 NZ HR Conference in one word it would be “energising”. I believe that many of us left with a new perspective on what HR should be through exposure to the strategies and approaches employed by professionals around the world. For other students considering the HRINZ Student Ambassadorship in 2017, I honestly recommend applying. This journey has provided me with an abundance of knowledge and connections that will enable me to begin paving my HR career.

Melissa Walker, Canterbury Branch, University of Canterbury

The 2016 NZ HR Conference - “Our Place in the World”, was an inspiring and exciting few days for me.  As per the title, it was a world class event with the lucky attendees being addressed by keynote speakers from all around the globe. The conference was thought provoking and a wonderful insight into the field of work I am most passionate about entering. The speakers covered a wide range of topics from leadership and cultural innovations, to implicit bias, women in the workplace, and pitfalls to avoid when restructuring a business. The speakers were so inspiring and energising I redeemed only one out of my five complementary coffees at the NZ HR Expo.

The HRINZ Branch President’s Dinner, held the evening before the official conference kicked off, allowed the three other student ambassadors and I to meet and converse with the dedicated HR professionals who lead HRINZ, including HRINZ CEO, Chris Till, who was really welcoming and excited about the days to come. He made a particular mention of Sally Anderson and her transformative speaking and who was to present on the morning of the second day.

Dave Ulrich’s presentation was quite simply awesome, with a capital O. For me he really personified how I see the HR field. He was genuine in his candour, engaging and inquisitive of the audience, and represented continuous progress and learning. He asked attendees to share any challenges they were experiencing in their workplaces and his responses were multi-faceted and also aware of the nuances of each workplace and that there are many new horizons within the field to explore.

The HRINZ student ambassadorship has been an invaluable learning experience for me, and having the opportunity to attend the conference was by and large the best part of the programme so far. Meeting and conversing with the amazing HR leaders of HRINZ and New Zealand’s HR industry was so enjoyable and I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to speak to me. The organisers of the event did an outstanding job. I would highly recommend to my fellow students to apply for this role if you can, and once you’re employed jump at the chance to attend a HRINZ Conference, I know I will be!


Simon White, Wild South Branch, University of Otago

The 2016 NZ HR Conference and Expo was a personal highlight for me this year. The theme for 2016 was “Our Place in the World” and was truly inspirational.  What I learnt most from this event was that everyone has the potential to be a great leader, and the increasing importance of looking to stakeholders considering the turbulent future of the HR profession.

The first highlight of the event was MC, Jeremy Corbett, and his humorous introduction. Jeremy’s classic witty kiwi humour set the stage for what would be a series of fun-loving roasting of each speaker.  The first speaker, Jennifer Overbeck, kicked the conference off well, and was one of my favourite keynote speakers. As a psychology minor I found her content very refreshing as she discussed workplace heuristics, which is often undiscussed yet hugely important and prevalent in our workplaces. The ability for people to critically think their subconscious judgments can make the workplace much friendlier and more efficient. The following speaker Tom O’Neil discussed the importance of expanding your personal brand. He provided real valuable advice such as the importance of social media on expanding your personal brand. Tom resonated with me as I had previously considered myself as not having enough expertise to develop a strong brand.

The next keynote speaker, Lyn Goodear (Australian Human Resources Institute) was absolutely fascinating; her way of presenting was very comfortable yet formal. Her topic "From Past to Future" was very fitting as it gave me a deeper understanding of the past of HR and my role in HR in the future.  The Southern Cross Health Society Networking Hour which preceded Lyn’s presentation was a great time to mix and mingle with everybody at the event. In this hour I approached each expo stand and gained as much knowledge about what they do, and who they do it for. This was a great learning experience and was a personal highlight as I learnt so many interesting facts about psychometric testing, HRIS and recruitment.

After a hilarious sign off from Jeremy, I felt there was an abrupt finish to the conference, which left me wanting more. I was glad I took the opportunity to speak to as many people as possible and gain valuable insight to the inner workings of HR and the HR profession, as I believe it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Overall, I have learnt so much from the NZ HR Conference and Expo, that I believe it has changed my fundamental outlook on the working world. I discovered I was more confident in conversing with people, as the informal setting of the event made conversation more comfortable and engaging. I am so glad I was given this opportunity, meeting all the great people at the conference was an absolute highlight and meeting the other student ambassadors was well overdue. This has been the highlight of my year and now I cannot wait to kick start my HR career.








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