This month we speak with Evelyn Pollard, Manager Human Resources and Service Centre at the City of West Torrens.
Hi Evelyn - thanks for speaking with us.
What’s your current role, and what does it involve?
My current role is Manager Human Resources and Service Centre, where I am responsible for customer service, human resources, work health and safety, injury management and public liability.
Why did you decide to work in Local Government?
Wow, given that was some 22 years ago it is probably more appropriate to talk about the diversity and opportunities that I have been given within local government which have contributed to why I have stayed within the industry.
I have experienced some unique and rewarding opportunities in my career to date. When I reflect over the past three years in particular, there have been a number of fantastic career and development opportunities that I have taken up - some of which were quite risky for me at the time.
I am a believer of creating your own opportunities, taking a calculated risk and then reaping the benefits as a result.
What is the most satisfying thing about working in Local Government?
Local government has certainly seen some significant changes since I commenced. For me personally, the most satisfying aspects about working in local government is the ability to contribute to the ever changing landscape, helping to develop organisational capability and watching people grow as a result.
There are so many opportunities to be part of the business and to make a difference to those around you - both within the organisation, the industry and in the community - and I have been fortunate to experience all three.
I have also been fortunate also to work with, and be mentored by, some great people within local government.
Speaking about your current role – There seems to be more focus on HR than ever before. Do you think legislative change in recent years has made this function more challenging?
Yes there have certainly been some changes in the legislative arena in recent years which have kept us on our toes. . has it made the HR function for more challenging?
Perhaps with respect to the increasing levels of compliance, however change as a challenge, is less impacting as local government is constantly having to adapt, respond & innovate to meet community needs resulting in change being the way we do business.
Change is always happening around us, whether it be legislative, political, environment, financial or social. It is how the organisation, and us as individuals, approach the change that is important.
Where HR is partnering strategically and innovatively across all areas of the organisation to meet these challenges, then the challenges appear small.
Having said that, I believe the biggest challenge for HR in the coming year(s) is to work strategically with senior management (and perhaps the industry) in addressing the future of enterprise agreements and future wage increases.
What would be your “top 5” pieces of advice to councils about recruitment and retention?
Each council has its own unique environment and my view is that a one size fits all approach is not achievable. My philosophy in terms of recruitment and retention is to:
• Engage with your CEO & senior managers to formulate a clear, concise & most importantly passionate belief around the importance of people to the business & commitment to stay fixed to this path
• Focus on the employment value proposition rather than recruitment and retention in isolation - you want people to talk about your employment value proposition.
• Align human resource management practices to the culture you are looking to achieve
• "Recruit hard and manage easy" - recruitment costs in time and money if you get it "wrong", ensure you take the time to select the right person for the position
• Ensure you have people in leadership positions that reflect the culture and direction of the organisation. Leadership impacts on the culture which in turn impacts on the delivery of the organisational outcomes
What’s the longer term plan – where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Five years is a long time!
My immediate focus is on the next 18-24 months, where I will have implemented a number of key strategic initiatives to ensure the organisation has the people capability to deliver a high level of public value into our community.
As with my career to date, I see myself continuing to take risks and explore opportunities within local government where I am able to enhance my skills, knowledge and experience.
Looking forward to 5 years from now, I have set my personal goal as fulfilling a General Manager/Director role within local government.
What’s your most embarrassing Local Government moment?
Oh I'm sure that there are some! I will leave that up to others to share those stories.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of Local Government?
That would depend on my week! It can range from laying on the sun lounge reading a good book with a glass of wine in hand, through to doing something which is adrenaline pumping.
I am known to seek out activities that are outside the "norm" that challenge me - so yes the word "can't" is not in my vocabulary!