This month we speak with Sarah Kay, Manager Human Resources at Alexandrina Council.
Sarah speaks about her current role and her plans for the future. She also reflects on Alexandrina's recent win in the LG Professionals SA Awards - what it means to the team involved, and benefits to the council overall.
Hi Sarah, thanks for speaking with us.
What's involved in your current role - and how long have you held that position at Alexandrina?
I joined Alexandrina Council in May 2014 in the position of Manager Human Resources. I work with a great team of staff to provide services in WHS, payroll, injury management, volunteer support, recruitment, training, employee relations, workforce planning and other organisational development initiatives.
What attracted you to local government, and your current role?
I had previously worked in local government for the City of Onkaparinga and then spent some time in the not for profit sector and consulting across a wide range of businesses working from home while my children were young. When the opportunity arose to work for an organisation that contributes to the community my family and I live in, I was excited to put my hand up for it. Alexandrina’s mission and values and the strong leadership provided by its strategic plan attracted me to apply for the position. I really enjoy contributing to our mission ‘Be Involved’.
Nominations are open again for the LG Professionals Australia, SA Leadership Excellence Awards. At this year’s Gala Awards Dinner Alexandrina Council received the award for 'Innovative Management Initiatives - Rural Councils'. Can you tell us a bit about the initiative - and why you think you were successful in winning the award?
We were all so proud of this achievement! It really represented a great team effort from all of our staff. As a small, regional council, we had to make our scarce resources work for us and from this came an innovative way to meet the challenges represented by legislative requirements in Work Health and Safety and Procurement. The Work Health and Safety and Procurement intranet teams devised ‘one stop shops’ as interactive internal sources of advice consistent with legislative requirements, enabling a centralised, version controlled and interactive information hub that enables staff to access what they need in order to comply in the most friendly user way possible.
It's great that councils are recognised for their great work with the awards also enabling sharing of knowledge and ideas across the sector. How do you think Alexandrina, as a council and a community, benefits from winning the award?
The increased level of staff engagement, ownership and culture change in relation to meeting legislative requirements has been an added bonus of these intranet sites. Alexandrina has a workplace value of ‘Continually improving our systems’ in order to meet our organisational goals and provide the best outcomes for our community. We also know that the more visible guidance is, the more likely staff are to use it and feel confident in meeting best practice which aligns with our value of ‘Caring for our People’. The recognition the award represents demonstrates to staff and our community that a small council can achieve leading edge results.
Has it made you even more likely to enter the awards again - and would you also seek other categories?
Definitely! We entered two categories last year, our other nomination being a ‘Food Surveillance Training, Induction and Mentoring Program’. We have several fantastic projects that we are considering entering this year that meet the selection criteria of a number of categories.
Speaking of your current role - can you describe a typical day?
I am not sure there is such a thing as a typical day in HR! I feel it is important and I really enjoy being accessible and visible to staff as a support, so that approach can change any planned day. Our HR team has well defined plans, strategies and projects that we are working on in relation to workforce planning and development so apart from the people contact a typical day would be spent progressing these projects.
What motivates you? - what do you find interesting or exciting about working in local government?
I find it really rewarding to be implementing strategies designed to support and develop our people to achieve the best outcomes for our community. Being a member of the community, that makes it extra rewarding! Our workplace culture is very collaborative and recognises achievements at all levels. Having a dedicated HR Team, peers and leaders, and a strong connection to our values, makes Alexandrina a great place to be a HR practitioner.
Personally, what’s the longer term plan? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My goal is to see Alexandrina Council recognised as a leader in employment and organisational development practices within the local government sector. I am keen to work closely with other HR practitioners to put into practice ways to promote local government as a sector to pursue an exciting, diverse and rewarding career pathway and overcome some of the challenges identified in workforce profiling. I really enjoy HR but would also consider management roles in other departments/service areas or potential GM roles if they arise.
How do you spend your leisure time outside of local government?
Leisure time for us revolves around the busy lives of our 6 children who range in age from 14 to 5 and all have varied sporting interests. We enjoy being actively involved in the community activities via volunteering but it is sometimes a juggle of who is going where! When there is free time (rare!) the beach and river are the place to be and if we are really lucky a nice meal locally with a glass of regional wine!