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Connexus : Issue 39
www.abacus.org.au 45 www.abacus.org.au 45 People W illiamson began his career in the private sector but then moved to a learning and development role at the for mer Defence Force Credit Union (now Defence Bank). After a brief stint back in the private sector, he’s retur ned to a mutual. “ There’s a philosophical difference about why mutual organisations exist and what they are meant to do,” says Williamson. “I realised when I was back at a for-profit organisation that I was no longer par t of that world. I really believe in the mutual difference – I share the sector’s values – and I felt a disconnect working somewher e that existed primarily to make money.” Williamson’s move to the generalist HR position at the former Big Sky Credit Union – which became Big Sky Building Society, a subsidiar y of Australian Unity, in March – has allowed him to br oaden his responsibilities beyond his lear ning and development specialisation. Day-to-day work now includes recruitment, health and safety, payroll, IR and work force planning – challenges he clearly relishes. He has also retur ned to study, beginning a master’s degree at Swinburne University. Starting a conversation Not yet 30, he’s keen to get a conversation going among HR specialists working for mutuals. In a recent posting on professional networking site LinkedIn he put out a call to other s who would like to discuss the sector’s HR challenges and share experiences with a view to establishing benchmarks. “ In the past there have been some groups at local and regional level but it would be good to start a conversation that allows ever yone to contribute and learn from each other in a flexible and accessible setting,” he says. Williamson regards closer links between professionals working in mut uals as an obvious extension of the sector’s co -operative ethos. “As an industry we take a very co -operative approach to our members but we don’t always connect in the same way with our counterparts.” Through closer links, HR practitioners could access a broader pool of infor mation and case studies without additional cost and without jeopardising competitive advantage. “In the sector we are always conscious of not spending members’ money unnecessar ily and that makes resourcing quality HR with contemporar y tools one of the challenges, especially in smaller mutuals, where practitioners often need to be creative and innovative.” Sharing knowledge “ We should be looking for ways that people in larger mutuals can share their knowledge with smaller organisations or work together for shared solutions that bring about or ganisational benefits at a lower cost.” Building a higher profile for HR across the whole sector could build understanding among executive teams of the benefits of hav ing a dedicated HR team or individual. When the HR role is dispersed to other areas of an organisation, there are increased risks in terms of compliance, employee and, ultimately, member satisfaction. “ There is a correlation between the quality of the employee exper ience and retention,” says Williamson. “ If someone moves into a less structured and supported environment from another sector or an organisation where they had stable management, lots of suppor t and clear policies and procedures, they are likely to move on, no matter how great the pay is or how much they like the people they are with. “ That can have a snowball effect on staffing and perceptions of the organisation when they tell others about their experience,” Williamson says. Carolyn rance is a freelance writer. When Ross Williamson stepped into his human resources role at Big Sky last year he had a strong sense of being back where he belonged. By CAROlyN RANCE welcome home Link in to a network Ross Williamson can be contacted on au.linkedin. com/in/williamsonross PrOFIlE