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Putting the Human in HR

HR By Alex Presbury, HR Administrator – 21 February 2022

Alex bending over to remove a brick from a giant table top jenga game


Alex in a dark top with red roses stood in front of a wooden panel backdrop

Alex Presbury

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Most people think of engineering as being about science and numbers – and it is. BUT so much of what makes an engineering firm work is about people and ensuring they have what they need on the human level.

When I started with Cundall in administration in the Melbourne Office over five years ago, HR was not on my radar. Since then, I have gravitated more into living the ‘human relations’ aspects of the business: a function that I feel is a good fit for me. Very often, I am one of the first people a new staff member engages with, so I spend a lot of my time listening closely to people and finding out what they need to make them comfortable and effective in their new role.

Some people can be shy or introverted, so I might need to take some initiatives to get to know what they require. Sometimes I may even have to be a bit of a magician and produce an answer or an insight someone wants but had not yet been articulated. Flexibility is also important, as every new starter is different.

Working through a pandemic over the past two years has made it even more difficult for so many people, as in many cases they have not been able to physically settle into one of our offices. That is where making that ‘human relations’ connection through conversation is key.

It is something I enjoy; by listening to people’s stories, I can see what makes them unique and understand their view of the world.

Being isolated during Covid and working from home meant I also had to find ways to engage with the world that did not involve sitting down in the same place with people. Having begun to do more in the HR space, I took the opportunity to take up formal study for my Certificate IV in Human Resources through the Australian HR Institute.

It was very flexible, self-paced and on-line and it did help with the lengthy Melbourne lockdown to have that focus. Even just needing to reach out and talk to people over the internet about the course eased the isolation somewhat.

When I started the course, I was expecting the really exciting part would be recruitment. . But as Louise Worth, the Learning and Development Manager at Cundall guided me through the content, I found the aspect of building and developing talent was the most fascinating part.

As I move fully into a HR role, I am looking forward to putting my knowledge from the course into practice and growing with the company. It’s an interesting full circle moment in some ways. My mother worked in HR for 40 years, and I had never thought it was a career I would pursue. But I have seen over the years just how many people she has helped – even years later, she will hear from someone about how she made a difference in their lives.

At its core, HR is about nurturing talent. It’s about helping grow that person and that bigger picture of how work influences every aspect of their lives and their self. I think perhaps instead of ‘human resources’ we should perhaps think of what we do as ‘talent management’. Because we are actually dealing with people, not ‘resources’ – and we can never forget just how important considering the whole person is.