EX for the Small but Mighty!

I’ve noticed that often when there are talks or presentations about HR, people, or company culture, it’s from the perspective of a large organisation, and I find myself thinking – what about the little guys?!

This then got me thinking about the role of HR in a small growing business and the unique challenges and opportunities that it brings. I started my working life in big corporates where there were thousands of employees and departments for literally everything you could imagine. As my career progressed, I was increasingly drawn to working in smaller businesses. Over the past 25 years, I have been fortunate to manage a family-owned arthouse cinema, work for both the Royal New Zealand Ballet and World of WearableArt, and now I find myself as COO of Hello Period, an awesome small New Zealand business with big aspirations. The common denominator in all my roles over that time has been that I’ve found myself responsible for HR while also being responsible for many other things. The classic ‘many hats’ story!

In a small business, HR responsibilities are usually juggled alongside a ton of other competing priorities that suck up time and energy. And they tend to have a very limited (possibly non-existent!) budget against them. In my experience, it can also be lonely as you walk the line between your HR responsibilities and other day-to-day work. However, it’s not all bad. While at times it feels like a crazy crash course, it does give you an amazing opportunity to build knowledge and hands-on experience at high speed.

"One of the best things about leading HR in a small business is the ability to develop new ideas and approaches, bring about change quickly and see the results of your work in a very real way, even if sometimes it doesn’t go as expected."

Over the years, I’ve championed a range of initiatives across wellbeing, onboarding, professional development, and everything in between. I’ll be honest and say that some of those initiatives were complete fizzers, despite being developed with the best of intentions. When things I’d put a lot of effort into fell flat, I’d wonder - why it hasn’t taken off, what have I missed, what did I get wrong? A year or so ago, I started reading about employee experience and was intrigued by this approach which flips traditional HR thinking on its head. I wanted to learn more and see how it could apply in a small business environment, so here I am at the Excellent EX Design School.

I see so much benefit from drawing on the experience I have built up in small businesses and bringing that together with an employee experience approach. Letting go of how things used to be done and co-designing solutions with your team offers so many exciting possibilities. I also love that EX done right can remove some of the isolation that those with HR responsibilities in small businesses sometimes feel. Plus, it gives you a fantastic platform for making long-lasting change that benefits your people and the business in so many ways.

I’ve set myself the challenge of making employee experience central to everything we do at Hello Period, and I’m really excited about taking what I’ve learnt through EXDS and putting it into practice. New Zealand is a country jam-packed with startups doing great things so let’s talk more about what EX looks like in small business and how it can transform and accelerate growth.


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