Robyn Young is the latest coach to feature in our coaching spotlight. As the owner of a specialist HR consultancy, Robyn and her team bring a wealth of experience to clients and their teams in need of specialist HR-related coaching and advice.
Business owner, Icehouse coaching alumni and HR expert, Robyn became an Icehouse coach in June 2021 after beginning work with fellow coach Richard Poole in late 2020 to manage the accelerated growth of her Palmerston North-based HR and recruitment business.
‘The business was morphing into something quite large, and I needed impartial advice from someone who wasn’t my accountant or my husband! Richard was recommended to me through an Icehouse alumni and after speaking to Chris Michaels (CGP at The Icehouse). I have a great working relationship with Richard and was very excited to be able to contribute to The Icehouse in my own way,’ says Robyn.
Adjusting to new ways of working
After that first introduction to The Icehouse and several conversations later, it soon became obvious that Robyn would make a fantastic coach in her own right. Having worked across a variety of organisations and numerous industries throughout Europe and New Zealand, Robyn set up her own business in 2015.
That wealth of knowledge in the HR space is needed now more than ever as businesses globally adjust to a new kind of working, and there’s an appetite among owners, and managers to ‘do the right thing’ for their teams.
‘I want every business to have access to really great HR and I do it in a way that is pretty straight up. My coaching style perhaps reflects that – it’s possible to be caring and supportive while at the same time not being the stereotypical, fluffy HR professional. Owners and managers often find ‘the people side’ of their business incredibly difficult to deal with, partly because there's no training course or a great deal of support out there. You learn on the job and can be fine until there’s a challenge or a problem.
‘When there is a problem, at the forefront of an owners mind is ‘I don't want to get sued’, which is a negative way to approach these situations, so my style of HR coaching and advice is very much about taking a more supportive and human approach, looking to find a solution that is respectful and allows everyone to move forward. I don’t necessarily see the need for an aggressive and confrontational approach to resolving issues in the workplace.’
Robyn believes there’s a massive shift in momentum in New Zealand with owners and managers wanting to access HR best-practice.
‘HR is both proactive and reactive – reactive being, ‘I need to fire someone’ but they don’t necessarily know how to lawfully’. We can help them work through that process, step by step. While proactive HR – which is something we are seeing more and more of, is about owners and managers wanting to look after their people. Not only is it because new staff (who are also fantastic) are really hard to find, but also how to look after your team so that they enjoy what they do and do a great job for you and your customers, and how to support their performance and development which helps to get the best out of them. All of this means they are less likely to leave.’
Creating positive cultures
All of this comes back to culture. Creating a culture where people really get the vision and values will shape a team’s shared behaviour and engagement. ‘I’m a big believer in culture by osmosis. By working on various areas of HR, whether it's dealing with some underlying issues or looking at ways to develop your team, you are quietly making changes to the team culture. You are gradually defining what's really important to you as a team, and how you each want to feel and think about work. Over time you come to realise that your culture has begun to change and you weren’t necessarily aware of it.
And if there’s one piece of HR advice people leaders can adopt overnight to make for a better business? ‘Simple. Talk to your staff openly and often. Take a genuine interest in them and their lives; ‘How are you doing?‘, ‘What's going on at home?‘, ‘How did football go at the weekend?‘, ‘How are the kids?’ It might be five minutes when you are making a coffee but it can make all the difference.
‘Overall, HR advice should be really simple and we try to keep it as simple as possible. People are complicated, so why make things more complicated? It’s incredibly satisfying knowing that we can add value to business owners so that they have a better team, which means the business runs better, customers are happier and, ultimately, the business becomes more profitable.’
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