This month we speak with Kate Staples, People and Culture Business Partner, City of Burnside.
Kate has recently moved into this role so she explains how she has approached the transition from a background in records management. Kate is also currently participating in the Emerging Leaders Program, so she also shares her thoughts on how that program will support her current and future roles in local government.
Hi Kate - thanks for speaking with us.
Tell us about your role at City of Burnside - what does it involve?
As People & Culture Business Partner I liaise with business units across Council to share information, challenges and opportunities. I help to establish improvements and solutions that get the best out of our employees and assist them in meeting Council’s strategic objectives.
This year we’ve launched a new Performance Development and Review program, an eLearning system, electronic induction program, new corporate values, various employee development programs and culture change initiatives.
Where did you start and how long have you been in local government?
Straight after high school I somewhat accidentally ended up with a job interview at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield for a Records Trainee role. At the time I had no idea what the place was, no idea what Council did and it sounded a little bit like I was going to work in a dark basement! I worked with a great team (not in a basement), completed my traineeship then went onto the City of Burnside.
I’ve been at the City of Burnside for the past 9 years and held the position of Team Leader Records for 5 of those. Working in records was a great opportunity to learn about the different facets of council and it inspired me to branch out. Following a secondment opportunity in People & Culture last year, I saw new opportunities and challenges and here I am.
What attracted you to People and Culture?
Mostly the mysterious biscuit tin... I kid, I kid. I’m passionate about continuous improvement and business excellence, no matter what the field. I love challenging the norms, understanding why people think the way they do and working together to deliver better outcomes. When I undertook my secondment in People & Culture it really sunk in that you can’t deliver business excellence without excellent people.
What is the best thing about working in that department?
I love playing a part in driving positive change. We have a really diverse team and I enjoy engaging with staff at all levels to add real value.
Being fairly new in the role, have there been any challenges so far that you can share?
Thankfully it’s been a really positive experience as we’re all here to achieve the same thing. The challenge has really been in trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can while shifting from one area to another!
How do you plan to learn everything you need to know?
It probably helps that I’m a curious person. I love getting into things (teams, systems, processes, challenges) and figuring them out. I’m really lucky to be surrounded by a supportive and knowledgeable team. I also participate in co-mentoring and am studying a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management).
The title of your role is interesting as it includes the term ‘business partner’ - a recognition of the role that People and Culture can play across the organisation. How and where do you think People and Culture can make the most impact?
I think it’s important that people are engaged in what they’re here for.
People & Culture can impact on the experience people have when they’re at work and that’s a pretty substantial impact. We can help make the workplace a great environment and help to ensure employees have the tools and support they need to do their job well – ultimately the community benefits from that.
Tell us about your involvement with the Emerging Leaders Program. Are you enjoying the program?
Loving it! I feel fortunate to work with such a passionate, committed, diverse and intelligent group of people in the program. Through theory and group work it’s teaching me a lot about leadership and has given me a broader appreciation of local government - I think that’s important in any role.
Outside of local government, what keeps you busy?
Uni keeps me pretty busy at the moment. I live near the beach so I get down there quite a lot, I play beach volleyball, video games, do aerial yoga, dabble in arts and crafts, enjoy reading and am volunteering for the TEDx Adelaide event coming up next month.