Sue Harrison's career has been shaped by earthquakes and the armed forces. But the thread that runs through it all is her love of people, and it's this passion that makes her so well-suited for her role as Tradestaff's National People and Capability Manager.
The importance of people
As Tradestaff's National People and Capability Manager, Sue's job is a mix of three complimentary roles. Both the National Health and Safety Manager and the National Training and Development Manager report to Sue, and she oversees these areas of the business. However, it's in the human resources side of things where Sue takes a direct role, making sure that Tradestaff's temporary and permanent staff have the support they need, and that Tradestaff is doing everything it should to look after them.
"No business can be a success without people."
But as Sue explains it, the different aspects of her role all ultimately come down to one thing: people.
"It's all about the people. It's about ensuring that they are safe at work, that they are trained appropriately and that they are treated fairly and equally, that's where the people and capability comes into it," she says.
This is important for Sue, who says that looking after others is very much her passion.
"That's why I've gone down the route of human resources," she says. "No business can be a success without people. People are what make you successful. So my job is to ensure that our resource "people" are really taken care of, which will ultimately flow on to the success of the business."
A military history
While her career has always had a focus on helping others, Sue started in a very different field from where she's ended up. She first joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1981, and spent 12 years with them before transferring to the army after she met and married a soldier. After the couple had children she continued working for the army in a civilian capacity as well as a Territorial soldier.
When the Earthquake Commission (EQC) approached the army for help with a 'lessons learned' project on the Canterbury earthquakes, Sue was sent in to help. This led to the Commission offering her a job as their assistant HR manager, where she stayed until she made the shift to Tradestaff in 2015.
As much as Sue's career was defined by the military, it's also been shaped by the Christchurch earthquakes. These huge events were what led to her leaving the military, and in many ways are responsible for defining her current role, as Tradestaff has been transformed by its work on the Canterbury rebuild.
"I don't know if I'm a conventional HR manager, because I don't fluff things."
Straight to the point: An unusual HR approach
Sue's unique career history, particularly the time she spent in the army, has shaped the way Sue works with people and helped her develop her direct, straight-talking style.
"I don't know if I'm a conventional HR manager, because I don't fluff things," she says. "I suppose this is one of the things from my military background – I'm very factual. I'm very empathetic, don't get me wrong, but I don't beat around the bush and I don't sugar coat things."
This isn't all that common for HR people, although Sue says it depends a bit on who you're dealing with.
"Certainly I think some of the HR managers I've worked with have a different approach than I do. And they do tiptoe round the tulips a wee bit to get to where they need to be. But I'm a firm believer that if there's an issue that needs to be resolved, then you have a very upfront conversation with people. And I think here at Tradestaff they're ok with that."
Joining the Tradestaff family
Between the army and the EQC, Sue has spent much of her career employed by the government. How is Tradestaff, the first private company she's worked for, different?
"I enjoyed working for government, but the thing that keeps me engaged here at Tradestaff is that we've employed a really good bunch of people," Sue says. "Tradestaff is like a family, so everybody is treated like a family member, and Tradestaff cares. Tradestaff really cares, which I think is quite unique.
"It's small things from the Easter Eggs at Easter to the mothers and fathers getting gifts on Mother's & Father's Day. And if it's your birthday you get the day off. It's just the little things that are appreciated by myself and by the staff here at Tradestaff. And this is why I say Tradestaff cares."
Sue says that the support she gets at Tradestaff is a good example of the company's culture.
"I think one of the reasons I really enjoy the job is the support that I get. Support comes from the top and my colleagues from the Senior Leadership Team. We have a rather flat structure here at Tradestaff which a number of other organisations don't. This means leaders are far more accessible to the staff. Also having the support from both Kevin and Janice to be who I am, and be the people and capability manager that they employed me to be, is the reason why I'm enjoying the job."
Sue works to continue this culture by passing that support along to the people around her, which includes other managers, staff and the temps.
"I'd like to think that Amanda, Sara and Tracy have all of the support in the world from me, as do the staff in the branches around the country, and if the staff want to pick up the phone and talk to me they do. My door is always open," says Sue.
"One part of my role I really enjoy is the travel, because it allows me to see the staff in our branches and stay in touch with them in person but also the temps when they come into the branch. I always introduce myself to the temps that come through the door, so that they know who I am should they ever need to contact me."
Tradestaff is a company that looks after it's staff, whatever role they play in the business. If you'd like to join the family and see what opportunities the construction and labour industries have to offer you, get in touch with your local branch today.
over 6 years ago by Will Percy