Member Profile: Penny Miller (People & Culture Senior Advisor at Cooney Lees Morgan)

For any business, big or small, the culture you create should be an essential part of your organisation as it is a critical element in staff retention and recruitment.

Following the appointment of its new CEO Cecilia Burgess, Cooney Lees Morgan has also recruited a People and Culture Senior Advisor, Penny Miller, who will work alongside Cecilia to continue to support their people and their organisational culture.

Penny’s previous roles include as HR Manager at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, where she helped with the merger with Wairakei Institute of Technology to form Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology as it is known today.

We had a chat to Penny to find out more about her, her role and the impact of a considered focus on people and culture in the workplace.  

How has the concept of ‘people and culture’ changed within businesses following COVID-19?

 The whole concept of what we knew as ‘work’ has changed with COVID. In the people and culture domain, it has meant looking at new challenges in the workplace, to be able to keep the business going through extended periods of lockdown.

This has meant the ability to set up complete remote working from home offices for all staff. We’ve had to move to become much more mobile so people can seamlessly work from where they need. This means ensuring they not only have the right equipment to work remotely, but also that they are ergonomically safe. I know of companies who have sent out virtual assistance to help in this area. 

 Then there is the mental challenge of changing what had been the accepted norm for decades, now working all day, days on end, from your home – with the added aspects of family being around, home schooling and last, but not least, actually having the virus in the house and impact that has. People and culture teams have had to adapt and become more agile in their approach to their employees to meet the ever-changing needs. We have had to further develop a better appreciation and understanding of other people’s circumstances and challenges.

How did your role come about and why was it something that interested you?

I have an extensive background in HR in professional services environments and was coming out of project managing building our new home and some contract work. I saw the role advertised and knew the new CEO role had been filled with Cecilia, who I had worked with in Auckland, plus I knew the reputation of CLM, so the combination seemed like an ideal role.

What are some of your areas of focus for the company – what do you want to achieve?

My role is work alongside the CEO with the new people and cultural initiatives, to align with the firm’s long-term strategic plan, and to make sure they are delivered.

CLM is looking at a number of people initiatives, which will only add value to the engagement of the employees. In saying that, there is a great culture already in the firm, so we hope to build on that by further development in career planning, looking at health and wellbeing initiatives, ideally bringing in mentoring programmes and looking at reviewing how we carry out the traditional performance review process.

Penny Miller Cooney Lees Morgan

Why is CLM taking a considered focus on people and culture now?

CLM has already had a focus on its people and culture, but with what is going on with COVID and with the firm being in a growth phase, it is an ideal time to build on the great base they have and maybe look at some new initiatives that can add to this base.

What is a top tip for other businesses looking to improve their people and culture – what should they be thinking about?

I think ongoing, open, transparent communication at all levels across the business is crucial to keep staff informed of what is going on, especially in a period of change. Part of this is also listening to what is being said by employees.

How do you like to spend your time when you’re not at work?

My husband and I recently built a house, which took up a lot of my time as I project managed it, but I loved the design aspect – I have always been a fan of art and colour, so to start from scratch with being involved in the design of the house, to all the external finishings, interiors, furniture and landscaping was great fun.  When we were able, we were great travellers, discovering new places wine and food. Still love wine and food!

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