Meet the team: Hill Labs’ trusted, dynamic HR Support | Hill Laboratories - NZ


Meet the team: Hill Labs’ trusted, dynamic HR Support

Date: 14 Oct 2022
Author: Hill Laboratories

Meet the team: Hill Labs’ trusted, dynamic HR Support

Human Resources (HR) departments can have a certain reputation as the disciplinarians, the compliancy-enforcers who ensure that everything is done by the book. In other organisations, most employees are happy if HR leaves them alone.  

 At Hill Laboratories, nothing could be further from the truth. 

The open door

Jen Godwin is Hill Labs’ Human Resources and Organisational Development Manager. Along with her HR Support team, the HR department is the hub where people come for advice and support.

"As a team, we are genuinely interested in the growth and development of our people. We spend time in the business, keeping the connections alive. It’s the best way to build relationships and trust.”

Rebecca is the Learning and Development Manager and encourages an open-door approach.

“People drop into HR all the time. If someone's not having the best day, they'll show up in our office for a bit of a chat and a reset. Our goal is to make sure everyone's okay.”

Clocking up the kilometers

With six laboratories spread throughout New Zealand, it would be understandable if the HR team saw little of the people outside of their Hamilton head office. That’s not the case. Whether driving to Auckland and Tauranga, or flying to Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch, Jen, Rebecca and Dana (Recruitment Advisor and HR administrator) put in the miles to connect with everyone. Rebecca knows how much these visits mean to the staff.

“Everyone is so enthusiastic and welcoming when we arrive. I feel a bit like a celebrity! Even though we’re often there to run workshops, we share personal experiences, which cements connection. That builds trust and relationships.”

Developing great people

Many businesses offer Learning and Development programmes. Hills Lab does, but with a difference. Jen and the team design and run the majority of their workshops in-house. There are significant upsides to this approach.

“By creating our own workshops, we can customise the content and duration to the needs of our people. We now have over 30 workshops ranging from leadership and business, through to H&S, and wellbeing.

“Employees can pick and mix, depending on how they want to grow, and that includes pathways for advancement or transitioning into other areas of the business. For example, if you're interested in leadership or if you are in the lab and would like to be in the commercial team, there are pathways available to get there.

“Our workshop options are like a smorgasbord. Our people can help themselves to whatever modules enable their personalised development journey.”

A lean machine

With around 450 employees across six sites, a small, but dynamic HR team works for Hill Labs; it’s an intentional strategy to keep the HR team small. This creates opportunities to infuse HR skills throughout every level of leadership in the business, Jen explains. 

“In other organisations, an HR person would sit in on people related meetings, or carry out recruitment, or write the change of conditions letters. At Hill Labs, we've trained our people leaders to carry out many of these traditional HR functions. Rebecca, Dana and I sit across the framework of it all, but we’ve empowered our leaders to be an extension of the HR team. 

“Our people leaders are fantastic. They're well trained in how to engage their teams, and when they see problems, they know how to document things and sort it out. We’ve shared with them the templates, frameworks, training and support to handle things. 

“The upside for our people leaders is the new dimensions it adds to their operational skill sets. The upside for the three of us in HR is that it frees us up to focus on the big-ticket items that make Hill Labs a great place to work.”

Culture and engagement

One of those big-ticket items is ‘culture and engagement.’ For some, those are HR buzzwords. For the three women at Hill Labs, it’s about creating a sense of belonging that is felt across the entire company. 

Rebecca outlines some of their strategies for building a sense of belonging. 

“The social aspect is really important. Fun events and sports teams help meet that need. We also come together to support charities, which adds purpose to the community. 

Jen adds that HR needs to drive culture and engagement as it sits across so much of the business. “We’re very intentional with it, which is why we do engagement surveys to find out what’s working and what isn’t, and what’s missing in our work environment. ‘Wellbeing initiatives’ came out of one survey, so that’s something we’re continuing to focus on.”

What’s next?

Despite the progress in Hill Labs’ HR team, no one is resting on past success. Jen is clear there’s no room for complacency.

“We’re constantly evolving. We look at our work and ask, what can we do differently? Where can we create value for money? How is the market changing, and what can we do to move with it? We have to refine things because our job is making sure Hill Labs has the right people, with the right skill sets, at the right time. That drives everything we do.”


Jen Godwin   Rebecca Fitzgerald   Dana Wildeboer 3

                      Jen Goodwin                                                     Rebecca Fitzgerald                                                Dana Wildeboer 

HR and Organisational Development Manager  |  Learning and Development Manager  |        Recruitment Advisor and HR Administrator