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Human Resources

Pistols Drawn in New Zealand’s HR Industry

By September 18, 20146 Comments

There seems to be a bad-blooded stoush brewing between HRINZ and a break-away faction keen to set up a rival industry body.  Those at the HR Game Changer Conference a couple of weeks ago (“this isn’t just a conference, we’re starting a movement“…please don’t puke in your mouth) heard from their renegade leader that work was underway in setting up a new institute, snappily named the Chartered Human Resources Institute.  If you think this newly-named entity sounds kind of similar to the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand then you’d be in firm agreement with the powers that be at HRINZ, who last Friday issued the following war cry:

When we heard the recent public announcement of a new HR institute called the ‘Chartered Human Resources Institute’ we were concerned about the implications this name may have for HRINZ. With the words ‘human resources institute’ as a key part of both names, confusion would inevitably be created and it would become difficult to differentiate between the two organisations, particularly in the wider business and public arena. Additionally, as you will be aware, HRINZ is often referred to by many simply as the ‘Human Resources Institute’.

Countless numbers of dedicated and talented people, from members to branch volunteers, from staff to Board Directors, have freely given their time and effort over the past 40 years to make this Institute, your Institute, into what it is today. We strongly believe that our brand, profile and good name are worth protecting.

In many ways this has created a dilemma for us. We do not wish to be in any way ‘heavy handed’, we do not wish to frustrate open competition in a free economy and country and are aware that our actions may cause some acrimony and a public social media response.

However, after seeking professional legal guidance to ensure that we are fully informed HRINZ has decided to take the following actions:

• Write to the Registrar of Incorporated Societies, the Charities Commission and the Companies Office to indicate our objection to the use of the name ‘Human Resources Institute’ on the grounds of its close similarity to the name of HRINZ

• Write a ‘cease and desist’ letter to CHRI, requiring them to discontinue their use of the misleading name within 14 days. This letter is necessarily quite formal and legal as the circumstances require.
HRINZ is satisfied that the above actions will prevent any confusion, thus ensuring the continued protection of the valuable HRINZ brand and reputation for all of us in our profession.

We thank you once again for your ongoing and sustained support of HRINZ.

I love it when people say things like “we do not wish to be in any way heavy handed” before being exactly that.  My initial reaction to this edict was one of mild curiosity and surprise.  I don’t lose too much sleep over the politics of industry bodies but until I received this email I wasn’t even aware of the proposed new CHRI thing.  What this amounted to, for me, and possibly for many other HRINZ members, was free advertising for the proposed new body.

However, a firm response was certainly needed.  I was kindly invited to the NZ HR Expo dinner last night (thanks Rebecca) and managed to grab five minutes with Chris Till, the recently-anointed Chief Executive of HRINZ.  As he rightly pointed out, he is just a custodian of HR’s industry body here in NZ, and has to act in what he feels is the best interests of that body.  In what would have amounted to one of the biggest tests of his leadership since joining, he made the decision to go on the offensive, pointing out the similarity between the names, the possibility for confusion, and the as yet overlooked fact that to even be “Chartered” requires “royal approval” by the British Monarch (read Governor-General for here in NZ, I suppose).

Can’t blame Chris for taking that stance.  But I do wonder if a slightly different tone could have achieved more.  Like when a well-known brand is slammed on social media, and they respond in a humble, dignified, but interesting way to actually flip the PR on its head and turn the negative into a positive.  Why doesn’t HRINZ acknowledge this new competition, try to look inwardly at why this has happened, and use it as impetus and motivation to effect positive change, such as removing the bodily-fluid coloured imagery from their marketing, building a website that actually makes sense, and preferably with a font size larger than 5.  That would be a good start, in my eyes at least.

As part of the Committee for the Recruitment Special Interest Group within HRINZ, I feel slightly torn.  I enjoy setting up and running events, but I’m not so sure if the glove fits anymore.  The next SIG, on 6th November (date for diaries) is going to be about Innovation and Disruption in Recruitment.  We’re holding it at Vend and you can hear from speakers from ASB, Weirdly and Uber.  How the theme and vibe for this event fits in with the direction and language of HRINZ is a dichotomy I haven’t quite worked out in my own head yet.

To finish, while we’re on the subject of events, our own Quarterly #RicePowWow is less than a week away now.  Numbers are growing, so please RSVP here to attend, and please note we are back in the original Generator this time (you know, the one opposite Showgirls, if that helps at all…)

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Adrian Coysh says:

    Hi Jon,
    Sorry, I could not make the dinner last night. Like you, I am a volunteer for HRINZ – being both on the Auckland Committee and running the new Diversity SIG. There is a real need for HRINZ to bring itself kicking and screaming into a new century in a number of ways, and I absolutely concur with your comments about the website.

    What has to be remembered though is the small size of the HR community in NZ, which directly affects the funding available for HRINZ as the only professional body at present. We just cannot sustain two organisations in NZ. I was not privy to what happened behind the scenes and what overtures CHRI made to HRINZ before taking the plunge, but I was not aware of an undercurrent of malcontent which demanded a revolution.

    It would be lovely to have the income of say NZICA (the equivalent Chartered Accountants association) which has many more members. In fact NZICA actually ceased to be in 2013 and merged with its Australian equivalent due to economies of scale yet it still has an annual fee of $764 to be a full CA member.

    Chris Timms has only recently joined us, and I am pleased by the passion he has shown, particularly where I have observed inclusiveness with our Committee. It would appear that CHRI haven’t really given him a chance to stamp his mark after what was a 15 year reign by his predecessor.

    We cannot compare ourselves to AHRI or CIPD as we just do not have the financial clout to do what they do. Maybe the answer is to follow the NZICA lead by merging with AHRI, but again, that is something for Chris and the Board to consider once he has had more time on the role.

    Having had a major exposure to Law in my business travels, the legal-speak in the letter is actually quite mild in my opinion. Coming from a Finance background which was a legal battlefield at times there are many great harsher ways to say “eff off”. “Cease and desist” is not one of them. Law has to be succinct and to the point, so I would not get too carried away with the contents of the letter.

    What is required, is debate by all the HR community as to how HRINZ can best suit its needs.

    • Adrian Coysh says:

      Apologies Chris, I misspelt your surname! I didn’t realise until just now when I thought I would see if anyone else commented. I owe you a Pinot Noir!

  • It’s not like the Whiteboard to have no comments, is it apathy? Or avoidance of antagonising the easily antagonised establishment?

    Anyway, I appreciate your balanced and well written approach in this weeks issue.

  • Stewart Farr says:

    haha nice to know things are also turning to crap on home soil.
    Did you miss me Jonathan?

    Over here the Americans are having the same Dilemma when SHRM announced it would be doing a new certification process rather than just being a ‘body’ over here. Thus burning a relationship with HRCI.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone, just found them all sitting on WordPress pending approval since updating to the new platform. Not very good at this blogging malarky.