It is with deep sadness that we must record the recent death (1 February 2016) of long term Employers' Association Board member and friend Paul Morriss.
Paul was diagnosed with cancer last year and he entered into the prescribed treatment programme with courage and dignity. Between treatment he was able to make a brief return trip to the United Kingdom to visit friends and family and to, for the last time, watch his favourite football team Crystal Palace, play.
Around the Employers' Board table Paul contributed in a professional, measured and valuable manner and he was always keen to share the governance role responsibilities beyond Board meetings.
Paul will be missed by all of us here at The Association.
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We are a diverse organisation incorporating a wide range of business and service industry interests across what is a broad regional front. As I have mentioned in the past it is not always a particularly straight forward matter to viably balance the resource base needed to meet fluctuating member demand for our services but overall I am satisfied that currently we have the capability blend at approximately the right level.
It is interesting I think to dwell briefly on what our membership wants from the Association and in referring back to previous survey information the need for our specialist employment law capacities has consistently lead the response line-up. More recently this has been closely followed by the strong need for our range of health and safety deliverables and, as well, our revised and enhanced professional development and business training programmes. The latter is particularly true since the introduction of our Institute of Management New Zealand (IMNZ) courses.
The feedback around the interest level in the UPDATE publications remains most positive and we continue to look for ways and means to add value to this publication. We are also paying newly-focused attention to how we might broaden the depth and frequency in delivery of UPDATE material through electronic avenues.
Of marginally lower importance it seems, members have at times, queried the benefit flow from our historic stake-holding in BusinessNZ. I believe that Association team members will in the future need to focus more strongly on the merits and utilization opportunities of having what is a great line-up of policy managers based in Wellington. There is enormous potential to use these skilled people more often on various advocacy initiatives and it would be helpful for all involved if we could have them visit us on a regular basis to share knowledge and views on all sorts of business matters. Phil O’Reilly has recently exited the BusinessNZ CEO position but his successor, Kirk Hope has already signalled a strong intent to use the Wellington team members more widely in the regions. The specialist knowledge offered covers advice across sustainable business, education, immigration and skills, economic issues, employment relations policy, energy, environment and infrastructure matters and in manufacturing and exporting interest areas.
The forward plan in working with the BusinessNZ people should, I believe, be developed firmly around the introduction of new mechanisms that allow the wide and timely distribution of policy material to our members for their consideration and subsequent input. This will need to be constructed in a manner that effectively recognizes the two-way flow of interactions between Wellington and the organisations in our region. I specifically mention the importance of the each-way interaction because in the past we have at times found it difficult to obtain membership feedback on advocacy issues. The grassroots views are a vital component in how we need to shape our Wellington-bound opinion flow but often the timing on responses is tight and we have to recognize that our business people are busy and often have other obligations.
I have made reference to the broad regional territory in which The Association operates and it is a fact of life that having qualified staff in the right place at the right time to meet all membership requirements does present challenges. As with any business, getting the supply and demand elements nicely balanced to maintain operational viability is important and we do work hard at trying to get this anchored in an appropriate manner.
Population growth and economic development drivers of course underpin how we allocate and position our resources and at this time the Association planning focus is on the widening need for selected team members to be located in Central Otago. Concrete steps on the related matters will soon be taken and I want to say that these will in no way compromise the service provision levels we have in place for our many longstanding members based in Southland and in North Otago.
Employers' Association is a proud membership organisation owned and appreciated by it’s members, and the Board and staff focus must continue to understand and anticipate membership demand for not only the traditional existing offerings but also for future capabilities, many of which have yet to be identified. Innovative thinking must continue to be applied as Association forward planning steps are addressed and implemented.
I would like to think that ‘under my watch’ we have adopted an innovative stance and that our service provision has not only kept pace with existing demand but has also embraced selected elements of what are now needed in a modern business environment.
I have enjoyed my time here and I will look forward to watching the continuing development of Employers' Association from the sideline. Best wishes to all connected to the Employers' family.
John Scandrett, Chief Executive Otago Southland Employers' Association