Liz Razzano – National HR Manager at Star Pharmacy Group

Posted October 17, 2017, by Jenny Sakr
Liz Razzano – National HR Manager at Star Pharmacy Group

As the national HR manager of 47 stores across three Australian states and a total of 800 employees, it's safe to say Liz has her hands full on a daily basis. But that still won't stop her from taking the time out to surprise her staff with morning tea, just because. 

"We all have a purpose - we just have to find it! Mine is being positive, listening and helping others so that their journey becomes more pleasant especially during rough times.... Some call me their life coach!"

Read how the human resources industry has changed since she started in 1992 and how she has overcome many hurdles during her 25+ years. 

What did you study and what are the steps you took to be where you are today?

HR has changed over the years, so when I left school HR was not a recognised profession. It was more the payroll manager/officer who hired, fired and paid you. But as I found my strengths, I recognised that Human Resources was my passion, initially to represent the person who couldn’t represent him/her self. I slowly began studying towards the profession with an Associate Diploma through TAFE while working full-time. Back then study support was unavailable in the workplace – you used your annual leave if you needed to attend exams and kept your study attendance to after hours.

As my experience grew, so did my education. I gained my graduate Certificate in HR via Deakin University some years later, followed by my Graduate Diploma and then in 2013 I gained my Masters in HRM. I achieved all this while working more than full-time hours and raising my family. It has been a huge journey for me…

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to be an air hostess, travel the world, meet different people and provide excellent customer service, but unfortunately, I was too short so I abandoned the idea. Like many young women of my time, we were encouraged to do a commercial course, which only went to Year 11. That learning gave me an amazing ability to touch type at 60 wpm accurately on a manual typewriter (about 100 wpm on a keyboard). Boy the times changed but my typing speed and accuracy has certainly come in handy!

What was your first job?

My first job was as a Mail Girl at MS McLeod Limited – they were a national tyre organisation, with 83 stores throughout Australia. I was in the typing pool and my main responsibility was ensuring that the stores received their mail on time. I was the youngest team member and had no illusions on the pecking order. I eventually was given typing duties from my supervisor much to the discomfort of the more senior typists. Because of my natural keenness to do well, I was eventually taught the plug and cord switchboard and was provided with typing responsibilities to a senior level. The better I did, the more unhappy the senior typists were becoming, even though I was not the distributor of the work – my first lesson in team dynamics and workplace politics!

When did you first know you wanted to take this career path?

In 1992, I was contemplating after working for almost 13 years in a secretarial/administration role, I wanted something more challenging for me work wise. I felt I had so much more to offer and my profession of the time was not giving that to me. Because I was good with numbers, I started studying accountancy but realised that being good at numbers and doing accountancy are two very different things. As I was great with people and was working for a HR Director as his secretary at the time, I got to experience HR for the first time in its early format and could see its potential.
When I told my boss that I wanted to change my studies from accountancy to HR he laughed at me and told me that I couldn’t be a HR profession because I was a girl. While it was nice that he noticed, I couldn’t disagree with him more so I became more determined than ever to show him that I would make a great HR professional and be the best I could be.
So that was the trigger of my chosen profession.

Explain a typical day Star Pharmacy HQ

Is there ever a typical day at work for HR? Sometimes we have all great intentions but then something happens that turns our attention away to what we had set for ourselves. As the National HR Manager of 47 stores, in 3 states and with over 800 employees, to say it’s busy would be an understatement.

My recruitment specialist and I are the only two people who provide HR/IR/ER, recruitment, training and development, change management, onboarding, induction, coaching, mentoring and support across the business to meet business and human needs. A typical day involves problem-solving and thinking outside the square on your feet frequently, providing accurate advice, in line with the legislation of the state, coaching, training and mentoring managers and staff to work together to resolve issues at hand. 

I speak with people from our business every day, strategise as necessary, provide recommendations and advice to the Senior Executive, review policies and procedures, data analyse, report writing, handle training and development and performance appraisals - just to name a few.

I speak with external providers, keep abreast of technology and trends, and balance a thousand things to achieve success for the company in terms of keeping its people happy, safe and well in order to continue to provide outstanding service and profits for the company in balance with meeting employee needs. I believe to be in HR you have to be courageous and resilient in order to be a good HR practitioner, not be afraid to speak up when you see an opportunity for improvement or disservice in the most diplomatic way possible. Having worked in local government for 11 years has helped me develop that skill.

Name the best and worst parts of your job

The best part of my job is my team (yes my other colleague) and being able to achieve difficult or challenging outcomes. We work well together and know how to support each other in order to do our jobs well. I also enjoy receiving private recognition for efforts and achievements gained.

The worst part of my job is having to deal with those difficult situations like delivering redundancies, dealing with bad performance and instant dismissals or seeing people suffering because of grief – when the only thing you can offer is a shoulder to lean on and some kind words.

What do you look for when recruiting?

That’s an interesting question – how long is a piece of string. Obviously you need to consider if the person has the skills and ability to do the job; what experience they have; how excited about the job they are; what research they have done about the company; what do they know about the role; I look for their personality to shine, their direction in life; and most importantly need to consider team dynamics – this is equally as important as qualifications and experience.

There have been many times where someone with enthusiasm, demonstrated the ability to get the job done, with a willingness to learn, wins the job over someone who is not enthusiastic or demonstrates poor communication ability (this is for positions where a qualification are not essential or they already have required qualifications). 

What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Always be willing to learn about yourself to improve, about the job to make yourself more efficient and about the people you work with; recognise who’s who and how all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together and how your role fits in. Always offer help when others are struggling and never forget to thank people for their efforts at work every day.

What do you wish someone had told you before starting in this industry?

I wish someone would have told me all the facets of HR – the good, the bad and the ugly, but I guess HR has evolved over the years. The consequences of bad HR today are far worse than what there were some 15 or 20 years ago. It’s more complicated, more policy and more compliance than ever.

You've many in the Name a career highlight

Achieving my Masters Degree while working full-time, when education was not encouraged for women in my time was a great achievement as was and winning Employee of the Year 2016 at Star Pharmacy Group. An excellent achievement for a HR professional and one that I am particularly proud of.

Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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