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Everyone knows someone who works at Newcastle Permanent aka the Perm. Australia’s second largest customer-owned building society, in business for over a century, it’s become a bit of an institution here in its namesake city.

As well as helping and supporting local communities, this big employer prides itself on the genuine care offered to customers by its staff – and its people seem to stick around.

To find out more, who better to speak to then one of the main people behind the people, Manager of HR Operations and mum of two Rochelle Stevens. Having worked at the Perm for over 15 years, here’s what she had to say about her work and more.

Tell us about your current role

As Manager of HR Operations, I’m a key member of the People & Development Leadership Team and am responsible for delivering timely and expert advice on a range of HR functions including advisory support (WH&S, talent acquisition, employee relations, remuneration benefits, analytics), learning and admin.

What projects/achievements are you most proud of?

In a work context, I’m proud of my contribution to the career pathway and talent programs that have been implemented here at Newcastle Permanent. Personally, I’m the proud mother of two daughters, aged 14 and 10. As most mums would attest to, it’s one of the biggest achievements in life.

What was your first paid job?

McDonalds! It was a great first job. I may not have realised it at the time but the training was a very good foundation for any career.

They have lots of rules and policies, are strict on appearance and conduct, and have strong customer service values. Actually, many employers view those who have worked there as having a good work ethic and as being reliable and able to follow instruction.

What advice would you give somebody seeking a career in HR?

A lot of people associate HR with hiring and firing but it’s way more than that. If you’re interested in a career in HR, try and get some work experience to really get an understanding of what it involves. Qualifications are important but so is experience and learning on the job.   

If you weren’t working in HR, what would you be doing?

Working as a lawyer or detective. I know it’s not like the TV shows, but I love the crime thrillers and court cases.

How do you stay on top of changes in your industry?


The banking and finance industry is very topical right now with the Royal Commission so there’s an endless number of articles and reports available.

For the latest news, we subscribe to various HR networks that provide updates on legislation, trends and what’s going on in other workplaces. I also make an effort to network with other HR professionals and colleagues at local events such as those run by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) and the Hunter Business Chamber.

What makes the Perm a great place to work?

For me it’s the people that I have worked with over the years and the Perm’s community focus – it makes you proud to work here. I also appreciate the flexibility it has afforded me as a working mum which has enabled me to achieve a good work/life balance.

Where is your next holiday destination?

Japan – skiing and I can’t wait!

How would your colleagues describe you in three words?

That’s hard, maybe we should ask them? Okay, let’s say driven, motivated and measured.

Tell us about someone who has inspired you?

A good friend of mine who lost her 13 year old son unexpectedly. She has shown such resilience through her grief. When I find myself sweating the small stuff and getting upset about unnecessary things that really don’t matter I think of my friend.

As a manager, how do you keep your team engaged and motivated?

Good question. We do have team building sessions although I do wish we could do more.

I am lucky to say that I have people in my team that care – it’s one of the main reasons they work here at the Perm. They enjoy their role and helping people and customers and this is what keeps them motivated. As a manager I value this. I think it’s important that people take ownership for their work and their attitude towards it. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Well, I hope retired because I won lotto – isn’t that what everyone says? If I said not working at the Perm because I moved on to my dream job my manager might see this and not appreciate the answer!

Seriously though, I hope to see myself happy, winning in life, still physically able to play sport, ski with my family, going on holidays and in a great job where I can do great things and keep learning. The world of HR is never dull!

They say being happy in a job is all about the people, and this certainly seems to be the case for Rochelle. When your motivation lies in helping others and you don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s easier to succeed in HR, and in life.   

Interested in working in HR, banking or finance? Call us for a chat today.

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