I’ve had a great month of guests to celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of The Buzz on HR! Each one brought a fresh perspective and reminder for me on why I’m so devoted to this profession and its work.
- Thank you Julie Waddell for confirming again that HR’s duty is to balance business needs with employee rights/needs. Thank you for reminding me that strategic HR boils down to aligning HR goals and programming with the goals and direction the organization wants to go. And thank you for pointing out that, in the end, HR is just a job that pays the bills.
- Thank you Jane Watson for showing me that HR has the power and obligation to stop the organization from damaging itself in pursuit of its purpose. Thank you for reminding me to consider the individuals in the context of our plans and goals. And thank you for pointing out that HR is not sorcery!
- Thank you Sarah Miller for inspiring me with by saying good HR is about making “opposites cooperate to be both a successful organization and a good employer.” (BOOM!! #message). And thank you for reminding me that healthy skepticism is not — and should never cross over into — negativity.
- Thank you Keeya Majors for showing me that HR is the nerve center — the place that controls both positive movement and alerts or corrects us when things go awry. Thank you for reminding me that everyone wants really wants to be in HR and that being in HR means I’m awesome!
A year later, I’m in a different job and completely different role in my new organization. I am almost sick of hearing myself say how much taking on this new position has changed my perspective … but I have to keep saying it because it is my truth.
And because of my new truth, what HR is to me is a little different now … Today, for me, HR is about making sure that the organization walks its talk.
Now that I am in a more strategic role and I have direct reports whose performance and development I’m responsible and accountable for, I feel the dissonance of the seeming hypocrisy that comes when a function or department isn’t living up to the standards. Especially my own function and department because it is more of a reflection on me now than ever before in my career … And if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s dissonance. So I’m more focused than ever on bringing accountability, balance, cooperation and integrity into the areas where I have influence.
It is no longer acceptable for me to just have things “look good” — I want them to “be good.” Sincerely and truly and deliberately good. That’s walking the talk. That’s what HR is to me … now.
In order to make sure HR walks the talk, we need to do a few things …
- Keep practicing. Our profession keeps growing and changing. HR’s tentacles stretch across so many disciplines. If you don’t want to learn all of them, that’s fine. But remain an active, enthusiastic and vocal practitioner in whatever discipline you choose.
- Keep timing. We all want our organizations to be the best and brightest using the most current techniques and technologies. But we can’t do that all at once because that costs money and time that we might not have — and HR’s priorities aren’t the only ones that matter. Proper timing in the planning and execution of our goals cannot be underestimated.
- Keep growing. Professional networking and development are crucial for HR. There is so much to learn, know and do that we have to look to and lean on each other. Those of us who have been in the profession for awhile have to help others learn — and we have to be willing to learn and listen to the newbies.
For the first time in a long time, I feel challenged in my work. And ironically, my challenge is to rise to the challenge of the 3 things I just mentioned. I’m excited about it — and I’m excited to share the journey and lessons with you in Year 3 of this blog.
Thank you for reading! Let’s meet these challenges together.
Wikipedia defines Human Resources as the set of individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, business sector or an economy. In other words, we are the backbone of the company. No company can survive without employees, more specifically, good employees. Any Joe Schmoe can set up shop and put up a now hiring sign. But does Joe really know what he’s looking for in an employee? Does Joe know how to determine whether or not Jane Doe has the right skills for the job? Can Joe discern whether or not John or Jane Doe will stay with his company for more than a week? In most instances Joe has no idea. How about once John or Jane Doe is hired? Does Joe know exactly what is required to verify employment eligibility? What about payroll and benefits? And so on and so forth. Having an experienced Human Resources administrator can make or break the company.
I started working in the HR field around the year 2000. I have done recruiting and staffing, worked with benefits, processed payroll, you name it. And every job I’ve held, every aspect of the Human Resources field is extremely important and rewarding. There are times where you get stuck with grunge work, working late nights, and having to deliver bad news to candidates, hiring managers, and co-workers. But everything else is awesome like helping someone truly qualified and deserving find a job; ensuring that employees are paid correctly; and having a hiring manager show appreciation for your assistance in placing the right candidate in the job. The perks definitely outweigh the grunge.
From the time I set foot into my first corporate setting in 1995, I wanted to work in Human Resources. Ahhh, the coveted HR Department! I have worked for quite a few, ok let’s be real, SEVERAL different companies. And almost always, it’s virtually impossible to transition into a position in the Human Resources department. For one thing, Human Resources employees just don’t want to leave! They almost never seem to want to transfer OUT of Human Resources. They rarely resign and take forever to retire. And while I was waiting for someone, anyone, to quit, retire, get fired, or relocate to the Czech Republic…so was everyone else in the company. So while getting into the HR department, in any capacity, was a challenge. I set a goal for myself to make it there, just because it was where everyone else wanted to be. I had no idea how important that department and the people in it really were. So initially, what Human Resources meant to me was achieving a goal that would confirm that I was awesome and everyone else sucked.
What Human Resources means to me today is jobs, employee retention, economic stability, healthcare and so much more. If I can be dramatically whimsical I’d venture to say, that Human Resources means dreams realized, a new home, a business growing and profiting. So again, Human Resources is the nerve center and the backbone of any successful business. Two words: WE ROCK!!!
This post was written by Keeya Majors.
Keeya was born, raised, and currently resides in Richmond, VA. Her work experience has been an eclectic mash up between HR/Payroll and Banking. At one point she was known as the “banking merger queen”. She was with Crestar Bank when they merged with Suntrust; NationsBank when they merged with Bank of America; First Union when they merged with Wachovia; and Bank of Richmond when they merged with Gateway. Keeya is currently a Payroll Specialist with The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, or as she likes to call it “The Banks’ Bank.”
She has worked in every aspect of Human Resources and Payroll. From recruiting and staffing to time reporting to benefits. She’s had a hand in each role and loved every minute of it. Her most challenging, taxing, and rewarding role, however, is being a mother to three beautiful children.
What HR is to me? Well, from the very depths of my soul, my answer is: “A job that pays the bills.” But I have a feeling that won’t suffice for a whole blog post. So I guess I would have to say, HR to me is the ultimate balancing act of professions in all of the professions in organisations.
Maria Spelterini crossing Niagara Rapids 1876
The very best things in life are all about opposites co-operating. Life partnerships for instance are about a person being your best friend, your reliable daily business partner and rock of stability, yet they also require explosive attraction with spontaneity, unpredictability and danger. You know what I mean… the relationship that’s about having milk in the fridge, being supportive, folding the washing, plus jealousy, flirting and selfishness. We want to know everything about them, but get most excited about their hidden side. Does anyone else scratch their head at the sheer stupidity of our inbuilt expectations, and then think “sounds about right for this ‘life’ thing”? I cottoned on to it all after watching this Ted Talk which captured that dynamic perfectly, but if you’re not faint of heart (and I mean that Very Seriously), Eddie Murphy took that 19 minute Ted Talk and nailed it in 30 seconds (MAJOR crude factor though – so Not Safe For Work or for delicate ears).
It’s not surprising then that the one function in business that is entirely about human beings is also the function that must rock this opposites-play-nice game. Profits vs rewards. Productivity vs flexibility. Ethics vs achievements. Feelings vs science. Emotions vs maths. Fairness vs affordability. I mean, don’t we come into this opposites-play-nice thing simply when we enter a job? We expect to be treated like a professional (someone who can suppress emotion and get the job done), while being given allowances for our human-ness (with all the flaws and craziness that entails). And as employment has evolved to include that element of highly professional human, the job of HR has become increasingly about helping the opposing forces of running a business to play nicely.
So I guess I see good HR as the ultimate set of scales. Or better yet, as the ultimate tightrope walker. Constantly weighing and balancing the ways to effectively run an organisation and be a good employer. Going about our high risk manoeuvres on a daily basis, so often and with such skill that it looks like a walk in the park (maybe that’s why everyone thinks they can do it too).
Step right up ladies and gentlemen, let me walk you through some HR tightrope exercises:
- Since one side will lose out if a perfect balance is not struck, it doesn’t make for a popular position in the organisation. HR needs to care genuinely about people, but disregard popularity.
- To give good HR advice, there needs to be some scepticism, but not negativity. HR needs to mediate between having an overly investigative nature (nothing ever gets done) and being a suspicious jerk (too much blaming gets done).
- To be credible, HR needs to have strong documentation, but also be of benefit to the other business units. HR can have the best admin this side of the moon but not to the detriment of flexibility.
- For effective communication, HR must speak fluent emotions and argue hard facts. It’s no use justifying staff numbers with Full Time Equivalency models when the supervisor demanding extra staff feels unappreciated.
- To be accessible (and perhaps accepted), HR must be open and willing and enthusiastic and ready! But it also needs to be assertive and strategic and rationed with its resources.
Watch, ladies and gentlemen, as your HR manager perilously walks on a razor thin wire, but as an observer has been quoted to say, “I observed the tightrope ‘dancer’—because you couldn’t call him a ‘walker’.”
And that’s what HR entails to me, a place for my mind to be challenged, and to delight in that challenge. To go to that point of hard work that is compelling, terrifying and beautiful. It’s really not a bad way to pay the bills, and if I get to wear a mohawke like Ms Spelterina, then all I can say is “bring it on!”
This post was written by Sarah Miller.
In addition to having a fantastic first name, Sarah is at the start of her HR career, writing in some thoughtful way on her blog Whipper Snapper HR and with little thought on her twitter account @whippasnappahr. She just got a G+ account too! Apart from Social Media shenanigans, Sarah is a South Australian living and working in Singapore. Previous career aspirations included being a plumber, and being a ferry driver who sang to passengers on the morning commute. Thankfully, HR seems to be working out well for her.
HR exists because organizations are made up of people, but as entities they are quite terrible at grasping the needs and potential of the individual. This is not surprising- the fundamental purpose of an organization is to coordinate a number of people to do something too complex or vast to be done by an individual. That something is its purpose and reason to exist, whether it is to run a successful diner, collect human blood for transfusions, or make scads of money for shareholders by processing complex financial transactions, and so organizations are rightly fixated on doing that something. Other considerations are secondary, including the needs, wants, rights and of the individual, because the organization as an entity does not have a brain or a heart, so in addition to not understanding the individual, it does not have morals or feelings to provoke it to try.
But we all know that individual needs, rights and wants are incredibly important to the organization- not just because the law tells us that they are, but because if they are ignored individual people will leave it, or not work to their full potential to assist it in achieving its purpose, or lack the tools and environment to make it better at that something it does. Fundamentally, leaders of organizations understand all this, but it’s a complex thing to remain fixated on the purpose of the organization, whilst also having full responsibility for thinking through the potential impact of the organization’s actions on individuals, what must be done to ensure the survival of the organization (keep some individuals, eject others, and acquire more) AND the various potential ways in which individuals might enhance the organization’s ability to achieve its purpose. So, to some degree or another, this duty is assigned to individuals within the organization that we currently call ‘HR’.
This is what HR is to me – at the most fundamental level we are there to tell ‘the organization’ (a big, complex, but essentially dumb and heartless thing) how to avoid doing damage to itself in pursuit of its purpose, by constantly considering its actions in the context of the individual. It’s a little bit like telling the Hulk why he might not want to smash his grandma’s car:
Hulk: “Hulk smash!”
HR: “I know that Hulk smash- it’s what you do. But if you smash your grandma’s car she will not make you a sandwich. Perhaps you should consider smashing something else?”
In an organizational context this sounds more like:
- “Offering good salaries will attract more qualified, high performers to help us achieve X”
- “Firing someone who is sick will result in a lawsuit, negative press and lower morale and productivity”
- “Making your managers work every weekend will result in higher turnover, which is going to drive up costs long-term”
- “Hiring individuals who can do Y will allow us to do X in a new sector”
- “Giving feedback and recognition to employees on a regular basis will result in better performance and retention”
HR is not sorcery- lots of people who don’t work in HR know these things (hopefully your organization employs some of them). But those individuals also have to fixate on that something the organization exists to do, so it often makes sense to employ individuals dedicated to thinking about these ‘individual context’ things, proposing actions, policies and processes to support them, and doing the basics to maintain individuals’ voluntary membership with the organization (paying them, providing agreed upon benefits and ensuring their safety while at work). Some organizations may choose to vest only limited accountabilities in the individuals charged with HR (they’ll do transactional personnel stuff), while others will ask them to be the source of a ‘people strategy’ that might give the organization an advantage against other organizations it competes with.
This is what HR is to me– we are advisors who keep the individual on our mind at all times, and make sure that what the organization does, or wants to do, is considered in that context. Everything else – the policies, paperwork, process and politics – are all in service to this higher purpose. We should never forget that.
This post was written by Jane Watson.
Jane is a senior HR practitioner based in Toronto, and the author of the blog Talent Vanguard. In the last 10 years she’s worked across most functional areas of HR in financial services, non-profit, design, food processing, and hospitality, and is currently working in the public sector. She is an active volunteer for HRPA Ontario and HRPA Toronto, where she sits on the Mentorship Program Committee, as well as acting as a mentor through Fanshawe College and ACCES employment. She would love for you to find her on Twitter at: @jsarahwatsHR or at www.talentvanguard.com
When I was first asked to contribute to this blog, I was really excited and flattered … And then when I was told that the theme was “What HR Means to Me”, I was kind of disappointed and apprehensive.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great question. I’m just not sure whether my answer will be all that satisfying.
You see, after carefully deliberating over the question, I’ve come up with this brilliant gem: “HR is a means to an end”.
I told you it would be disappointing.
You see, some days – HR is just a job that pays me bi-weekly so that I can ensure my kids’ have straight teeth and to support my Young Adult book habit. A means to an end.
However, when I’m not being so pragmatic … and I am focused on what HR can do … I still see it as a means to an end.
HR is not a philosophy, it is not a way of life…there isn’t even an HR adjective. Like in Finance…you can have a “financial” report or in operations, you can have an “operational” budget. In HR …there isn’t a “Human Resourceful” plan of action.
But this is exactly why I like HR. It’s solid. It’s composed of so many parts – there are so many tools at your disposal. You aren’t limited to thinking in only way and in fact, if you are doing good HR, then you are definitely not limiting yourself.
I am the HR person who believes in working towards a balance between employee needs and business needs. I believe in consistency among procedures and fairness in how people are treated (but fair does not means equal). I believe in transparency, as much as can be achieved. I believe in accountability, responsibility, and maturity. Working in HR can help achieve these.
Based on these beliefs, it’s amazing that I’m still in HR. Really it sounds like I’m practicing a speech for the next Ms. Universe pageant … Do they still have those? Am I too old for Toddlers and Tiaras?
I may not be the person you want to go to if you need a shoulder to cry on. I will play devil’s advocate – regardless of what side of the table the devil is sitting on that day. I won’t necessarily tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear. I am sarcastic, I do not like small talk, I support social media, and would prefer one-on-one to social gatherings.
My friends actually laughed when I told them I was going into HR. Nice.
HR means not taking yourself so damn seriously. It’s okay to laugh and swear, and for pete’s sake stop whining about not having a seat at the table. It’s embarrassing. Just do good work and let it speak for itself.
You know what strategic HR is? It’s aligning your HR programs and initiatives with those of your organization. That’s why HR is a means to an end. It has the potential to branch out and get its strategic little tentacles in every part of the
business. Oh yes, we have our ways…
To call HR a minefield is absolutely appropriate on so many levels…it’s touchy, it’s feely, it has you walking on your toes some days, and others…you just march out there and say WTF…and when you manage to get to the other side with all your limbs intact, it’s a very rewarding feeling.
And this is what HR means to me.
Julie is a late-blooming HR practitioner located in Canada and the creative genius author of the blog Accidental HR. She is also a proud Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP) and member of the HRPA in Ontario and her local chapter.
Her experience as a generalist over the past five years (in additional to the many non-HR years) has provided her with great opportunities to see and learn from the good, the bad, and the ugly of HR. She is a big believer in personal accountability and the concept of “paying it forward”. She loves the opportunity to talk to students and new grads about transitioning into the work world.
Outside of HR, Julie’s priorities in life are raising her three adolescents (13, 17, and 42), ensuring she is adequately prepared for a zombie apocalypse (with the help of The Walking Dead), and consuming books, blogs, dark chocolate, and red wine (preferably all at the same time).
Feel free to follow Julie on Twitter @jawaddell or through her blog Accidental HR.