HR career

HR hero

Today, I’m guest blogging over at Melissa Fairman’s  HR Remix site. A quick taste:

Us humans place a lot of weight on our heroes. We need them to inspire us to be better, to set an example, to show us the way, to push back the edges of what we thought was possible.

Who are your HR heroes?

Brian Tracy has said that if you don’t love what you’re doing enough to strive to be in the top 20%, you’re probably in the wrong field. What’s it mean to be in the top 20% of HR? Who do you consider in the top 20% of HR? Who do you look up to as a role model or example of who and how you want to be? Who is setting the pace for you?

Follow the link to see the rest: HR hero.

flashback friday: why HR rocks

I can be quite critical of HR, but it’s only because I really like HR. I see what it can be and get frustrated when it’s not. HR on a good day contributes heavily to great business, to competitive advantage, to a workplace where people can perform at their best. HR is not why the company exists, but it enables the company to do what it does best. Good HR moves things forward; bad HR gets in the way.

I have a personal mission to help people be at their best – that’s why I’m in HR. But why should you be in HR? Why should anyone choose HR as a career? Hmmmm, good question. Some thoughts:

If you have both people and business skills you can be a superstar. HR needs people who can understand, translate, and communicate between the impersonal numbers side of business and the intensely personal human side. Even the coldest, sterilest, most numbers driven work gets done through humans with all their squishy, emotional, irrationality. Understand and communicate to both and you’re a hero.

Influence the entire organization. HR plays a large role in developing the culture (and is also a reflection of the culture that’s been created). It’s pretty cool to help shape a company.

Know what’s going on. IF (big if) you can keep your mouth shut and keep things confidential, you will learn far more than you ever wanted to know about your co-workers and all the scandals kept on the downlow.

Get a big picture view. Even if you don’t want to stay in HR forever, a couple of years will give you a very big picture view of how the organization fits together, who does what, how information flows, and who the real power players are. That’s invaluable info for any rising leader.

Gain exposure. HR is one of the few departments that actively interacts with leaders in every other area. Even the admins in HR have more exposure to leadership than the high potentials in more isolated areas. The exposure and networking can be a huge advantage (just avoid making enemies).

Food. There is always food in HR. My six year old son told me that he wanted a job just like mine.  In moments like this I’ve learned to ask “why?” before getting all misty eyed. He said, “Because you always get to have cake.”

Party central. HR often bristles at the idea of being the ones who have to organize the company picnics and Christmas parties. Yes, if that’s all you’re being asked to do by senior leadership then you’re in a very marginal HR department. However, HR really is in position and generally has the people skills to throw great parties. What better way to reach people and influence the culture? If the HR department is already supporting competitive advantage and helping the business kick capitalist booty why not lead the charge to celebrate it? (Do you really want accounting heading up the next party?)

Helping others. Everything else aside, it’s pretty cool to be in a position to help others. People tend to come to HR when their lives are at their best and worst moments and without getting all clichéd and sappy, it is a tremendous privilege to be able to celebrate with them or help them with their transition.

HR isn’t always fun, but it’s a place I enjoy. That’s why I want it to be the field I know it can be.

[This was originally posted on December 11, 2011. It seemed like a good day to revisit it.]


hr: bring the noise

Gareth Jones recently blogged on the question, “HR: Where’s the Passion?” There are some massively talented, bright, and passionate people in HR. I’ve worked with a few, met a few, and regularly read blogs by a few. There are some really inspiring superstars out there, but on the average…? Gareth got me thinking a bit and maybe you really don’t see much passion overall.

I think HR is one of the best fields there is because it lives at the intersection of Business and Humans. Companies die, survive, or thrive based on the people they attract, retain, and develop and HR is the department that can make that happen. What could be cooler?! (If you want more of my take on the awesomeness of HR, try why HR rocks or human resources’ top goal? .)

Of course, I also wrote why I wouldn’t hire an HR person for an HR job so even though I’m passionate about the field I do have concerns. So, as Gareth asks, where is the passion? I don’t know for sure, but do have a few thoughts:

  • Until recently, HR was very administrative as a field and it still is in many organizations. Processing and filing paperwork as the focus of a job does not require passion to be successful. In fact, having passion probably makes you ill-suited for any long term success at the job.
  • HR in some organizations can get overly focused on bureaucracy and make policy enforcement the core function. Again, not a place that rewards passion.
  • HR managers who believe their #1 job is to prevent lawsuits end up with HR departments that are fearful, rigid, and focused on everything you can’t do instead of what you can do. Passionate people want to be engaged and  active and accomplishing, not timid roadblocks.
  • HR theoretically extends throughout the organization yet can end up very siloed or excluded. That doesn’t attract or keep people who want to make a difference.
  • In times past, HR was often a dumping ground: a place for people not meeting expectations who the company didn’t have the heart to get rid of or a place to “promote” secretaries to when the company didn’t know what else to do with them. These were people who didn’t love HR to begin with and were just coasting out the end of their careers.
  • HR is a tough, tough job. Employees and managers are often only involved with HR when things are intense and going badly. Tough decisions have to be made. Laws and regulations are often ambiguous, confusing, or even contradictory. People get nervous when you call them, fearing the worst. Not many people stop by just to say thanks. So, even those who enter the field all full of passion and zeal can get beaten down pretty quick.
  • Finally, because of all this, I think there are very few role models to teach newcomers that it’s ok to be enthusiastic and love your work and do great stuff and HR is the place to do that.

But, I think it’s changing. I’m seeing more and more blogs by folks who see HR as the place to make a difference. Social media is letting like-minded folk across the planet connect and share ideas and see that they are not alone. We are getting more and more role models in the field.

Speak up, make some noise, and rock the HR banner a little higher!