A New Year’s Reflection
I can’t believe that I’ve been an HR practitioner for 20 years! I started out as a receptionist in the Recruiting area of the Personnel Department of a small Savings & Loan in Santa Monica in 1991. I couldn’t have imagined that I would learn so much about employment law, safety codes and general human behavior. At the beginning, this was a job like any other job. It paid my bills and would allow me time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Yet, here I am, two decades and a lifetime of experience later, knee-deep in Employee Relations issues, employee health insurance renewals, and HRIS research.
In my New Year reflection on my chosen career path, I can honestly say that while Human Resources is definitely not the most glamorous job or department (often called just a “cost center”) it has been always changing, always challenging and never boring!
The state of California keeps HR professionals on our toes, and the Federal government likes to throw curve balls from time to time. It is our job as the pulse of the employees, and management’s voice to keep up with all of it and relay the messages to our stakeholders in a way that they can understand. We are required to communicate will all levels of people, from the employee, to Executive Management, to the Labor Attorneys and various vendors. We are often required to be amateur psychologists trying to walk the fine line of professional etiquette and caring human being. We truly care for our employees, but are called on to balance that care with the reality of poor performance. What seasoned HR Professional hasn’t had to layoff or, even worse, terminate for cause, a friend? Someone, we genuinely cared about. Yet, we are required to put on our game face, get behind our leader and quickly reconcile our feelings for what is right for the business.
How many times have we had to look at health insurance renewals and make the tough recommendations to management to either reduce the level of coverage the company offers or increase the out of pocket costs to our already struggling employees? Sometimes, it’s a double edged sword that we bare and both actions are necessary to keep the company competitive and profitable. After all a profitable company is a more stable company. We are required to take this information, sort it out and disseminate it on so many different levels with many different angles. We are mini-Marketing moguls!
What about those coaching opportunities that present themselves out of the blue, and often on the date that you need to process the company payroll? You know, the manager who runs into your office complaining that his employee has come in late for the third time that week. He further explains that this employee always comes in late and he’s just plain sick and tired of it and now wants to terminate the employee for tardiness. After dropping what you are doing, you pull out your notepad and start to write out the details. You find, after a quick 15 minute conversation with the manager that he has never spoken to the employee about his tardiness. That he has given the employee stellar reviews for the past 5 years, and recently the employee has told him that he is in the middle of a messy divorce and taking depression medication. We take it all down, check our records and put on our coaching hat to give our manager the skills he needs to effectively deal with the situation. Sometimes being a coach, we need to get into the game and show the manager how to document, how to coach their employee, how to pull out the best in their employee without getting too much personal information. Sometimes, our managers know what they need to do and as their coach we serve as a gentle reminder and give them the tools that they need to move their team forward.
Indeed we wear many hats as HR Professionals, psychologist, marketing managers, and coaches just to name a few, but I know that I wouldn’t give this up for anything. Sure, I’ve needed to take a break from time to time. Breathe, check out the “greener pasture” of “regular employee life” – but in the end, I come running back to the comfort and chaos of Human Resources.