HR can be a thankless job, but I love it. So many people will tell me, “Oh, I could never do what you do!” I’d like to say, they’re right. Not because they don’t have the patience or character, but because they have no idea what I really do.
HR Gets a Bad Rap
These same people think that I just fire employees all day. I’m the “hatchet lady.” If I fired people all day, the office would be empty.
So what is it that I do differently? Maybe it is not different, but it is me. I like to keep it real.
I work very hard to establish relationships with all of my employees. Yes, I call them mine. I want to know about them. I want to hear what their dreams are, career goals, and of course, what they need from me.
Never Promise What You Can’t Deliver
I try to follow through on my promises to them. I never promise something that I can’t deliver. You don’t build trust that way.
If they come and knock on my door, I know they want to talk. Before I let them start, I make sure they know that how I react is dependent on what they say to me. I always let them know that I have three virtual filing cabinets in my brain. The first one is for verbal vomiting that is mainly a place I put the information that they are giving me and it doesn’t need further inquiry. I may offer tools and suggestions to help them through their crisis, but it is usually a safe place for them to come and let off some steam. The second virtual filing cabinet is for those issues that involve a co-worker or supervisor that need coaching or mediation. I make sure that I tell the employee that I will help them as much as possible. Most of the time they don’t want me to do anything. The third and final virtual filing cabinet is reserved for when the employee says keywords or phrases that would lead me to open an investigation. Things like feeling as though they are in a hostile work environment, or they are being bullied, or that person sexually assaulted me. These issues are immediately dealt with. This is the hard part. The employee usually tells me they don’t want to get anyone fired. I have to explain that I would start an investigation before that happened. I also remind them that we have policies and procedures that we need to abide by. I remind them that at this point, I don’t have a choice and I must move forward. In the end, they are appreciative that I have done my job to protect them.
Yes, I Have to Discipline Sometimes
I do have to follow the disciplinary action processes that are set up in each organization. I prefer to train employees on what they should and shouldn’t be doing and monitor their progress. You also have to train the managers and supervisors to document. We try to live in a world where there are fewer disciplinary actions and more education, but there are times when we have to drop the hammer. I want all employees to be set up for success. Have we given them the tools to do their jobs correctly in the first place? Have we explained the behaviors and norms we expect to see at your offices? If, not then we haven’t done our jobs yet.
Benefits and PTO and 401(k)’s Oh My!
Yes, an HR team is responsible for making sure that each employee is also enrolled in all of the eligible benefits. If you are in an organization that has high turnover, this can be challenging for the HR team. Give them a break. Timing on benefits is everything. Making sure people are signed up and/or removed from coverage based on their start/stop dates is not always easy. We have to make sure the invoices from these vendors are correct at all times on top of taking care of the employee’s needs.
Sounds Like a Lot, Right?
I haven’t really scratched the surface of what an HR team really does, but you can catch a glimpse of the complexity. Give your HR Director the budget to staff the team they need so you don’t lose them from being overworked. Make sure you pay them what they are worth too. Don’t always look at the industry you are in, look at their skills, abilities, and experience. Ask them what they believe they should be making and negotiate. All in all, I love my job. I enjoy the people and I enjoy the challenge.