Introduction to HR

Brian Beck PHR, MHROD
November 21, 2008 — 2,118 views  
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Aside from being a Director of HR for a local hospital here in Albuquerque, I also teach part-time at two universities in town.  I've been teaching for about three years.  Many of my undergrad and graduate students interested in pursuing the HR field often me, "what is HR all about?"  For the readers of HRResource that are just as interested, I thought I would share my response to that question with you as well.

Rule 1: It is not about laws and legal issues

That is by far, in my 15+ years in this business, the least of what we do each day.  If I have major legal issues that I need to work through, I have corporate attornies or contracted attornies that can assist.  That's not to say that HR folks don't work in the legal area, because we do.  It just doesn't take much more than maybe 5% of our workday if that.  If you're an HR person and it's taking more of your time, you might have bigger problems that need to be tackled so that metric is lessened.  So, new HR folks, please don't worry so much about Title VII, ADA, ADEA, AAP/EEO, FLSA, FMLA, or whatever other laws you may be concerned about.  If you need to tackle issues in these many, many pages of legal affairs, there are people who can help. 

Rule 2:  It is not about striving to "sit at the table"

I have read so many articles that describe HR as ever reaching, ever stretching to sit at the executive table and compete for time and attention.  If you are a person new in the HR industry, I would encourage you to simply work hard, mind your metrics and the rest will come to you.  Believe me when I say that senior executives do notice who in HR is performing and who is not.  The numbers just don't lie.  I have sat on several senior management teams as a participating member and I have presented at numerous boards of director meetings.  Your chance at glory is only a few seconds of bullet points.  It's not what most people think "sitting at the table" is cut out to be.  Let your HR department numbers do the talking and the board or senior executive team will come to you.  They can't help it.  If there are manners in which to save money, increase services or better balance the workforce and you're doing that, the knock will come.  Now, once you get to that table, just be sure to keep sharing, don't stay silent or socially loaf and always remember that you were called there because of your expertise.  That expertise is expected to be shared each time. 

Rule 3:  It is not about P&P, SOP, Rules and Regs

I have heard many HR people state that "it's sometimes challenging to always take the side of the company."  Folks, if that is your take on what a piece of the HR role is, you've got to challenge your paradigm.  New folks in HR, I believe that SOME rules, regulations, policies and procedures can be flexed.  Most of our decisions in HR are based on what we call "it depends" kinds of answers to scenarios.  If you're in HR, you know what I'm talking about.  My view on Rule 3 is that we as HR people walk the razor's edge each day in our business, sometimes siding with the employee and sometimes with the company.  We have an obligation to be neutral.  It's just that simple.

Rule 4:  It is about the development of managers

This is the most important, primary, numero uno, big kahuna rule of HR.  No other rule is more powerful than this one or as important.  Leadership development is what we in HR are all about.  Think about it.  What happens to an organization if it has strong, competent, fair, dedicated to giving to their employees kinds of leaders?  Lower turnover, stronger retention, better customer service, less legal headaches, better company flow of ideas and innovation, stronger bottom line/higher profit margins, and less worries overall.  People leave managers, not companies.  Read through your exit interviews and no matter what the reason says (aside from military relo) it still comes back to management.  Why else does a person look for another job?  Open job requisitions (aside from company growth) means lower skilled managers/leaders are on board. 

I love to work with folks that are new in the HR business.  They come with great ideas and a fire for the industry.  Unfortunately, textbooks don't always paint the real life picture that is out there.  But, while paying attention to the above points and most importantly focusing on Rule 4, don't forget to always strive for more information about our industry.  Read a new book each month on an HR topic, then apply that to the business.  If you would like to futher explore these concepts, please don't hesitate to respond to this blog, send an email or give me a call. 

Welcome to HR!

Brian Beck PHR, MHROD


Brian J. Beck, PHR, M.H.R.O.D., has worked in the human resources field for over 15 years, focusing on recruitment/retention, HR strategic planning, organization and leadership development.