I recently started a new job (sort of; my company was acquired) and, for the first time in my working career, I am NOT a member of the HR staff.
I don’t have to worry about learning the employee benefit offerings inside-out. I’m not wondering when I’m going to have to conduct my first employee investigation. (note: at a previous gig I had to kick-off a Sexual Harassment investigation at 1 PM on Day One of my employment tenure. #GoodTimes). I’m not worried about expeditiously memorizing every policy in the Employee Handbook. (confession: I’ve been feeling so carefree that I didn’t even read the Employee Handbook, in its entirety, until several weeks after my start date!)
This atypical experience has been simultaneously rejuvenating and surreal.
I don’t have to, as a new hire, observe my HR team to discern how cultural norms, procedures, and historical precedents dictate the inner workings of people operations. I’m not privy to the decision-making that has informed “why” the company has XX number of holidays or “how” employees are socialized and acclimated to the organization.
I am, instead, merely a willing recipient of HR’s services. I’m a new vessel, fresh off the OnBoarding Assembly Line, into which the People & Culture team is pouring information and assistance. I dutifully open all their emails, follow their directions immediately (“it’s time to enroll in your benefits!”), and attend every informational session and meeting whether mandatory or not. I’m fully immersed (I love this stuff!) into the values and culture and community aspects;I was posting on a Yammer community by day 3.
I think, if I do say so myself, I’m a great HR customer.
And it’s really confirmed something I’ve long believed – every HR professional, preferably at an early stage of their career (unlike me), needs to join a company in a non-HR role. When I think about peers and friends who work in HR I realize that the vast majority have always worked in human resources. Lots of them came out of school, landed a gig in HR, and have never gotten off the treadmill.
I get it. It’s a profession. And we’ve battled – seemingly for decades – for HR to be acknowledged as a profession. We’ve grown our HR careers by switching back-and-forth from generalist to specialist roles or moving up the ladder/criss-crossing the lattice from Coordinator to HRBP to Director to VP. There are some (many?) who say “HR is my calling; I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” There are others who are content, comfortable and possess a soupcon of complacency (I get that too!) and don’t want to try something else.
… how can we, the individuals in charge of designing and nurturing the environment for employees to be successful, truly understand the “employee experience” if we’ve never…well…EXPERIENCED “work” as an employee?
How many HR professionals have ever:
- been subjected to their own HR-devised Attendance Point Policy?
- had to navigate Benefit Enrollment without fully understanding the difference between co-pay and co-insurance?
- held off on making plans as they’ve wondered if the company will close early on December 24th, like they have for the last decade, because HR refuses to memorialize it as an official “company holiday” (even though it sure seems to be one).
- tried to figure out WHAT, exactly, “performance calibration” means and HOW in the world it seems to be the only explanation provided when annual performance increases are announced?
- wondered how transfers and promotions happen for others yet they never seem to even get an interview (or a response) when applying for an internal move?
It’s the quintessential dictum isn’t it? “Put yourself in their shoes.”
Personally, I think I look quite styling in my new pair of
pumps loafers flip flops.