Grow Baby Grow – Planting Seeds That Keep Your HR Career Alive!

grow baby grow

By, Cari Desiderio

This year I’ve been trying to keep up with what seems to be a more quickly evolving competency journey in our field of HR than many years past.  Similar to planting seeds and nurturing them until a fresh harvest of food is produced, it is critical that we plant seeds of learning and career development to avoid being quickly outdated in the field of human resources.  Human knowledge is doubling roughly every year (soon to be a quicker pace – some say it could get to 12 days). With an ever changing world this means that the pace of jobs, the kinds of jobs needed and the organizational structures that support a global workforce, will change at equal speed.

In our field, there is no trend more loud and clear than a shift to become more strategic and agile in the ways of leading and shepherding the human capital of organizations.  This shift really began about ten years ago with the introduction of HR shared services centers of excellence to shift much of the transaction based work in HR to a call center, in order to free up the field staff to work on more strategy level things. However, this leads to an environment where quickly you are either on the strategic HR bus, or not. Because if the more linear and transaction based work is no longer on my plate, then I’m left to prove my stuff in the strategic space.  One of my favorite, and simplest, articles on this topic is from the Harvard Business Review. In their article, A New Mandate for HR, the key competencies for HR leaders is boiled down to just four things:

  • Strategy Execution
  • Administrative Efficiency
  • Employee Championship
  • Continuous Transformation

What is interesting is that we don’t see things like understanding labor laws and compliance, or administering benefits, or payroll on the list.  Why?  Isn’t that stuff core to HR?  Well the short answer is both yes and no.  Yes, it is critical to understand what new form needs to be submitted to the IRS to report on insurance minimal coverage next year in order to comply with healthcare reform laws.  Yes, it is important to keep up with the ever changing FLSA laws as pertains to defining exempt and non-exempt jobs.  Yes, it is important to fill out those I-9s on time when an employee starts and have enough HR good sense to not discriminate by telling them which form to bring from the list. Yes it is important to follow the FMLA regulations and protect worker jobs during periods of illness and not terminate employment prematurely.  Yes it is important to understand how to operate a PC and use a basic HRIS system. All of this is still part of HR.  But it is assumed that a good HR practitioner will know these things.  The compliance and basic financial and data maintenance side of HR is only a baseline.  If we were looking at a Maslow’s Chart these things would fall at the bottom of the pyramid as “must haves” before one can advance up the pyramid.  After all a chef should know how to boil spaghetti and chop vegetables. But these things are not the blocks at the top. They are not the sauce and flavor that prove the chef can actually cook.  Or prove the HR practitioner can actually lead people.  Rather, it is critical to use our baseline HR knowledge to make wise people and risk decisions.  To make good health plan choices that support a wellness program that drives healthy workers, or drives attractive compensation package to retain good workers.  To use the data and systems to analyze trends and recommend changes in HR strategy.  To use an understanding of FLSA to reorganize a department so that work shifts and more workers can be hired on an exempt basis and accomplish more impactful work without spending more money. To survey the workforce across a region (or the globe) and suggest org changes that drive cost efficiency and lean ways to achieve more with the human capital base.   The point is, the basic HR knowledge base should be there, but then one has to advance to strategic thinking to prove one is useful as HR practitioner and adviser.

So what’s a HR professional to do?  Grow, baby, grow!  Make sure you are plugged into places to develop the crucial skills you need to not only grow and gain promotions, but frankly to keep the job you have.  This can be joining your SHRM chapter. Going back to get a HR certificate (PHR, SPHR, SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, CEBS, ATD’s coaching certificates, and more).  Maybe it is reading business books or other functions outside of HR like finance and operations.  And, most critical than all of this, make sure that you seek out stretch assignments.  Having been in HR for 14 years, I have found that development of self takes a little bit of assertiveness.  There will be those very special leaders who just are all about cultivating and growing you. I’ve had two I’d say in my career that really did this well (and one became my life career coach).  But you most frequently have to be your own career champ.  Seek out projects and assignments that pull you in new directions and grow you.  I was frankly terrified last year when I was given a stretch assignment to create a shared service recruiting team.  But it’s built a HR muscle in the talent arena that I could never have learned own my own or in any textbook.  Experiences grow us best.  Every new assignment becomes hands on learning that will get you to next level.  And make sure to surround yourself with a network of like minded career professionals to just learn from and support each other.  It is not only fun to do coffee or lunch with peers in the field, but it’s crucial to have a support system to draw from.


Harvard Business Review: A New Mandate for Human Resources

Glenn Beck – Knowledge Article:

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