I recently attended HRevolution, a small "conference" focused on driving the HR profession forward, covering innovative topics or concepts. I put conference in quotes because while there are extremely informative sessions and some very healthy debate, it is an event that brings the thought leaders in the HR field together to share and to push each other, as well as to connect or reconnect in person instead of online. The attendees are different from most conferences I've attended, I have to say!
One of the things that made a great first impression at the Friday night Tweet Up was the open arm welcome I received. Literally. I have never been hugged by so many complete strangers at a networking event! I'm a hugger too, so it was OK :)
I spent time the first night chatting with many people, but Trish McFarlane (@TrishMcFarlane), one of the event organizers, and Jennifer Scott (@HireEffect) were just so positive, genuine, enthusiastic and feisty (I recognize my own kind!), it was contagious. It was the farthest thing from the HR stereotype of the cranky HR lady (or guy).
As an HR professional, you often walk a tightrope between employee advocacy and managing risk for your organization. If you lean too far one way or the other, it's a problem either way. What is needed for the organization or the team isn't always viewed favorably by the employee. In my experience, no one ever enjoys receiving a disciplinary action.
At the end of the day, it is up to you, the HR professional, to develop your reputation in your organization. It's up to you to build rapport and be more than just the policy enforcer or manager of the tactical parts of HR. Do you want to be viewed as a trusted adviser, developer of people and strategic leader that has impact for your organization? Or just the taskmaster or keeper of the rules?
As I was going to sleep the night of the Tweet Up, I was thinking back to an epiphany I had earlier in my HR career. I was working one day on a critical item on my to-do list. The phone rang..... I thought "UGH! What now?" While my tone was professional, I was short with the team member, answered the question and got off the phone quickly. As I hung up, I was thinking I haven't talked to that person in a while and I should have at least asked how they were doing, how the person they hired last month is working out, etc.
It was at that moment I realized the phone call was not an interruption of my job, it was the BEST PART of my job. Our team members are customers of the services I provide. This was an opportunity! If I can consistently add value and help them be successful, it helps the entire organization achieve success, one person at a time. So every time the phone rings, it's a chance to continue to build rapport, to make an impact with whatever they are doing, and to support their success which ultimately supports achievement of our mission.
The to-do list will always be there. Take your time and build or increase rapport whenever you can. When the time comes to have the harder conversations, treat everyone with dignity. If you've built the rapport along the way, they will already know you care.
One parting note - I know for non-profits, budgets can be tight, especially for items such as external training. HRevolution (theHRevolution.org) is always reasonably priced and they always work to get great rates on hotel rooms. Even if you have to spend your own money, get there next year, it's worth every penny and then some!
I hope you have the opportunity to serve and make a difference today!
Kellee Webb, SPHR