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My Advice to New HR Grads

For most universities and colleges, spring graduation season has now come and gone. Hopefully many of the recent grads have been able to find work that is linked to their field of study. Over the past few months, I had the privilege of being able to speak with a few upcoming HR grads as they prepared to enter the workforce. A lot of them were experiencing a bit of angst about getting their first HR job and just as importantly, they wanted to know what they needed to “really” do to be a good HR “business partner.”

GraduateI probed a bit to find out what their understanding of the term is and was as anytime someone, especially a junior HR Pro, uses the words “business partner” the hair on the back of my neck stands up a bit. You see, I believe as a profession, HR people have been adding silly labels and heaping on ridiculous amounts of self-deprecation on our profession over the past 5+ years. You know what mean, people in HR always saying that, “everyone in HR needs to be strategic in their role.” “HR people all need to be sitting at the table.” (*groan*) and most importantly, everyone has to be an “HR Business Partner.” There are no more HR Generalists, HR Coordinators or HR Consultants (unless you are independent). We have got it drilled into our profession that you immediately have to be a “business partner” as in that is your title vs. something that you do as part of your role.

Depending on what and who you read, this definition of HR business partner has a variety of meanings. Some HR folks make it out to be the ultimate catch all HR role/title – but mostly it means you are playing some incredible strategic role in your company whereby you are developing revolutionary people strategies and programs that result in leading edge turnover and engagement scores. Simply put, if you aren’t a “business partner” than you ain’t much. I have previously blogged about this topic before so I won’t go on an additional rant; however, I think bloggers like Laurie Ruettimann (please check out her blog) provide a really good perspective on what it means to do good HR, which then means you are adding value. Simply put, be ethical, be transparent, make sure people get treated with respect, make sure they get paid fairly, represent your company honestly and understand the environment your company operates in so you can properly advise. (i.e. labour laws, human rights, etc.)

All of those things are the basic tenants of good HR. In other words, if you do that and your people are getting paid on time you are keeping the proverbial trains running on time and that is how you are adding value. Not everyone gets to be strategic and drive the vision for the company for the next 20 years. However, good HR work (like I mentioned) adds A LOT of value, more so because, for some reason, many in our profession overlook this work that they do as being valuable. So why do we feel the need to label ourselves as business partners? Has anyone heard of a “Marketing Business Partner?” An “I.T. Business Partner?” What about a “Finance Business Partner.” Believe it or not, if you Google those terms, those titles do exist, but not near to the extent of HR Business Partner. Additionally, these groups also don’t seem so fixated on the term and presenting themselves as such as compared to what HR is doing to itself.

Here is the thing, anyone that provides enabling support to their company has to be a business partner in some capacity. So new HR grads, here is the best (free) advice you are going to get:

  • Focus on doing the things I mentioned earlier in this post so that you can keep the trains running on time. If you do this, please take solace in the fact that you are doing GOOD HR WORK! We need people like you in all organizations that are focused on this.
  • Don’t get caught up in the labels that exist that current HR Pros have been creating and placing on their own kind. Don’t worry about the title and status of “business partner.” If ever in doubt, refer to the bullet number one.
  • If you want to add value and be seen as a true partner, than the first thing you do is to volunteer for a project in another department. Don’t worry if it isn’t “HR related” on its face. Ultimately, it is all HR related (that is a professional secret you must keep to yourself). Immerse yourself with another department. Help marketing out with an upcoming campaign. Volunteer to assist with their social media strategies. Lead and support Engineering’s technical briefing sessions.  Develop the change management plan for I.T. as they rollout a new operating system. It doesn’t matter, the best thing you can do for your new career is attach yourself to a non-HR project.

Bottom line, by simply stepping outside of the HR Dept. (and your comfort zone) and immersing yourself into the challenges and problems of another department, you will be adding value. You will gain the respect of your operations clients. You will, in fact, be a true business partner…just don’t call yourself that, let your operations clients call you that, if they feel so inclined. Remember, you are an HR Professional. Be proud of that and let’s all agree on one thing as HR Pros – that is, to stop making all of this so hard for our profession. As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

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2 Responses

  1. […] only the status of our profession, but also to try and guide and provide some perspective to our upcoming HR Pros. Part of the mission of The Armchair HR Manager is to dispel some of the myths and fallacy in […]

  2. […] about what we call ourselves. I have written about this title thing in HR before here and here; however, I will state it one more time – let’s stop calling ourselves “Business Partners.” […]

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