What is it Really Like to Be in HR?

From time to time, I have people ask me what a typical day as an HR professional is like. So, I thought I’d take the time today to answer that question.

Arrive at the office. Walk in and find fresh bagels and cream cheese waiting for you and your team. “Oh,” your admin explains (there is always plenty of administrative support, so you never have to do things like fill out forms, or schedule appointments) “these are from finance. They just wanted to thank all of us for helping them out with the headcount they needed for the annual budget review.”

Check voicemail. One message from an employee thanking you for the coaching you gave. “It really helps me integrate into my group better! I’m more productive now. Thanks!”

Check e-mail. Just some announcements from the company. This is not surprising since you did stay late last night (5:30) and got here early (9:00), so no one has really had time to send you anything.

Prepare for your first meeting of the day. The customer service team has asked you to come meet with them to help brainstorm some ideas to improve the skills of the customer service team. They recognize that by investing in the proper training, they can increase their skills and increase customer satisfaction.

Attend first meeting with Customer Service management team. Productive discussions around employee and customer needs.

Meet one on one with an employee who has a concern about a discrimination issue. After discussing with the employee, she comes to the conculsion that her manager was not acting based on sexist beliefs, but was being rational and even handed when she required everyone to be on time in the morning. Employee vows to be on time from now on.

Meet with the above employee’s manager. He wasn’t aware that his employee was in earlier, but just wanted to make sure his enforcement of arrival times was within company policy. “I just want to do the right thing.”

Lunch with a former colleague. Always networking!

After lunch, take two hours to work on a presentation for next week’s restructuring meetings. Thankfully, you’ve been able to devote at least two hours every day for the past two weeks to this, as it’s a critical change in the company. Had several formal and informal meetings with the Organizational Development team, as well as line managers to help produce the best structure for the company. Thankfully, it’s looking like there will be no job eliminations with this restructuring. This is largely due to the excellent recent hires made by this group. They’ve really taken your advice and the advice of the staffing team seriously, and it shows.

Staff meeting. Everyone presents their projects and gains ideas and insights from each other. You get a great idea from a co-worker on how to meet client needs.

Call from finance personally thanking you for help on headcount. “Did you get the bagels?” they ask. “We really want to thank you for catching those errors. Boy, that would have been embarrassing if we hadn’t had HR on our side!”

Call from manager, “Can we set up time where you can help me write meaningful development plans for my team? I’ve got some really great people and I want to make sure they stay with the company, regardless of whether they stay in my department or not.”

Call from staffing, “I know you are working on a restructuring of your client group. I’d like to be in the loop so we can be prepared for any new hires the group may need. I’m already working with compensation to discuss the new position descriptions and make sure all jobs are graded properly.”

Ooops! It’s already 5:00. Time to go. Even though you have a laptop you rarely take it home because you almost never have to do work from home.

And that’s a typical day!

(Oh, happy April Fool’s day by the way.)

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20 thoughts on “What is it Really Like to Be in HR?

  1. My jaw was dropping when until I remembered that it’s April Fool’s Day! I was thinking my boss would be putting in her two weeks if she saw how easy HR was at your company!

  2. On a serious note, why do you HR types fall in love with acronyms so much? Every time HR is behind a project, I know there will be some name for it contorted to spell out some word meant to be inspiring and easy to remember. The extent to which HR does this gets a little silly.

    It reminds me of the Friends episode where Joey got a part in a TV show called Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E., where cheese spelled out the robotic acronym of his mechanical sidekick. Joey remarked “They really lucked out, the name spelling out cheese like that!”

  3. Brilliant!

    I got all choked up when I realized how good we have it in HR. I’ll try to be more grateful from now on!

  4. I knew you were lying at at the plenty of admin support line. Am I really so cynical about hr already?

    The sad thing is people truly believe that this is what our days are like. I was complaining to my boss today because I have someone bugging me about setting up a volunteer when I have actual paying positions that I’m struggling to fill. Sorry, but unpaid help in a department that doesn’t need help isn’t at the top of my concerns.

  5. rachel–you didn’t stop believing at the fresh bagels part?

    dan–we also like “code words” for projects that involving firing a lot of people. “Company Optimization,” “project right-size,” etc. We love forms too!

  6. bwahahahahaha!!

    if HR was like that, i’d have probably stayed in it!

    happy april fool’s day!
    all the best!

  7. I totally forgot it was April Fools – I just figured tongue was planted firmly in cheek

  8. Great April Fools Post.

    The only Bagels I ever see are the stale ones I get to clean out off the conference room table before an interview.

    HR Newbie

  9. Hey Evil, I love the post!

    It makes me wonder why, for belonging to the least popular department in our organization, am I always being asked, “how do I get into HR”, by my dis-enchanted peers in other departments?

  10. Great post, but also sad that so many other departments view HR this way.

    I wonder if we’ll ever be able to break the stereotypes…

  11. The only thing not true was the “April Fools” line…HR is NOT needed, its all BS! Companies need an employee benefits and staffing department, “HR” just gets in the way of business!

  12. How do I get into HR? I am almost done (next month), with an MHRM and cannot seem to find a place to go. I also have an MBA in tech management. I want to get into HR. How?

  13. ugh this is frustrating, i innocently look online for information about careers in HR and i find this page. I took to heart what i would read because I really would like to know how it is… i’m 16 years old, please take this down. its from 2008 and unnecessary in presenting false information. thank you.

  14. Dear Savannah,

    I’m sorry you found this article frustrating. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to help clarify and share some of my experiences in HR. The article isn’t exactly a falsification of what HR does – on the contrary, these are some of the goals that HR strives to achieve. We wish things worked this way, but more often it’s just not that easy. It can require long hours at inconvenient times sometimes. There are unpredictable and urgent problems daily that disrupt our “normal” routine. We are usually the ones seeking out ways to make the workforce more productive, but are often resisted at every turn or hint of change, and we are not usually thanked for the things we do but are often criticized when we do something wrong. We’re usually the sticklers who tell people we can’t do things – for their own safety or to minimize risk to the company, so it can seem like we’re the bad guys.

    But that’s not to say HR is all bad – it’s just not as easy as this article makes it out to be. Things don’t usually go as planned but I love that I never know what the day will hold- keeps it interesting. I love that I can interact with people all day. And I love that the projects I work on will ultimately benefit the people and/or company. There are good days when you get to make someone’s day by offering them a job, or when you plan a fun employee event, or find a solution to someone’s problem.

    HR requires a great deal of flexibility, patience, finesse, and, of course, a great love for people. It’s not all bad, just not always easy.

    Hope that helps!

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