I may be a bit odd, but the older I get, the more I realize that HR is sexy. At age 20 I decided I wanted to lead HR. Yes–I wanted to get into HR and I wanted to be the Chief HR Officer or whatever title was relevant back then.
"Wellness programs keep employees healthy and connected, tackling big issues like tobacco use, obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise"
The why and how I determined that career goal was simple. While in college I did an assessment of careers that I would enjoy. Personnel management was on that list so I interviewed my dad and his brother who were both in the profession. My dad was Director of Personnel at GM and uncle was VP of Industrial Relations at Macgregor Corp.
What did they share? The usual and more importantly–the unusual. They pointed out that being in HR gives you a bird’s eye view and the ability to make a strategic impact on all things talent in a company. That on average, 80 percent of a company’s OPEX is directly related to the cost of talent. If you’re a service provider, that percentage is in the 90s. In a capital intense company, that percentage is about half that. Any way you slice it–it was a huge expense.
Now what makes an amazing HR leader? Someone who not only has a vision for the organizational design, its culture, employee experience and brand, but someone who can manage the financial impact of that talent on the success of the business. Pay too much - you eat into profit. Pay too little - you risk high turnover. Hire the wrong leader -expect lower productivity and higher turnover. You get the point. There is real impact here.
"HR has the bird’s eye view and strategic impact on all things talent in a company"
In the course of learning about the profession, I didn’t just want to learn a “sliver of the pie.” I wanted to understand and experience the entire ecosystem. Having the ability to manage that 80 percent OPEX cost was exciting. In fact, I’ve jumped out of Human Resources to roles in sales and operations four times in my career to learn and experience other aspects of running a business. That experience broadened my business knowledge, expanded my language, and gave me more tools to bring back to the profession I love.
But let me be open about one lesson I learned in my first decade of HR. HR can be hard to measure. How do you know you’re successful? Can you ‘see’ your impact every day? If you’re in employee relations, it’s hard. So my first jump out of HR was into sales. I learned the rhythm of the business, the value of the business financial quarter, and the concrete nature of achieving sales quota. What I missed was helping the employees be great, solving conflicts, and improving productivity of those around me. I started focusing on a three month cycle when what I loved was 6 months or 2 years away. I wanted to create lasting change.
So lets get back to why HR is sexy. If 80 percent of the OPEX didn’t excite you, then what about changing peoples lives? Finding jobs for individuals with disabilities? Creating training programs that enable leaders to go from good to great thereby changing the trajectory of a company? Changing the tide on diversity and inclusion – finally creating a path free of bias and wrapped with respect and community? Now that is sexy!
That is the stuff of magic. It is for me. It is the combination of art and science. The problems we help solve can be simple, but so many are complex. What we do changes lives, accelerates business growth, and influences policy changes around the world. The data needed to get the right insights can be the most complex algorithm you’ve ever seen! The training models and delivery methods change with every generation and emerging new technology. The talent we court, onboard, and develop are changing with each generation. They demand to be treated beautifully. They deserve to be treated beautifully because when you do, you can unleash amazing results.
So I’m in. I wake up every day excited about the unexpected. Humans are unpredictable, complex and fun. Interested in this crazy journey? Want to join a sexy function? Then the answer is clear–get into HR!