Six Things You Need to Know to Be Really Great at HR

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The one great thing I love about going to HR and talent conferences is that you always get reminded about what really good HR should look like.

It doesn’t mean that your shop will be there, but it gives you something to shoot for.

I’ll admit, sometimes it can be frustrating listening to some HR Pro from a great brand tell you how they “built” their great employment brand through all their hard work and brilliant ideas. And all the while, not mentioning anything about “oh, yeah, and we already had this great brand that marketing spends $100 million a year to keep great!

Regardless, seeing great HR always reminds me that great HR is obtainable for everyone.

6 steps to a great HR department

Great HR has nothing to do with size or resources. It has a lot of do with an HR team, even a team of one, deciding little by little that we’re going to make this great!

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I think there are six things you need to know to make your HR department great:

  1. Know how to “sell” your HR vision to the organization and your executives. The best HR Pros I know are great storytellers, and in turn, great at selling their visions. If you don’t have a clear vision of what you want your HR shop to look like, how do you expect others to get on board and help you get there? Sit down, away from work, and write out exactly what you want your HR shop to look like. Write it long-hand. Write in bullet points. Just start. It will come.
  2. Buy two pairs of shoes: one of your employees and one of your hiring managers. Try them on constantly. These are your customers, your clients. You need to feel their joys and pains, and truly live them. Knowing their struggles will make you design better HR programs to support them. Yes, support them — not you.
  3. Working hard is No. 1. Working smart is No. 1A. Technology can do every single transaction in HR. Don’t allow tasks and administrative things be why you can’t do great HR. Get technology to do all of this busy work so you can focus on real HR deliverables.
  4. Break something in your organization that everyone hates and replace it with something everyone loves. This is usually a process of something you’ve always done, and people are telling you it still has to be done that way — until it doesn’t and you break it. By the way, this doesn’t have to be something in HR. Our leaders and our employees have so many things that frustrate them in our environments. Just find one and get rid of it.
  5. Sometimes, the path of least resistance is the best solution. HR people love to fight battles for the simple act of fighting the battle. “NO! It has to be done this way! We will NOT allow any workarounds!” Great HR finds the path of least resistance. The path of greatest adoption. The path which makes our people feel the most comfortable, even if it isn’t the path we really, really want to take.
  6. Stop being an asshole. You’re in HR; you’re not a Nazi. Just be nice. We’re supposed to be the one group in our organization that understands, so understand that people are going to have bad days and probably say things they don’t mean. Understand that we all will have pressures, some greater than others, but all pressure nonetheless. Understand that work is about 25 percent of our life, and many times that other 75 percent creates complete havoc in our world!

Great leaders create great HR

Great HR has nothing to do with HR. Great HR has a lot to do with being a great leader, even when that might not be your position in the organization.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


7 Comments on “Six Things You Need to Know to Be Really Great at HR

  1. I love this article and agree 100% with Tim as this is how I have tried to be over my 23 years in HR. At times it is tough and you feel like giving up, but if you don’t believe in your leadership, others won’t either. Keep your passion and belief like I do. To be successful in HR, you need to put the Human back into Human Resources. I am a resource to the employees and to Sr. Management; not the Enforcer. I deal with employees in 3 provinces ranging from urban to rural and my success has come from being the person who listens and talks with them, not at them. And no matter the outcome, the fact that you try will make all the difference. Employees don’t want the corporate speech and Sr. Management wants options, not strict guidelines to bind them.

  2. To be great at HR, get rid of the word “overqualified”. What a stupid reason to get rejected. “Congratulations, you just passed all your classes with an A++ grade average. Sorry, we have to kick you out of the school. ” Stupid! Either someone is qualified or unqualified.

  3. Great post – good reminder for all us HR folks to focus on the business, the clients and being “Human” in the HR field. As I have mentioned many times in my career – you also need a good sense of humor – we cannot take ourselves so seriously at times.

  4. I like the way you think, If I were to add a seventh, I would say that like a great quarterback, your job isn’t just to be great but to make everyone around you better. This is done through hard work (as noted above), strong leadership, tremendous flexibility, belief in others and TALENT.

  5. OMG Tim! I love this. We’re soul mates in our thinking. I tell every HR pro I work with and audience I speak to: “You should be doing for your company a what you’ve hired me to do! You’re supposed to be the experts on OD/Talent/Interpersonal Relations, etc so why aren’t YOU doing this stuff here???” The message is slowly getting through, but it’s these lingering behaviors that cause HR to be the least respected member at every strategic planning session I’ve facilitated over the past 20+ years except for 2 people…and that’s a sad statement on how HR pros have and do continue to position themselves and their true value to their organizations.

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