HUMAN RESOURCES: Motivated by a chance encounter
A young man with a notebook and pen in hand walked into my office the other day. I mistakenly took him to be an applicant. What he really wanted was to ask me some questions. He is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in business. He is taking a required class in human resources and completing a project that included the task of interviewing someone in the field. How much fun is it that he chose me?
His questions displayed good insight. For instance, he wanted to know to whom I report. In many businesses our function still reports to accounting, so I understand. I’ve always had the ear of our general manager, directly. That’s how it should be, from my perspective. The human resources function is critical to the success of the business and the GM is responsible for that success. The GM must be kept in that loop, be supportive of the department and be aware of issues within the field.
I was asked for which functions I am responsible. Since I am a one-woman band, it is all on my shoulders. I’ve often said that my job is composed of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, motivating, benefiting, disciplining and firing all employees, in addition to safeguarding the assets of my employer by assuring we are in compliance with laws, treating employees fairly and are not subjected to extra expenses in areas such as unemployment and workers compensation and EEOC complaints.
It was more difficult when we had about 100 more employees, but as long as I stay organized and focused it all gets done. When he asked what part of my job I like the most, I didn’t even have to think - it is the hiring.
Hiring is why I do what I do. I wrote about that in a column not too long ago when I needed to fill a management position. The sheer number of applicants for the job amazed me. Narrowing that field down to the one who got hired was tough. But the reaction from the individual who got the job made up for all of the work. To know that I have made such a positive impact on a person’s life is very satisfying.
That is what I told Louis, my interviewer. I learned that early on in my career, almost 25 years ago. He said it must be a good feeling since I seem to still love what I do. He is right.
Conversely, my least favorite part of the human resources job is to fire. As we all know, I don’t truly fire anyone. I’m just the person who delivers the message that the employee has made decisions that have led to the termination. The employee has been provided with the tools to do the job but has chosen to not use them, to not show up for work, to violate rules or policies and so wound up in my office. Quite often I turn the tables on an employee in that position and ask what the person would do if he or she was sitting in my chair. Some get it, others don’t. It helps to hear an employee say they understand before I uninvite them to work for us.
I wasn’t able to articulate what part of the job is most important. It depends on what day of the week it is, I guess. Prioritizing on any given day can be a challenge. Everything is so intertwined: lack of training can lead to a covered workers comp injury, lack of motivation can lead to an unengaged employee who files an EEOC complaint, lack of discipline and documentation can lead to paying an unemployment claim, and so on. It is all part of wearing the proper hat at the right time.
My interviewer was very astute. He repeated the salient points and read back to me some of the information, to which he added his take on things. I truly enjoyed our conversation. When he asked if he could call on me again, if the need arose, I readily agreed.
It occurred to me that I might be able to offer other students some real-world information about this wonderful field of human resources. I taught some classes for the university in the continuing-education area a few years ago. My class was part of the school’s certificate in human resources program, and I covered documentation. I enjoyed that. I do believe that I will contact the school and offer to be interviewed, questioned or otherwise be involved. I can’t commit to taking on a class again, but offering up information that could be of help to someone coming into the field would be great. It would rank right up there with hiring an employee.
I suggest that you might find it worthwhile and rewarding as well. It just feels good.