When I first graduated, I didn’t care much for HR. Never thought about it, never had anything to do with it. It looked complicated. Labour law looked complex. I went into corporate legal as early as my first job and was doing policy-making and employment-law related projects to handle, but operational HR was handled by someone else, and it didn’t look like something I would be good at doing.
I gravitated towards HR in the early 2000’s when I met my then HR Assistant named Rohayu.
I was then the Head of Corporate Services and HR was under my purview. Rohayu or Kak Ayu as we called her, had a natural talent for HR and having her in my team was a pleasure, but it was her trademark style of dealing with people that magnetised the rest of the staff towards the HR Department and made me very interested to analyse the HR function, and her working style, with much interest. At places where I worked before, HR is not viewed with enthusiasm, and I wondered why the case was different in this organisation, particularly, where Kak Ayu was concerned.
I figured out soon enough that she viewed her job as a means of connecting with people. She smiles at everyone. Always ready to listen to anyone who has a problem. Always willing to help. Was efficient in her work and when the answer was a “No” she would make an iced cupcake out of it. I watched her touch the lives of the rest of the employees in that organisation. She used her job to help people. And she seemed to enjoy it.
She was Big Sister to all of us. While I was just The Bossy Boss, the Division Head whom people rarely talked to because, well, I didn’t want to talk to anyone anyway. To me, being in charge of HR was all about compliance to laws and policies, discipline and punishment, and being a perfectionist so that I could have a reason to tick off those who are not. I was a Law and Policy Person, not a People Person. After working with Kak Ayu, I realised I was doing it wrong, but I liked that realisation, and that became my tipping point.
The nobility of HR is obvious to me now after more than 15 years on the job, but I understand if many people still don’t see it and if many HR practitioners are not actually “feeling” it. Not everyone loves you.
Why is HR hated? I will address this in detail in another post but here is a big reason why: the way the company is managed puts HR as second class citizens. HR bears the brunt of mismanagement and bad organisational climate. HR people get frustrated and take it out on their jobs. Employees do not know this. The one who gets the black sheep image is HR.
I however urge everyone to give HR a break. Take time to talk to your HR Manager or Officer. Not just when it comes to your performance appraisals but as a friend. Get insights into their job, why and how they got into the field. I can tell you one thing. HR people love their job. Even if they don’t show it. It takes a lot to be a HR practitioner, and you cannot do it without love.
My favourite HR influencer, Dave Ulrich, professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan Partner, The RBL Group, defines six competencies for the HR professionals. Please read them, so that you can see the mettle that makes up your HR colleagues and the challenges they have to rise to in order to keep their jobs, and to keep yours.
Yes we are all these things, and yep, HR is more than meets your eye. But these are roles that we play which we are not manifestly seen to be playing by other employees.
If Ulrich couldn’t convince you, then let these HR-by-HR articles entice you:
I love my job for a far bigger reason. Because it humbles me. After I started adopting Kak Ayu’s HR style, I opened my door, closed my mouth, and lent my ears to staff grievances together with the HR team. I binned the perfectionist attitude (problem), got into the shoes of the others, and rolled up my sleeves to solve their problems together with them. That was many many years ago. Today I reap the reward: not a tangible reward, but a spiritual one. And that is a true reward indeed.