Making a Difference as a Human Resources Professional
By: Ronda Payne
September 2, 2021
Your focus is on people. Not just because you like to work with people, but because you want to see people and organizations work together for the best outcomes for everyone. You may already be working in HR and have already taken a human resources diploma program or continuing education courses on the subject.
As you navigate the next steps in your career, it is important to consider how you can make the differences you want to see. Yes, some people go into a job with all kinds of lofty goals and get sucked into a mundane routine without making the differences they dreamed of, but that does not have to be you. If you have decided your goal is to make positive changes for people and organizations, make note of the things you can do to achieve that and keep them top of mind as you progress through your career.
Keep Your Intentions in Mind
Have that list of the things you want to do to ensure positive change in a place you look at regularly. Keep it as a screensaver, posted beside your bathroom mirror, or pinned to the wall above your computer. Move it around at least once a month as it will quickly become part of the background and you will forget to look at it and think about it. Keep it fresh.
Accept that as you grow in your position you may realize that some of the things you thought were possible are not, but do not despair. Ideally, you will continue to take HR courses online and you will be inspired with new ideas you can add to your list. Rewrite the list as you progress and find ways to look at your ideas differently to make small steps happen sooner or modify larger steps to make them more accessible.
Do not worry if a week goes by without you acting on one of your goals for making a difference. If you are consciously looking at your list and are aware of what you want to achieve, you will continue thinking about it and after a short break, you will be able to incorporate things into your day that lead to improvements.
Consider Ways to Create Quality Engagement
If you know you want to be a difference-maker but are not sure what that might look like within your organization, it might help to start with a few basics that make HR part of the fabric people interact with daily:
- Be approachable. You want all staff, not just your own team members or those in your work social circle, to be comfortable approaching you. Find out what they think will make a difference to them and the workplace. Communication skills training can also give you some added tools and teach you how to be more open and accessible for staff.
- Be willing to do the things that do not feel great. Often, people come to HR because they are experiencing something that is unpleasant. That may be a personal issue, a challenge with a co-worker, disciplinary discussions, or a change to abilities. These conversations can be incredibly challenging, but those who are looking to create positive change will commit to doing what needs to be done within the HR field.
- Be clear about what HR is and what it is not. Some organizations think of HR as the department that hires people or deals with the troubled times noted in the point above. These elements are accurate, but it is also important to note that HR is about people in many different aspects. Know what that means for your organization. It may include looking at more ergonomic desks for the IT team, but it is unlikely to involve having a say on the next app to be developed. Know the boundaries and be able to communicate them.
- It is also worth considering how change management and diversity and inclusion training are shaping human resources. How can your organization be at the forefront of those conversations?
Appreciate the things Others have Accomplished Before You
Another way to kick-start your idea fountain is to look at the successes others had in HR change-making. Granted these are big, sweeping examples, but they definitely work to get HR professionals thinking about the big picture as well as the small steps that can be incorporated into an organization’s improvement with people.
- HP uses diversity and inclusion to drive decision-making. HP is credited as having the most diverse board of directors of any U.S. tech company at the point when Hewlett-Packard Co split into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. With a top-down focus on these important human aspects, employee engagement figures increased by more than 30%.
- 3M rewards experimentation and is well known for allowing employees to work on their own projects outside of traditional job descriptions. The company has “listening channels” to bring the voices of all employees into the overall culture. While both the drive for employees to be innovative and create as well as to speak up and be heard are well supported by senior management, these are employee-driven activities that spur the culture rather than a top-down approach.
- Teamwork drives Walmart, not just “greeters” at the door. Walmart has long said people are the core of its business and with more than 2 million employees around the globe, it is not surprising. With that many individuals as part of the team, it is no surprise that diversity and inclusion feature strongly here. Hiring and developing practices now have a greater focus on inclusion and “shared value” networks have been created for employees to create change both within the organization and outside of it.
- Southwest Airlines puts employees first to support, not take away from customers. Southwest has long been held up as an example of something that sounds odd but is truly effective. When faced with such an incredibly challenging industry, Southwest took the unique approach of putting employees first. It seemed counter-intuitive, but the company soon learned it was exactly what was needed. Supported, culturally-included employees do a better job of caring for customers. It is a philosophy that Southwest carries into the future.
It is time for HR professionals to consider ways to make positive change. It does not need to be massive sweeping change to be effective. Consider the metaphor of the butterfly’s wings creating a storm around the world. Small, positive change can become a movement that improves people’s lives, business culture and an organization’s overall position.