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What are the pros and cons of being a HR manager?

Is it emotionally draining resolving conflict, solving problems, etc. Is it challenging meeting new people and the constant interaction? Finally, can you be fired if you a string of bad apples?

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Malati’s Answer

Hello Genevieve,

Good question. I am sure many others before you have wondered about this and many will in the future. I have been an HR Manager (and Head) in multiple organisations, working in the US, UK and India over 25 years before I became a freelance trainer, coach and consultant for another 10. I believe there are often various misconceptions about the role of HR and these misconceptions guide people the wrong way. Let me explain.

The true role of a Human Resource person is to be the Custodian of Values. This means that with the Highest Management of the company, HR's role is to represent the employees, in line with the value system of the organisation. In line with the vision and mission of the organisation. With the employees, HR's role is to represent the values and support them to do the same.

The role of 'managing employees' is not HR's; it is the role of the managers/supervisors of the employees. This is the biggest confusion in most companies. Supervisors and Managers behave as if administrative work (leave/attendance/medical issues etc etc) are 'Not my job - go to HR.' Very few companies realise what being a Manager means. Managing the employee is not merely managing his/her tasks, it is about managing the entire experience of the employee with the organisation.

HR's role in management is to set policies and guidelines and processes in line with the vision/mission and values. It is NOT to administer those policies - that role is the supervisor/manager's.

Very often when I meet young aspirants who want to join HR and I ask them why, their response is, 'Because I like dealing with people, I am an extrovert, I like helping people, etc.etc.' None of these are things that HR needs to do. Unfortunately though, HR ends up doing these things in most companies. Like organising the company picnic, birthday parties, celebrations etc.etc. and resolving individual issues which arise because of faulty policies or faulty implementation of policies.

To summarise, HR's role is
1. To be completely aware of and live the vision, mission, values and coach the managers (from the CEO downwards) to follow the v/m/v's
2. To create policies and processes in line with those v/m/v's
3. To train all managers (from the CEO downwards) to implement those policies
4. To be the eyes and ears of the employees, to keep an ear to the ground, NOT to resolve individual issues, but to tweak the policies and processes and conduct training to ensure those issues are systemically resolved. Every issue is a pointer to a bad or unimplemented process.

I hope I have not confused you further:) To answer your specific question about pros and cons:

Pros:
1. You work at the highest level of the organisation and have a helicopter view/an eagles' eye view of the organisation
2. You get to coach, counsel, mentor and train the best minds in the organisation

Cons:
You may get into the wrong organisation which believes that HR's role is to solve employee's problems! Don't join them:))

I hope this helps.





Thank you comment icon Awesome! Thank you! Genevieve
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Kim’s Answer

Genevieve,

I was hoping someone else would weigh in on this. I'm going to give you a very one-sided view, from an employee perspective, one who had to go through HR to resolve discrimination and retaliation complaints. Both times it was with government agencies, so, the private sector may be different.

The HR people I dealt with were focused on protecting the organization, rather than making things right. There were other cases besides mine that I also heard about - a custodian supervisor making racially derogatory comments and telling a female custodian to unbutton the top few buttons on her uniform shirt. Repeated incidents, but they never did anything. Instead, they'd get the facts of the situation, and then put a spin on it, trying to minimalize what had really happened.

I imagine there are some companies that truly commit to diversity and inclusion and want a strong HR, but, you have to look hard to find them. As a job counselor, I worked with people looking for HR jobs, and they told me of incidents like the ones I mentioned above.

All of that being said, if you want to be in HR, but not be the HR mgr, there are many opportunities that don't concern compliance enforcement. Recruiting, Classification and compensation, etc. So, those are worth considering.

Hope this helps a little
Kim
Thank you comment icon Thank you for letting me know about the different opportunities for HR! Genevieve
Thank you comment icon You're welcome! Kim Igleheart
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Kruti’s Answer

When working for a smaller company, the role of HR and manager is looped together. This can be a challenge however being a true HR is great when getting a chance to create policies and be able to help organize the company.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for the advice Kruti! Genevieve
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Jaquelyne’s Answer

I started out my career in HR and within Human Resources, there are many different areas of concentration you can focus on. HR Manager can be general and you can be dealing with many areas. It depends on the company you are working for. For example, my focus at the time was recruiting. However, being part of an HR team, you will most likely hear about current issues or situations pertaining to employees. At the end of the day, I loved HR because I always wanted to help people in the good times and bad. I liked being part of a team that can help also change the dynamic and culture to a positive one. I would say the con is that when employees know you are in HR, sometimes it may be difficult to build work relationships outside of your team. For example, at work events I felt employees weren't as open or freely around me because I was in HR. I will say I enjoyed being in HR and is a great experience to have.
Thank you comment icon Thanks for sharing your experience and insight! Genevieve
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Melisa’s Answer

Hi Genevieve,

Thank you for your question. I currently work on a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) team, but before that I worked as an HR Generalist for several years. As Kim shared in her answer, there are many different areas of HR to consider.

From my experience:

PROS

As an HR Generalist (HR manager, employee relations manager, etc) I would say the pros are the opportunity to help represent both the employee and the company and provide helpful resolution. It's an opportunity to use your problem solving and people skills at best.

In addition, HR is a role that I felt help me learn best about how to work with all different types of personalities and all levels of employees. I learned a lot from working in HR and really loved learning from others in HR roles as well.

CONS

In my experience, working in HR, you typically have clear guidelines and policies that are used in addressing situations. I feel HR professionals sometimes get a 'bad wrap' because we are following policies or guidelines, while also trying to help people. But the answers aren't always what people want to hear.

(Ever watch "The Office?" Check out how Toby in HR is treated... a humorous but often true look at how people perceive HR).

I'm not sure I understand your question about a "string of bad apples" but I feel in any situation, if an individual, no matter where they work, is consistently not performing well, or not doing what they were hired to do, it can possibly lead to termination (firing). It of course depends on the individual situation and a look at all the factors.

I'm also happy to refer this question to my colleagues currently in HR and get their thoughts.

Best wishes to you in your career and educational goals!

Melisa recommends the following next steps:

Check out some helpful organizations and sites like https://shrm.org/ for HR Professionals.
Also, check out this helpful article https://managerskills.org/hr/hr-pros-and-cons-of-pursuing-a-career-in-human-resources/
Thank you comment icon Melisa, thank you for reaching out to help me! By a "string of bad apples," I meant making a string of poor hiring decisions. I was wondering if that would affect your own career. Thanks again! Genevieve
Thank you comment icon Genevieve, Thanks for your reply and clarification. And i guess it still depends on the situation. However, from an HR hiring or talent manager standpoint, I am sure there are reviews that take place regarding the people someone hires to ensure the manager is hiring people who are a good fit. Thanks again for your thoughtful questions and have a great weekend. Melisa Cameron
Thank you comment icon Cool! Thanks again!! Genevieve
Thank you comment icon Also, I just updated my answer with another "next step." Check out this article! https://managerskills.org/hr/hr-pros-and-cons-of-pursuing-a-career-in-human-resources/ Melisa Cameron
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Dawnyale’s Answer

Hello Genevieve,

That's a great question. I think it really does depend on the area of HR you'd like to focus on. I can weigh in on the Organization Effectiveness and Change Management side.

Change Management and isn't a part of every organization, but those who have it spend a lot of time connecting with their client groups and uncovering needs. This sort of manager reviews the employee needs and looks for areas of improvement that can be addressed. Let's say employee engagement is declining. The HR manager would review other data (surveys, focus groups, performance, etc.) and begin thinking about the proper tools it would take to assist the the client with this area.

Tools I've used in the past are team interventions in which we meet with the team and manager to determine what the core issues are and help them generate ideas that would help with collaboration, unity and overall excitement in the work. I've also used RACI's, those are processes that help identify who should be doing what - eliminating redundancy and clarifying responsibilities. I've also used New Leader Integrations to help acclimate a leader who's fairly new to the team, help them to understand what the team needs and help the team to understand what the leader expects. CliftonStrengths is another great tool to help the team understand what each individual brings to their role as a part of their personality and natural abilities.

These types of interactions take days to plan and hours if not days/weeks to complete. The HR Manager would plan them with the client leaders, facilitate the interactions and monitor progress after the fact. It's a wonderful role that produces a great impact that usually felt years down the line as the team tends to feel more valued, needed and happy in their roles.

I hope this information helps!

Dawnyale Oliver

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Marissa’s Answer

Hi Genevieve,
I am a former HR Manager, now focused on Talent Acquisition (Recruiting). I was an HR Manager/Generalist at several companies. Being an HR Manager truly teaches you about all of the areas of HR, which include employee relations, compensation, training, recruitment, benefits, HRMS-HR Management Systems, and organizational development. You are truly a "generalist" and get the chance to learn a broad skill set and develop a strong foundation in each of these areas of HR. Everyday is different and personally I enjoyed working with many different managers and employees to help solve problems, answer questions, and meet deliverables for the organization. It is easy to see the impact you are making on an employee or manager knowing that you have helped them resolve their problem. You will learn about multitasking, identifying priorities, collaboration, and building strong communication skills. In regards to employee relations, it is very important to follow company policies and employment laws in your region. It is important to have strong listening skills when dealing with employee relations issues and to speak to all parties before making decisions on behalf of the company. You would not start in an HR Manager role from the start. Personally, I started as an HR Assistant used this learning experience to build my HR Generalist skill set over the years before receiving a promotion to an HR Manager role. The entire role is not all about solving major issues. There are plenty of times when you answer a simple new hire or manager question and then move on to the next inquiry. I was never bored as an HR Manager. You also may help lead initiatives like annual compensation reviews/merit increase process, a hiring effort, or annual performance review process, just to name a few. You will learn about all of the areas of HR and this will help you decide if you want to stay in this type of role or specialize in one of the other HR disciplines. A negative of this role is you don't know when you will have to help solve a major issue with an employee and need to be available when needed even if it is beyond work hours. Overall, being an HR Manager/Generalist helped me gain solid understanding of all of the functions in HR . I developed my strong communication skills and people skills from my time spent as an HR Manager.
Good luck to you!
MarissA
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