Navigating Your HR Career Across Multiple Industries [Podcast]

The landscape of HR is rapidly changing, especially due to the pandemic. With WFH culture escalating and employee needs constantly shifting, HR professionals need to be ready to adapt to the times at a moment’s notice.

Now more than ever, organizations are turning to HR to create a culture of flexibility and adaptability. They recognize that company culture needs to not just welcome change, but thrive in it. Thus, employers need HR departments with individuals who seek to fully understand the industries they work in and make them shine.

Because of the recognition of HR’s value, especially over the past year, more roles are popping up for HR professionals. Many are seriously considering seizing an HR career, but aren’t sure where to start. Turns out, a key aspect of breaking into the HR profession is a desire to know the industry you want to work in, and a willingness to adapt to whatever challenges that industry presents.

Our Guest: Alex Smith, Chief HR Officer for the City of Memphis

It was a delight to talk to Alex Smith, CHRO to the City of Memphis, on this week’s episode of #WorkTrends. Reporting directly to Mayor Jim Strickland, Alex is known for architecting and updating the city’s labor relations. Also, she’s known for being adept at talent management, training, employee engagement, compensation, managing diversity and safety initiatives, and more. She was named the 2021 Leadership Memphis Changemaker and was a nominee for HRO Today magazine’s CHRO of the Year 2020 Award.

The unique aspect of Alex’s career is that she’s worked across multiple industries–working for organizations like Microsoft, Brightstar, Target, and more. I was dying to know what advice she has for anyone trying to break into an HR career, and what she recommends people do to be successful in HR roles.

“Whether it’s starting off in recruiting, manufacturing, government, or any industry, I think just getting into a function and seeing how HR works is a very important step. And ultimately all of the experience that you gain over the years, it all builds up,” Alex says.

Once you land the job, to truly stand out over the course of your HR career, you have to have an open mind. Be flexible in the face of difficult decisions and shifting employee needs.

“Most of the time, and truly the pandemic has shown this, the issues you face in HR are not black and white. They’re usually very gray,” says Alex. “So having multiple experiences from different industries helps you to have a comprehensive view and approach to solving certain problems for the organizations that you work for.”

If You Want to Work in HR, You Must Seek to Understand

As you grow in your HR career and attain new roles across industries, Alex says it’s vital to show an interest in the ins-and-outs of each industry you pursue. Recognizing that employee needs vary and that HR decisions will fluctuate based on context is crucial to success.

“‘Seek to understand’ is a phrase that I learned really early in my career. And I’ve found it to be true in a number of different circumstances. When you’re transitioning into a new industry, seek to understand the historical perspective of how the industry has evolved. Also, learn why certain rules, policies, and procedures are in place,” Alex says. “Not rushing to judgment, and not rushing to change things, I think is important.”

Basically, seeking to understand will help any HR professional adapt to what’s coming. The changes incited by the pandemic are just one example of how HR roles and responsibilities change. It’s a never-ending process, and it requires flexibility.

“I think the name of the game for every organization in the future is going to be flexibility. For instance, they can be flexible with their work environments, with their working arrangements. With how they think about who’s going to be doing work. Whether it’s full-time, part-time, flexible around work hours,” Alex explains. “The pandemic showed us that people can be very effective working remotely, working from different places, and using different technology.”

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends. If you’re thinking about an HR career or want to level up the one you have, consider Alex’s perspective. Are you flexible? Do you seek to understand? Also, how can you make changes to do so? Learn more about this topic by connecting with our guest, Alex Smith, on LinkedIn.

Five HR Analytics Terms You Need to Know

I love big data. I love it for many reasons, but, as I’ve said before, one of the main reasons is the way it’s “raised the profile” of HR and its importance. The sheer volume of information HR analytics can bring to the table has moved HR practitioners from an “out of sight out of mind” back room business function, to a major player when it comes to company goal setting and overall planning. Today we use HR analytics for everything from determining passive and active candidates; assisting with onboarding, training, and engagement; and predicting retention, attrition, and performance rates.

That said, the sheer volume of data available today for HR professionals to work with can feel overwhelming, and at times, paralyzing. Not only do we have mountains of data to interpret, but the data is constantly evolving, shifting, forming, and reforming as we learn about the newest technologies, which actively measure even more employment-related functions.

The key to getting your arms around big data and analytics is to do your research and start to understand it. And to do that you must become familiar with its “lingo”.

Five HR Analytics Terms You Need to Know

Before 2011, if you Googled “data scientists jobs” you would be lucky to find more than a handful of listings. That has changed, dramatically. In fact, by 2015 the demand for data scientists had surpassed the demand for statisticians. But if you’re not lucky enough to have a data scientist on your team, fear not. Knowing the following five terms will lead you one step closer toward all the benefits big data and analytics has to offer.

Data mining. Try and wrap your head around this number: Around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. Clearly, it can’t all be analyzed. There’s not enough manpower on earth to get that job done. And that’s where data mining comes in. Akin to “panning for gold,” data mining involves sifting through raw data, and finding where patterns emerge. Analysts convert those patterns into tangible information, which then allows for relatively accurate prediction making about real life behaviors or events.

Machine learning piggybacks nicely off of data mining, as it’s often used to make that mining job just a little easier. Just as it sounds, computers can “learn” from the data ingested, helping to translate the data into recognizable patterns. You will sometimes see the term Artificial Intelligence used instead of “machine learning,” as AI is what provides computers with the tools they need to absorb and sift through new information.

Hiring channel mix modeling. There are myriad channels available today for talent managers looking to recruit, including—but not limited to—advertising, employee references, recruitment consultants, and social media. Hiring channel mix modeling allows HR pros to make use of previous data on all of the hiring channels employed in the past, and clearly map out which ones were most useful, allowing for more efficient, streamlined human resources departments and optimized hiring expenditures.

Cost modeling. Cost modeling helps those in the C-Suite understand many HR-driven costs. These include hiring and onboarding costs, the time estimated for an employee to reach full productivity, salary and productivity ratios, overall productivity, and employee turnover costs.  Cost Modeling can provide a rich “dollar value” picture of hiring and retention plans for a given year, and allow you to quantify costs associated with certain activities and processes (like mistakes made in hiring, voluntary turnover, etc.) 

People analytics. Simply put, people analytics involves combining all of the employee data in your organization—and using that data to understand and help predict potential business problems, issues like sales productivity, retention, fraud, customer satisfaction, and more. It effectively helps measure the success of both human resources practices and learning and development programs, and eventually (as new apps are developed) will begin measuring the value of different roles, leaders, and other business investments.

While “gut instinct” is always a good thing to have, long gone are the days when that and a fancy resume were the only things helping HR practitioners make hiring and other decisions. Now, big data and analytics can help HR teams run in tandem with those from other key departments, as well as play a significant part in helping their organization achieve success when it comes to business goals and strategies.

What do you think? Are there other HR analytics terms that you’ve encountered? Has your company delved into big data and all its potential? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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HR Needs to Transform and Refocus, Now, with a Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP)

Human resources emerged during the last century in response to new government requirements, employment laws, and employer expectations. However, the last century was a long time ago, and business needs have changed. Most HR departments haven’t managed to keep pace. It’s time for HR to transform and refocus and make use of the human resource business partner (HRBP)—a pivotal role in the transformation process.

HRBP: Internal HR Consulting

On one side, you have traditional human resources—a profession focused on recruiting, retention, employee relations, benefits, compensation, and compliance. On the other is the rest of the company, faced with a catalog of challenges such as emerging technologies, data security, skill shortages, and intense competition, as well as policy and political changes.

The pressure is on for HR professionals to drive business performance with solutions that support operational requirements and staffing needs, but too often they aren’t even invited to the table. To make a measurable difference, HR needs to integrate more deeply into the organization, which is where the human resource business partner steps in.

The HRBP is an internal consulting role that embeds HR into the overall business strategy. The business partner works in close collaboration with the senior leadership team to build relationships and support organizational initiatives, becoming a trusted advisor who understands the best moves for long-term business success.

Transforming the HR Department

As HR’s responsibilities and potential for influence grow, the HRBP is becoming a critical role in today’s business landscape. How does an HRBP fit into the HR department’s hierarchy?

HR coordinators hold the most traditional positions and keep various processes in order, such as filing and maintaining performance reviews, managing interviews, and onboarding new staff. They may also be responsible for internal communication, like employee newsletters, or act as social coordinators.

HR specialists are seasoned administrators who are typically more involved with new employee orientation, training, and interview screenings. They may have a rudimentary understanding of employment law.

HR managers are generalists who tend to do a little bit of everything: Payroll, budgeting, compensation, recruitment, compliance, and specific employee relations issues. They have a more direct approach than coordinators or specialists.

HR directors typically oversee several HR teams or a region. They often play a prominent and strategic role in annual budgeting or large-scale software purchases and are focused on driving organization-wide results.

An HR business partner works alongside this hierarchy, but they’re also somewhat more independent. A successful HRBP is a senior HR professional with a thorough understanding of their field and the organization; instead of compliance or admin, their focus is on results.

High-Impact HR

An HRBP links HR to the rest of the company; they consult across silos to learn about goals and objectives in each department. They take ownership of business results and maximize the effects human assets have on them. As highlighted by Deloitte, this “high-impact HR” offers tangible benefits to organizational performance so a company can:

  • Adapt to market changes more rapidly
  • Create new products and services more quickly
  • Maximize the efficiency of processes to increase overall performance
  • Minimize operating costs
  • Defeat competitors in their market
  • Improve response time to customer needs and inquiries

By keeping a closer connection between business needs and HR activity, an HRBP helps align business strategy with strategic human resource management. This helps other HR professionals adapt to shifting marketplace environments with greater efficiency and measurable results.

HRBPs Give HR the Greatest Positive Impact

Companies that embed human resources into their business will see increased overall performance: Stronger HR lets companies adapt to shifting customer demands and marketplace trends more quickly and with greater impact.

By entrenching HR expertise in strategic decisions, human resources can be used more efficiently, which helps keep operating costs to a minimum. It also provides deeper insights that can in turn increase retention and improve both productivity and morale.

Leveraging the expertise of an HR business partner gives businesses incredible opportunities to expand their reach and serve their customers. By playing a critical role in the way companies pursue their mission and get results, HRBPs are changing the way the business world views HR.

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