Those of you who follow me on Twitter have heard me vent my frustration with our newest staffer, Nadia. She was a recent college grad with a HR Management degree but no actual HR experience when we hired her. The closest “new” person to her has been with us for over 3 years and arrived with over 5 years of experience — not to mention the predecessor was with the company for over 15 years before she retired — so Nadia’s inexperience really sticks out. Developing her into the HR Superstar that I know she can be has been an uphill battle the whole way — and the journey has just begun!
Nadia made a big error recently when processing bonuses for some employees. She failed to pay a few people and paid a few people who weren’t eligible. This is at least the fourth time she’s processed quarterly bonuses and I couldn’t understand why she was making the same errors. She didn’t offer much in the way of explanation. And her only suggestion to make sure the error didn’t happen again next quarter was to automate the process.
Um. Yeah. Ok. Because, clearly, the rest of us weren’t smart enough to think of that … Sheesh.
I was looking for some inspiration and ideas on how to help Nadia understand why everyone was so concerned without crushing her spirit when I stumbled upon this 2009 article by Upstart HR’s Ben Eubanks. So it is with joy that I give “honey” to Ben in this post because, not only is his advice spot-on, but he’s also a brilliant blogger and an all-around great guy!
Ben’s article reflects on the lessons he learned when first starting his HR career. They are so simple, yet poignant: 1) use the available technology to your advantage, 2) connect and network with other, more seasoned HR professionals and 3) show initiative with enthusiasm.
In the case of my sweet newbie Nadia, it was her shortcomings in these 3 areas that were holding her back from reaching her full potential.
1) Nadia isn’t technically savvy. She isn’t the worse but she isn’t the best, either. Pointing out all the processes that could be automated is good — but actually being able to do the automation would have been so much better.
- Like Ben said in his article, HR technology is the future and new HR professionals should gain and use knowledge of it to establish and advance themselves. HRIS databases and report writers are pretty similar so comprehensive understanding of one will generally translate to another. Proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite is also great because most information can be extracted from the HRIS into Excel to be used in Access, Word, Power Point and Outlook. Being a whiz at any of these will begin to establish expertise.
2) Nadia wasn’t networking. She didn’t talk to the other staffers, keep in touch with former classmates or teachers, or engage in social media. She wasn’t a member of any HR professional groups and didn’t read anything beyond her text books.
- There is a fantastic community of HR professionals out there just waiting to share all they know to help people who want to know and better understand everything HR is about. Whether you are a newbie or a veteran HR practitioner, if you are not taking advantage of these resources, you’re doing yourself and the people who rely on you a disservice.
3) Nadia wasn’t taking initiative or showing enthusiasm. To her credit, she did ask a lot of questions about the hows and whys behind the reasons for our policies. But she clearly resented the administrative tasks associated with her job and seemed hesitant to go the extra mile.
- Every HR Superstar has done their time filing papers and entering data and sucky stuff like that. It comes with the territory, almost like a rite of HR passage. There is a lot to be learned, gained and gleaned from the tedious parts of HR. Don’t be in such a rush to get to the fun and juicy stuff that you miss the fundamentals. And don’t ever make the mistake of looking down on those tasks or the people that performs them just because you have education.
Now I can approach my newbie Nadia with a new plan in mind that will hopefully get her on track to stay! If she is going to move from HR faux to HR pro, she’s got to improve in these areas — and the good news is it will not take much effort for her to get there.
But if she doesn’t use any of the tips, at least I’ve come away with more ideas on things I can do to engage and improve. I’ve also been inspired with another post series … Stay tuned!