The Ecstasy and Agony of Working as a HR Professional in organisations today
Tell me a word more powerful than Brahmastra? LOVE?? Well, not so cliché. Can you think any other word that is equally powerful? Let me give you a clue. It’s a two lettered word which is a buzz word amongst most working professionals. No prizes for guessing, HR it is! Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit. Now that I have got your attention, let me take you through the world of HR from my lens.
Human Resource a.k.a HR like any other profession has evolved with time and changing organisational landscapes. The way this function has been perceived has also changed over the years. 9 years back, when I was a software engineer and in the other side of the table, I always use to look at this function as a hopeless sounding board! Whenever I used to reach out to my manager with any questions related to Performance Appraisals or hikes, “This was mandated by HR” came the instant reply! Dejected with this cliché response, I one day decided how would things be when I am at the other side of the table. Why not become a HR and be very approachable to the employees? For once, god listened to my silent prayer. I went on to become a HR business partner after pursuing my masters in Human Resource. Circa 2012, my first stint with HR began. With new hopes pinned and wanting to make a big difference to the organisation and change the perception of HR amongst the employees, I joined a reputed IT firm in Chennai as a HR Business Partner. In my very first day, I realised that I was talking in the air and just by being a HR alone, I cannot turn down the process and policies.
However, that did not stop me from the bigger goal I had set out for myself when I took up this profession. I wanted to really emphasise on the ‘H’ in ‘HR’-Humane Resource as I call it!
As days passed, I realised I had found my true passion and where my heart lies- In connecting and communicating with people. My role as a HR Business Partner also gave me an opportunity to bring in simple interventions that would make a huge impact that would help change the perception of a HR. I was part of a great team that focussed on challenging conventions and break the rules if required that would benefit the employees instead of simply going by a rule book. The best part of this role is the direct face time one gets with the employee and get an instant feedback(good or bad) on your face! Few years in the role, my organisation was going through a churn and the role also gave me an opportunity to handle the ‘dirty side of HR’. I was full term pregnant and I was involved in a major cost optimisation project. In simple terms, this meant that I was going to be doing the dirty job of handing over
the ‘pink slips’ to the employees. It gives me goose bumps when I think of it even now! And the crux of the whole thing, one is expected to behave completely normal as though nothing happened and switch on to wearing the empathy hat of addressing the employee concerns. What can be more agonising than this! It was probably the most crucial lesson I learnt with my limited experience. Being a HR professional meant that one is expected to seamlessly switch gears based on the organisational context.
Another few years passed and as the role of a HR business partner evolved, I found the definition of my role also getting broader. True to the name, the role demanded me to work very closely with the business teams in my next organisation. I found it quite intimidating sometimes when the business teams would only involve me for any transactional work and not actually discuss their key issues and how as a HR I can help them address it. There were days when I wanted to tell them that stop treating me like this! I found this issue aggravating day by day and I realised that I would need to fix soon. Otherwise, I would never be looked upon as a trusted business partner. I went back to my engineering days and started to learn more about technology and tried to gain some business acumen. Very soon I realised, I was talking their language and the business teams were quite happy with this. I knew I had made a winning move with this one and wanted to sustain it. What started as being an order taker for the business teams, I soon gained a foothold to consult the teams with respect to their key people issues and how we can solve it together to create meaningful impact for the employees. With time, this role had taught me another important aspect- Winning trust and respect for a HR professional is not an easy task and it really takes a lot of hard work to change people’s perception on this function!
Few more years and more wisdom highlights, I had an opportunity to work with global HR teams with my new organisation. In my new role, I found it quite difficult the first few days to cope up. I soon realised that I was carrying the definition and notion of HR from my previous organisations. The most difficult thing to do was to unlearn whatever I had learnt and look at things from a fresh, new perspective. From the moment I started doing this, even the things I felt that was impossible as a HR when I started my career in HR suddenly seemed possible. That was my ‘Aha’ moment! I realised that this function has so much opportunity to connect with all the key stakeholders in the organisation and represent the pulse of the employees. Of course, Rome was not built in a day!
While every day is not the same for HR professionals, every single day we can choose to touch the lives of employees and make it more impactful for the organisations. That, according to me is definitely the ecstasy of this profession, leaving all the agony it also offers aside!
It was a great sharing. Enjoyed reading your blog Sreya and this does takes me to my good old days. Best of luck and hope you see more!!!