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Providing the human connection – a career in HR

It has been said that an organisation’s greatest asset is the people that work there, some might call that ‘human resources’. And in most organisations there is an HR department. It’s the engine room, of an organisation and so those who are in HR can add value when their work helps others reach their potential which in turn adds value to that organisation.

Simply put, an HR professional delivers support to managers and employees handling day to day queries and providing HR advice on a range of issues. It’s a complex and challenging role full of variety although it can be misunderstood, because it deals with all aspects of an organisation’s human endeavour and behaviour and sometimes has even been maligned as like ‘big brother.’

The importance of HR

For Angus Howieson, an HR advisor in a large local authority, HR’s importance cannot be understated. He says: “HR work impacts on everyone employed within an organisation. In mine, it is split into three areas, HR Operations which handles Employee Relations, like sickness and disciplinary; HR Employment Services, like employee lifecycle, onboarding, payroll and exit; and Organisational Development, so that’s recruitment and job evaluation, reward, employment pathways, learning, and Diversity and Inclusion.

“HR is multifaceted. On the one hand it is about engendering that positive employee experience for all staff but on another, HR enables an organisation to save money from increasing engagement among employees, avoiding potential employment related legal issues and ensuring the right staff are in the right places.

“It can be a rewarding career, especially delivering for an employee, but there are times when it can be hard, for example in sickness meetings with employees with terminally ill partners or when trade unions are disputing processes. It can therefore be challenging, but the variety of a HR career is what makes it good.”

Confidence is key

To be a success, Angus highlights one key attribute, ‘confidence’: “A large part of HR is consultation and negotiation,” he says, “so being able to adopt a position and work collaboratively on that position is important.

“HR is ultimately there to ensure a positive employee experience, so being ‘customer focused’ is vital in HR, and the ability to build effective working relationships. People can come to their HR department with a wide range of problems and not just from their working life, so being compassionate and empathetic helps a lot.”

Asset Training’s apprenticeship covers large swathes of an HR professional’s role and responsibilities.

No qualifications are required, but the assessment plan contains suggested qualifications and units that employers can use to ensure robust technical knowledge. As with most apprenticeships, though, qualifications in English and Maths will need to be achieved to complete the course.

Transferrable skills

There is also massive potential for career progression. As the world of HR is so big, the amount of experience available is huge. Further, all organisations need HR, so there are always new opportunities available and crucially for this day and age, given the nuances of HR, it seems that it is unlikely to be impacted by the growth of AI.

An experienced HR professional is also in a good place should they want to change careers, because the skills needed to succeed are transferable to other professions. Angus says: “Starting out in HR can be quite administrative, so you can learn processes that are used in all industries.

As you progress and enter different areas of HR, there are a lot of transferrable skills used. In terms of employee relations, negotiation and investigation is used heavily, along with the ability to protect a brand. Analytical skills are essential in HR, which in the modern workplace are highly desired.

“Another transferrable skill is communication. HR deals with a wide range of stakeholders, all of which have different wants and needs. HR staff are sometimes referred to as Change Agents, so being able to manage change is another key transferrable skill. Finally problem solving and confidentiality are essential transferrable skills needed within HR.”

Company culture is about being human

The founders of every major business in the world have a view on Human Resources. From Netflix to Starbucks, from Virgin to Google, they all place massive emphasis on ‘people’, because they know that an organisation’s culture is the shadow of the leader.

Laurent Sylvestre, a highly regarded operator in this area has an interesting take on it. He has worked in high profile roles across a range of industries and is a sought after expert via his organisation, The Human Perspectives. He says: “A machine is a resource; a human is not a resource.

A human is a human and, as part of their life, a human being is going to work so it’s about asking how you make that experience enjoyable.”

Remember that and you will thrive in HR.

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