A fulfilling HR career

SOCIAL BENEFITS HR is not just about handling salaries and compliances but plays a key role in managing the most valuable asset - the human resource,

A fulfilling HR career

When making career decisions, students today not only look at their inclination, but wisely so, even the growth prospects therein. At the cusp of the first year in an MBA degree, students have to decide on a specialization, a decision that would finally foretell their lifelong career.

Many students choose Finance when they feel they are poor communicators, whilst some choose HR solely because they are not adept at number crunching. These are definitely poor basis to make a life-altering decision with.

One must always choose a specialization based on an innate liking for that subject, growth prospects in that field and one that would give you reason to wake up happily and go to work every day. The attributes required for that profession can be acquired all along the way. Especially when it comes to HR, a lot of misconceptions bog students down. A common feel is that HR is all about theory, has office work and almost no targets.  In today’s corporate world, HR has acquired a strategically important position. It can be as fulfilling as any other areas in management - challenging and interesting at the same time.

Multiple roles of HR

What was once a domain of hiring people, making salary sheets and compliances, has now blossomed to be one of the key domains of a company’s growth story. HR today plays multiple roles.

Strategic planning: Strategic planning for workforce, especially during hard economic times when downsizing is inevitable, as well as during robust growth phases when companies need to bulk up within short durations to meet market demands.

Payroll management: Keeping in mind the high attrition rates in almost all industries today, it is pertinent to chalk out attractive packages to potential candidates, plan for employee engagement and retention tools, organize fun days and in general make work interesting, all while maintaining balance with the management’s policies.

Mediators: The HR department, which was once considered bureaucratic and too rigid about compliances, has to be seen as approachable. A common perception is that one who controls the strings of money is the most dreaded in an organization. It applies to the HR team as well who makes payments and deductions, implement rules, levy penalties and issue memos. The HR team is perceived to be leaning towards the management, strict and bent upon rules and regulations. This repels people from approaching with problems. The HR professional must be a buffer between management and employees.

Catalysts of growth: The HR professional can guide employees about setting and achieving goals, breaking down tasks into manageable units and reaching company targets. He/she can be the catalyst needed by the employees to grow in highly demanding jobs and also play the role of a counselor if  and when needed.

Social welfare: A career in HR can be truly satisfying if one builds it on moral grounds, keeping societal benefit as the fulcrum. Charting employee benefit plans, helping employees get their dues, availing government schemes, looking after their welfare and making sure that employees put in their best for the growth of the company can be a truly rewarding experience.

Companies grow rapidly when they attract the best talent, retain it and get the best out of them.

Attributes required

An HR professional must have the following attributes;

Non-judgmental and unbiased: He/ she must be absolutely non-judgmental and unbiased.  It is most crucial during times of appraisals and pay hikes or during disciplinary issues. A manager who is feared by all is not efficient as compared to one who is respected by all.

Taking into confidence: He/ she must not try and appease everyone, it is never possible. At times when rules are to be implemented, one must be strict, but at the same that can be done by taking everyone in confidence and making them see the bigger picture.

Innovative: HR is not only about hiring, salaries and compliances but is all that and much more. Innovative HR practices when devised and implemented effectively can actually boost employee morale, increase productivity and keep Industrial Relations harmonious.

Empathetic: An HR professional must be truly empathetic. Employees are humans, they may err. However, proper judgment can make or break critical situations. It is in the hands of the HR to handle such cases with utmost care keeping the company’s benefit in mind.

Good communication: He/ she must be a good communicator. The company’s policies, rules, plans, if not communicated well, can be seen as cumbersome. Many times, employees are averse to any change in policies, locations, systems, etc. It is the task of the HR team to bring in harmony. Communication also becomes crucial when complaints are filed or disciplinary actions are to be taken. A terse tone will invariably put off conversation and make matters worse while a wavering approach can be seen as a weakness.

Sound financial knowledge: An HR professional must be well versed in financial aspects of running a business, including making budgets, interpreting balance sheets, tax structures, etc.,  and clear about the work processes, the risks involved in handling machines and equipment, marketing tasks and have a proper understanding of the market sensitivity of that business. This will enable him/her to align his/her role accordingly.

In bigger companies, the HR head may be required to make presentations, attend board meetings, and participate in crucial decision making processes. HR is a critical department in any business. There are multiple roles in HR today, from recruitment to payroll management, and consulting to strategic.

A candidate can find his or her realm depending on his or her liking. Corporate HR, which involves all the key tasks of HR is also an interesting proposition to start a career. The remunerations in this stream are extremely competent, although starting salaries may seem low.

Experienced candidates are valued and find jobs easily. A career in HR is definitely satisfying in the long run.

(The writer is a training and placement officer in a B school in Belgaum, Karnataka.)

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