Posted on 31 August 2023

​The world of Human Resources (HR) is at a crossroads. Recent online research has revealed a surprising statistic: nearly two-thirds of current HR professionals are considering a career change outside of HR. To understand this trend, we need to explore the jaded reality many HR professionals face.

Let's consider a hypothetical example. Meet "Jane," a fresh graduate with a degree in HR, brimming with enthusiasm to make a difference in people's lives and help organizations thrive. She embarks on her HR career with high hopes, but soon, her enthusiasm is met with a stark reality:

  1. Forms Over People: In the corporate world, forms and procedures often take precedence over human connections.

  2. Compliance vs. Culture: The emphasis on compliance and claim prevention can overshadow the importance of nurturing a positive organizational culture.

  3. Angel of Death Perception: HR professionals may be perceived as the bearers of bad news, avoiding them at all costs.

  4. Lack of Respect: Some senior leaders may view HR as an annoying cost rather than a valuable resource.

  5. Ethical Dilemmas: Doing what's ethically right may clash with job security, leading to difficult decisions.

It's no wonder that after several years, Jane starts contemplating whether a different field might offer greener pastures.

​Retired Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) Bruce Cutright understands this sentiment: "I have empathy for those who have become frustrated with HR as a profession. Throughout my career, there were times when I questioned my own value to an organization."

​So, how can HR professionals overcome these challenges and continue their careers with satisfaction and accomplishment? Here are three valuable strategies:

1. Develop a Listening/Learning Paradigm

One of the most effective ways to garner respect and influence within HR is to cultivate a mindset of continuous curiosity about your organization. Understand its mission, vision, industry, challenges, and most importantly, its people—both their professional and personal lives.

​Often, HR professionals fall into a compliance rut, losing touch with the world around them. Becoming curious and learning about every facet of your organization can transform perceptions of the HR department from a mere cost center to a group of esteemed colleagues.

​Senior HR executive Colleen McManus underscores the importance of this strategy: "Learning what others do, their priorities, challenges, and even the business language they use will make HR professionals better-prepared partners and provide them with vital knowledge to bring strategic solutions to the table."

2. Don't Be an Expert; Be an Executive Coach

​Many HR professionals pride themselves on being compliance experts. However, experts often make poor coaches. The key lies in shifting from being an "expert" to embracing the role of an executive coach.

​In executive coaching, the focus shifts from the coach to the person being coached. It's about enabling the individual to take ownership of change, issues, or challenges. Instead of telling people what they can't do, HR professionals should coach them to find solutions.

​Retired CHRO Max Neves learned this valuable lesson early in his career: "HR would be a place of support, not a place to be avoided. It would truly be 'human' and a 'resource.'"

​Investing time in understanding coaching principles can transform HR professionals into partners who build people up for success.

3. Uphold Integrity

​In an era of sexual harassment scandals and #MeToo revelations, HR often faces blame for enabling or covering up leadership misconduct. Upholding integrity in HR is challenging when powerful leaders advocate for the wrong course of action.

​In such situations, HR professionals should be prepared with a "BATNA" (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Have a backup plan to protect yourself or minimize the consequences of doing what's right.

​Investing in listening, learning, coaching, and integrity can empower HR professionals to navigate the complex landscape of their careers with confidence and contribute meaningfully to their organizations. These strategies can transform HR from a department seen as a necessary evil into a vital asset for organizational success.

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