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It’s fun hearing how people got into HR and then what they did when they got there. It’s so interesting to me how many HR people I meet who say, you know, it just got in their blood.
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice. Joining me is my co-host and dear friend JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink and Powered by Purple Ink, a professional network that I’m a member of.
Today’s episode’s subject matter is the result of our second listener choice survey. We asked our listeners, what were they most interested in hearing about on The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast? And the winning topic was “Career Paths in HR.”
I love that.
Yeah, me too. Statista.com reports that there were 718,120 people in HR roles in the US in 2020 and that there will be over 840,000 by 2025.
Isn’t that amazing, JoDee?
Big numbers. HR is a big time, really, career path for many people. In today’s episode, we’re going to touch on, What are the skills needed to have a career in HR? What are the possible career paths in HR? And we’re going to hear from a variety of HR professionals who have gone down different career paths. Dieter Veldsman posted an article on AIHR – Academy to Innovate HR – that I thought was really helpful to our topic today. Dieter cites four major HR profile areas that can help us understand what is needed to be successful in various HR roles and can enable us to start mapping out what career paths might be the best fit for each of us. The four profiles he sees are – the first one, the service provider. The second is the solution provider. The third is the advisory profile. And the final one is the strategy profile.
Well, I’m certainly glad he did this for us, right?
It’s pretty extensive. But the first one is the service provider profile. This one is often found in shared services units in larger organization and usually attracts and retains individuals who have skills and behaviors pertaining to these competencies. Number one, a focus on the customer – right? – which can be business acumen – right? – how we present ourselves, whether physically or verbally, how we’re treating them in the conversation. Number two, be able to translate data and analytics into value for the business, or he calls that “data literacy.” And number three, possess extensive insight into different HR platforms and technologies, which he calls “digital dexterity.” I like that word. And some of the functional competencies and role related skills include knowledge of compensation and benefits, payroll, HR operations, project management skills, and/or agile methodology.
So let’s talk about maybe some of the roles that that service provider profile might lead someone into. So examples that he gives – one would be a benefit administrator, payroll administrator, an HR ops manager, think all of those really fit that criteria. And then where can you go? So let’s say you become a benefits administrator. Well, you could become from there, you… if you want to stay in that same pipeline, you could become a benefits manager, that might lead to the HR ops manager, that at some point, maybe, could lead to the HR director, the chief HR officer. A payroll administrator, if someone starts there, they could become a team lead, they could become the payroll… the head of payroll, again, that might lead into HR ops manager role, potentially even the CHRO at some point. And then let’s just say you are an HR ops manager. You might end up becoming a shared services manager, a global services exec, and then maybe, at that point, a chief HR officer. So we thought it would be helpful to hear from someone who fits that service provider profile, so our first guest today is Arnold Austria, a global compensation leader in New York City who I think is a good example of someone who fits the service provider profile. We asked Arnold to talk about his career path and asked him for some advice for the rest of us.
The weird thing is, for a lot of people, they either fall into HR or even more, they fall into compensation. And for me, I just had this one fantastic opportunity working for Mercer. And they had a really meaty compensation job, which was being responsible for the data of one of their surveys. And I think from then, having that interaction with the clients and having the… the hands-on experience with the data, I knew then, wow, this is really interesting stuff. And so I was blessed enough, listening to my parents and listening to some of my professors that said, “Hey, you’re in New York. You live in New York. Go find this, you know, job in New York in comp, because that’s really where the hotbed of comp jobs are.” And sure enough, I was able to find a great compensation job and a smaller Japanese trading company.
This role allowed me early in my career to touch base with HR generalists. The HR manager put me on some projects not related to compensation, and also, I was also filling in for an individual who was going on maternity leave, so I was responsible for the HRIS, and so I was part of the technology side, and then the training manager said, “Hey, you got some time? Can you help me with this,” because they needed an extra hand, so I was conducting orientation classes with new Japanese transfers. So I was, you know… I was, you know, involved in a lot of different things, and it was just fantastic.
You know, that part of your career starting out, it really opened my eyes. And so I moved on to another comp job in a much specific, you know, role for comp, so I started to really specialize in compensation. Being an environment where I could talk to HR generalists, where I could interact with other colleagues in the same department was really priceless, because that’s really where I got this love, in general, for HR, knowing personally this fit me. And I think that’s where it was. I knew… I knew a little bit about myself at the time that I know I like this, but I knew I didn’t like being an accountant.
Long story short, I… it worked for me, but I don’t know if it’s for everybody, you know. I think you gotta know yourself really well and what you’re looking for. And at that time, it was just happening correctly. And I was… I was in environments that was growing, and I think that’s where I made the decisions, most of the time, to move on, was when I just felt like I wasn’t growing enough or needed to grow in a different direction.
It’s still compensation. Director of Global Staff Compensation responsible for all the compensation programs for the non-attorney side of a law firm. So it’s the whole infrastructure support side that supports this global law firm that I work for. And in that, it’s part of the annual process, but also setting process, policies, and some analytics behind the decisions that people make when they hire, when they retain individuals, how to motivate current employees. We’re really big in collaboration, so I collaborate a lot with my colleagues in all those different HR workstreams. Because a compensation program doesn’t work when you just come up with it and say, “Here you go, you’re gonna love this program, and have at it.” But if you don’t consider the training involved, you don’t consider the communication aspect in it, you don’t consider the impact to new hires, or the impact to current employees, all of that, you know, has to come into place, and you just can’t work in a silo. And so having this collaborative environment really helps.
And always expose yourself to different opportunities. It doesn’t always have to be HR. Maybe you can talk to individuals within your firm. Salespeople, marketing, accounting, you know, all the different areas. Get in touch with a community of people in your… in your own office and see, how else can you broaden your horizons? Because the more experiences you have, the better you get to know yourself. And of course, not every experience is going to be a plus. If it’s a negative, then at least you know. That’s a good thing. We’re always learning.
So JoDee, let’s go to our second profile, the solution provider. Skills and behaviors that fit for this profile would be, first of all, placing relevant HR trends into the business context. So really figuring out what’s happening on the landscape in HR and figuring out, what does that mean for our business? Second one, optimizing technology design and building a digital culture. I think that’s really important. Today’s world, we’re so reliant on AI, because we don’t have enough HR people to deck against all the people needs. And finally, applying knowledge to HR in a meaningful ways to drive business impact. So some of the functional competencies someone will need to have in this area would be a strong belief and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, learning and development, talent acquisition, data collection and preparation skills, and change management abilities.
Some current role examples for that profile might be an organizational development specialist, a diversity equity inclusion and belonging consultant, or talent acquisition. So an OD specialist might move up to be an OD manager, and then maybe the head of OD, with a potential horizontal move to HR management. Or let’s take the example of a diversity equity inclusion belonging consultant. Might lead to be a specialist in that area, the chief diversity equity inclusion and belonging officer, or a horizontal move could take them into organizational development or an HR Business Partner. The talent acquisition role could lead to a talent manager, the head of talent, and a horizontal move might be as an HR Business Partner.
So our next guest today is Miriam De La Cruz, who lives in New Jersey and is driven by the desire to problem solve. We asked Miriam to share her HR journey and asked her for her advice for other solution provider profile people.
And I started off in HR as a recruiting coordinator. I didn’t know it at the time, but in retrospect, it was a job that really, really gave me some building blocks and some good foundation for… for what was to come. From recruiting coordinator, I became a recruiter, and then we stopped recruiting for a little bit because we were going through some mergers and acquisitions. And so we paused that for a second, and that opened up an opportunity for me to learn benefits and work on the benefits team, because they were sort of repurposing recruiters to do other things within HR. And I raised my hand for benefits, even though I knew nothing about benefits at the time other than my own benefits. And that was a great experience.
I actually started off as a teller. So I worked in Finance most of my career, and I started off as a teller, and about eight or nine months into that, I became a banker. And I knew early on that I wanted to get into this company, but I also knew that I was… didn’t want to stay in a branch. And so I knew that I wanted to be a recruiter. And to be quite honest, I didn’t know much about HR, outside of recruiting and learning and development, you know, sort of the disciplines that are… that are a bit more common.
And from there, I got an opportunity to become an HR Business Partner. And as an HR Business Partner, I then became an HR Business Partner manager, which is just managing HR business partners. And then the company that I was working for did something really groundbreaking at the time and started creating centers of excellence. So we created a center of excellence around employee relations issues, and I had an opportunity to, one, help build that function, and two, at some point, I managed that function as well.
The part of the job that I enjoyed the most was the employee relations part – right? – the problem solving part of the job. And so I started to really think about how do I shift gears into employee relations, and that was my next role. I became an employee relations specialist, then I was an employee relations manager, and I’m still in employee relations today. At a different company, but I’m an executive… Executive Director, Employee Relations for… for a company today, as well.
It’s something that I truly enjoy, just dissecting the problem and trying to figure out how we’re going to handle things and address certain issues. But it’s also quite honestly a bit draining at times, because we handle… for example, I handle all discrimination, harassment, so any Title VII issues, any retaliation issues, etc. I handle all of those. And it’s great to have one once in a while, but I have them all day long every day. Yeah, it is a balance between “I love this,” and “Oh my gosh, I just wish there wasn’t so much of it.”
The number one piece of advice that I have is performance in current role. And I know that we hear that from everyone, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to perform in your current role. Even if you feel like “Oh, I can’t do this one more day.” Even if you’ve been doing the same thing for seven years, you’re still keeping it current, you’re still keeping it front and center and important, and you’re still giving it your all. Second, I would say talk to everybody. Folks love to talk about themselves, so leverage that, right? Folks love to be able to tell you what they do all day long. Ask them out for coffee, let them know that you’re interested. And you also may find that once you’ve hear it… heard about it from a couple of people, maybe I’m not so interested. And you move on to the next thing, right?
I would say third – and of course I took notes, right? – third, I would say, say yes to the yucky assignments, right? So many times we get those assignments where you’re like, “I really don’t want to do this.” But I would say, say yes to the yucky assignments. Highlight the yuck, right? So, “You gave me this really yucky assignment, and I performed really well despite the yuck. Let me tell you about all that yuck.” And it really gives you an opportunity to highlight your successes.
And then the last point I would say, and I wrote it down in my notes as “get the letters needed,” and by that I mean, whatever letters you need to have behind your name for the role that you think you want to, go get it, right? It’s hard. I know it’s hard to get that bachelor’s degree, to get that master’s degree. And it’s not always needed, so I want to be really clear about that. But if there are certifications – so for example, SHRM certification is highly desirable in… in this HR industry. Take away the excuse from a hiring manager or from a recruiter that, you know, X person is more qualified because, you know, they have X, Y, or Z behind their name that you don’t have. And in the interim, quite honestly, we’re learning something as well.
The third profile is what he calls the advisory profile. And some of the skills and behaviors pertaining to these core competencies are, number one, has commercial awareness, understands business and commercial realities. Number two, they use data to drive evidence-based HR. And number three, to be able to align the needs of external and internal stakeholders. Some of those functional competencies and role-related skills include knowledge of HR consulting, HR management, business management, networking, and communication, and/or storytelling and presentation skills.
So some of the roles for this profile – the HR business partner, for sure, fits this advisory profile. And of course, from an HRBP, you can move up to an HR manager or senior HR business partner, depending on the size of organization, to get multiple levels of this as your experience and expertise grows. And you know, potentially getting all the way to becoming a global HR business partner or chief HR officer. Certainly horizontally, you could move to HR ops, you could move to recruiting, just a variety of things. Another current role example would be an HR officer, that might move up to a generalist of some kind, might move up to an HR business partner role, and again, up to maybe the chief HR officer or senior HRBP. And then, you know, horizontally as an HR officer, you’ve got a generalist who really understands the business and understands the people, you could end up in L&D – learning and development – consulting, or organizational design consulting. The world, really, I think, is your oyster.
So our next guest is Jane Richardson, who began her career as an attorney who loved labor law, and then made the move into HR. Once there, she recognized the importance of using data to tell your story and surrounding yourself with HR subject matter experts. Let’s listen to Jane.
I have a little bit of an interesting career path. My career has kind of been two parts. And so the first part, kind of the first 20 years – I was nine when I began my career.
[Laughs] Of course.
But first 20 years were in a corporate law department. So I went to law school right out of college and went to work for a company that has its national headquarters here in Indianapolis. Even though our law department did a little bit of everything, from real estate to corporate to commercial, I really focused on the employment side and really fell in love with that. About 20 years in, a couple of things happened, so I took about… almost a year off, and during that time really, really assessed. What did I want to do for the rest of my career?
I’ve often said I liked solving HR problems more than defending bad decisions, and so used that time kind of in the second half to launch into HR. My early positions were pretty general, but with a focus on… on compliance that you would expect from a lawyer. But really began experiencing all of the… all of the different areas, but from – I don’t want to say an amateur standpoint, but certainly without the… either the educational background in the other areas or in the certification background of that. So began kind of… my first major HR executive position was with the Heart Center of Indiana, but I was serving not only as the HR vice president, but also the corporate compliance officer, so there, again, that combination of legal and employment, and in an organization that was a startup, so I think at that point, they were more likely to take a risk on someone who didn’t have the bona fides of an HR executive.
Law is certainly a very good way to move into HR, but other ways too. And as we’ve talked, I think demonstrating your commitment and your learning to the profession. It’s very important to, you know, whether it’s going back to school, whether it’s being active in… in organizations, you know, I think those are really important steps that demonstrate “Yes, I am serious about this.” I have always thought that recruiting is a great way to move into HR. Number one, right now, there are a lot of recruiting positions. It’s a… it’s a high need. But it also gives you, I think, a good feel for how HR departments or HR consulting companies, if that’s the path you’re going to take, I think it gives you a really good feel for that. And maybe a little bit broader piece of it.
I think the other thing that has changed, even in the 20 years since I moved into HR much more intentionally, is the importance of data in HR. Data in demonstrating an HR… their success, their measures, their worth. But also having that good broad knowledge of data with any sorts of milestones in organizations. I think you can just speak much better, from an HR standpoint, if you have that overall… overall understanding.
Now, we’d love to hear from Christopher Hudson, who works in HR in the public sector, to get his insights on building an HR career path there.
I think like a lot of people in my career path in human resources, I stumbled on it. It wasn’t sort of my natural path. And in fact, I never even saw myself staying in HR long term. I was hired into an admin support position while in graduate school at the Veterans Health Administration. And so I started working a lot with HR, and then one of the specialists in human resources I worked with, she said, “Hi, we’re going to have an assistant position coming open. I think you’d be competitive. I think you should apply.” And so they had two positions open. And I did apply and I went to the interview with… with a… with a portfolio of some of the work so I could show them what I’d done. I was offered the job. And next thing you know, I was an HR assistant and in human resources, and from there, I was like, “Okay, I have two more years of grad school left,” and then at the end of grad school, they opened up an intern program. I just sort of went up from there.
I started as an HR assistant, I became an HR intern slash specialist, snd then I became supervisory HR specialist, and then I became a chief of HR for a large medical center, and now I’m the associate HR officer for the region, and so those are the just many positions that I’ve held. One of the things that is unique, and I’m often asked “What is the difference between federal HR and private sector HR?” I ask that even now to myself. What is the difference? How are they, you know, functioned and managed? So in HR, we have an overarching civilian personnel legal authorities that we… law that we must follow. But under each one of… each agency has different title… title authorities, like, for example, the Veterans Health Administration, we have Title 38, or the Department of Defense uses title 10. So it’s been really interesting to sort of learn about the different applicable titles that apply to different sections or even within the government of HR.
So first and foremost, I always tell people to not limit themselves when it comes to work in human resources, right? There are many in the career path like myself who stumble upon HR, and there are many who target HR as their career path. I always encourage people to continue learning and developing, like taking different classes in human resources and learning different sorts of ideas, even if your organization doesn’t participate or it doesn’t seem like your organization will be a viable fit for those ideas. It doesn’t mean that you can’t learn something that would apply to your organization from a human resources standpoint.
And certifications, I always say, you know, achieve the certifications for your benefit, not necessarily always for the benefit of the career, because the benefits of the career, I think, will naturally come as you progress in human resources. But what you want to do is focus on self-development, if it’s a career path that you really want and a career path that you want to continue.
And then you also want to focus on being a change agent within the field. It’s easy, especially if you’re first level administrative in HR to think “I’m just an HR assistant,” or “There’s not really a lot I could do.” I can tell you that you can pull out manuals and guides and laws and read them. And you can learn them and make yourself valuable to those that you’re working for and with, which will increase your value to your company and help you along your career path.
Our fourth profile is the strategist profile. And what we want to see there for someone to have this profile is somebody who can shape HR strategies with data-driven and impactful insights, somebody who can embody the vision and mission of the business and champion and protect the values, the ethics, and sustainable practices of the organization. Kind of a people advocate. So the functional competencies you’d want to have in the strategist profile – you’d want to really have strong HR management skills, you’d want to be familiar with HR strategy and how to think in the long term, you’d want to have leadership skills, and you’d want to have some knowledge of lean management, how to be more efficient, more effective, and be agile.
Some current role examples for this profile might be the organizational development head, which could lead into the head of HR or an HR director, and up even as the chief human resources officer. Some other potential horizontal moves could be the chief diversity officer or the chief learning officer. Speaking of the chief learning officer, that role might move into also the head of HR or an HR director, potentially up again to the chief human resource officer. And some horizontal moves could be, again, the chief diversity officer or the head of organizational development. We’d now like for you to hear from Natalie White, whose driving focus in her HR career navigation was roles that enabled her to be strategic.
I love the story, my HR story. It all started as I was working in banking and I was working as a branch manager. I thoroughly enjoyed the work that I did serving customers and working with my employees, but it really became clear to me that where I got the greatest amount of joy was watching my employees realize their career dreams. So I enjoyed those coaching sessions I had with them. Also, of course, had to deal with performance issues. But I really did get a lot out of just watching my employees thrive in their careers. And I realized at that point, it’s like, this may be something I would want to consider full time.
I told them that I really had an aspiration to get into HR. So it was interesting, because my leader at the time looked at me and said, you know, “Why would you want to do that?” Back then HR was seen as this is where you go when you’re hired and these are the people you talk to when you’re at the end of your career. And… but there was so much in between, and I was having this conversation with my leader at the time to say, “Do you realize just how important the role of HR is in navigating the success of your business?” So… and I will mention that there had not been an opening in HR at the time for eight years. To have someone come in and say that this was a career aspiration for them was something that was unheard of.
And I applied for the position and I shared with the team who hadn’t had a new person join their organ… their organization in eight years all of the cool and innovative things that I had learned about in the work that I was doing with my employees and how we can bring that into the HR team. I think it was really instrumental in them selecting me for that role. I started in as an HR generalist and… which was a fantastic career start for me, because it gave me the opportunity to see everything. So as a generalist, we were the employee relations person, we focused in on investigations, because it was banking. We… I also worked in the talent acquisition piece of it. I did learning and development, so I did new hire training. So we did everything. And it was an excellent start, because it gave me an idea of areas where I could really make a difference for the business.
Now, once I did that, I took another position at another bank. I did get an opportunity to lead a team. Me and my team used a lot of the work that we did on the associate relations piece, and we would take the associate relations issues that may pop up and use those as foundations to understand where we should focus our energy, whether it was around how do we train our leaders, is there information that we need to get out to our associate population, so we used that… we used some of the… some of the volume to determine some of our strategy.
So later, after… after banking, I moved over to health care and I took a position that was that was still considered HR Business Partner, but it was focused mainly on business strategy. So I was able to take that… that strategic arm that I learned in working in the bank, and take that to the healthcare industry. And today, I have the opportunity to work with our senior… most senior leaders in our organization on the company strategy. So we don’t spend a lot of time on the individual team strategy, but really looking at our larger end to end corporate strategy.
I would say individuals that are interested in moving into HR, the path that I took is I started out in the business, and I think for me, that was an excellent path. And the reason for that is it gave me the opportunity to really understand what a leader goes through, because I went through that as as a leader in the business. But it also gave me an understanding of how the business and the organization worked. And also, you know, you have to be the person that is fair. You listen to… listen to stories end to end, not quick to react to things. It is a very noble profession, but it is one where you do have… you’re privy to a lot of information, and you have to decipher through a lot of information sometimes to get to the root cause of things and to understand the best solutions that you can recommend or work with your business partners on recommendation.
So finally, I think it’s important to… talking about moving across profiles. Yes, we’ve got these four that were listed, but truly, you can move across. I think in HR, it’s one of the benefits of it, the flexibility that you have to move across different roles. An HR generalist, an HR assistant, HR specialist is where most people start, but I think the sky’s the limit for what… depending on your interest and your particular organization’s needs, what you can do. So our final guest today is Rhonda Beard, who has joined our podcast in the past and is a JoyPowered® friend who has loved being an HR generalist and used those skills in a variety of industries, and is now consulting.
Well, when I actually think back about my career path in HR, it’s pretty interesting how it got started. I had absolutely no intention of working in HR ever. My degree was in finance. I was working at a bank in an operations area and had made a lot of changes and upgrades and improvements and went to my manager, who ran all of the operations across the bank at the time, and said, “I’d really like to do something different. I’ve been here for a few years. You have a lot of areas. What would you recommend? Or where could I move to where I could learn something new?” And he said, “Well, you should consider the opening that’s in human resources.” And I said, “Well, why would I want to work in human resources? They’re like the bank auditors. They don’t ever let you do anything you want to do. They’re the ones that fire people and, you know, won’t let you do raises.” And he said, “Well, that’s not entirely true. And you would have the opportunity to change that perception of HR.”
So there was an opening, and he convinced me to apply for it. And so I took a position, and then within a year the director left, and I moved up into the director position, and I did make a lot of changes, and it was kind of fun. I think it was just because I had a passion that I didn’t realize I had to help people, and I had an opportunity to do that, and so I stayed in HR for 28 years now.
I stayed in human resources really in a corporate environment for about 25 years in three different companies, and then I had an opportunity to join a previous colleague of mine at Bench Builders, which is where I am now, doing consulting and training. And I primarily made that change because I love training and I wasn’t getting an opportunity to do much of that in an HR manager or director role. It was more about just coordinating and managing other people and I really wanted to do more training.
What I found is I have had opportunities to do training, which I love, but it’s also kind of evolved into consulting for small businesses. And I love doing that, because my last role was actually an HR director at a small business, and I realized the challenges that you have in a small business when you don’t have a whole staff of HR people to help you. So I really love being able to learn about new companies, help other HR directors and managers and some business owners that don’t have any HR support. So it’s been fun to get some things in place for people, develop new programs, help them with things they don’t know that they don’t know. And so I’ve really got a really nice blend now of helping consult with small companies, as well as doing training. So that’s what my focus is really on today.
So you really just have to want to help people and really be involved with people, be able to, you know, think creatively and help with solutions. And ideally, I think the best entrance into the HR world is in a generalist role, where you deal with everything – recruiting, employee relations, training, benefits, payroll. To really get an overview of everything in HR is a great entrance to maybe decide what you want to specialize in. Or, in my particular case, I was really always in a generalist role, and I loved that variety.
The other, I think, huge benefit if you’re in an HR role is to make sure you’re part of SHRM – Society for Human Resource Management – which has chapters all over the country. And to me, it’s been a big benefit to be part of an organization with other HR professionals that can help you either network or find solutions or share ideas. So SHRM has just been a big boost to my career as well. And I’ve developed a lot of friendships, as well as professional relationships with people that have helped me in my career through SHRM. But I’ve always encouraged people in HR, whatever it is that somebody is coming to you with, even if you don’t think it’s important, it’s important to them. So if you always treat everything that comes to you from an employee as important to them and give it the same importance, you get a lot of gratitude from that. And it’s… it just makes you feel really good when someone is gracious and thankful for something you’ve been able to do to help them.
I do think it’s interesting, Susan, how different people get into HR or then progress in their career in HR. I’ve mentioned several times before, I was an accounting major – right? – and worked as an auditor for many years. And there’s actually very few people on our Purple Ink team that have a degree in HR. Many of them came up through communications or psychology or English – we have a few English majors, right? – that made the transition into different roles. Before I started consulting, I was a generalist really for a long time. I mean, I had different titles along the way, from an HR director up to a VP of HR, but still really had responsibilities for most all areas of HR.
Wow, yes. It’s fun hearing how people got into HR and then what they did when they got there. So interesting to me how many HR people I meet who say, you know, it just got in their blood. And they, after they’ve done it, I see people come in to HR, but I very rarely see people leave HR to go into other… other tracks. I don’t know what your experience is on that.
Yes, actually, I can’t even think of anyone off my head that I knew was in HR and left it, so good point.
So listeners, tell us your story. We would love to hear from you and hear about your career paths, as well.
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Susan, we have a listener question today that we received from a listener back in March of 2022. “Do you have suggestions for union avoidance?”
You know, I recognize the value of unions and know that many of our listeners have had great experiences working with and being part of unions. Union organization activity at places that haven’t historically had collective bargaining units is making big news in here in 2022 with companies like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Wells Fargo, etc. So employers who want to avoid unions may want to focus on creating and sustaining a JoyPowered® workspace that attracts and retains talent. Being a really good staff-focused employer goes a long way helping your employees feel that they can deal directly with you and don’t have to have a union representing them. Now, it isn’t a slam dunk, even if you do everything right, but there are some core things that you might want to consider doing.
Make it a friendly place to work where people feel they can bring their authentic selves to work.
Really see your employees. Recognize their efforts, their results, their… and their challenges, and talk about it with them.
Have transparent and fair processes to hear concerns and work them out.
Have strong people managers who embrace open door policies and are not married to old hierarchical protocols. And I think that’s an investment from a company to say, you know what, we’re going to have the best people managers, and we’re going to hold them accountable for being great people managers. If not, you’re opening the door to employees thinking they need to get protected by a union.
Help your staff see how their work matters and how they matter to the organization.
Make sure your wages and benefits are competitive, and enable your staff to take care of themselves and their loved ones when they need to.
Engage staff in decision making at every opportunity you can. Right? Get their input and encourage their ideas. Sometime… many times, they’re the ones in the front line that know what’s going on in their role and can provide the best suggestions or solutions.
I know that we hear these ideas and they sound, “Oh, yeah, that sounds easy, Susan.” Really hard to do. I get that. There are really good consultants out there that really specialize in union avoidance, and they can advise companies who want to be proactive in educating themselves on what we as a company can do to be ready for organization attempts so you don’t find yourself panicked when the situation arises. And sometimes you will get panicked when the situation does arise. Great time to know who are you going to call?
So it’s time for in the news. There was a Wall Street Journal article dated March 26, 2022 entitled, “Job Hunters Take a Stand: We’re Not Writing Cover Letters.” This was written by Lindsay Ellis. Given the large number of jobs open in the talent shortage that we’re in, job seekers are not as likely to spend the extra time and energy to add a thoughtful cover letter to their resumes and applications. Lindsay cited a ResumeLab survey of 200 hiring managers and recruiters where 83% of them said cover letters were important to deciding whom to hire and 75% of those 200 expected to see a cover letter even when they didn’t explicitly ask for it. JoDee, do your recruiters at Purple Ink want to see cover letters? Does it impact their recommended candidates to your clients or not?
I am so surprised those numbers are so high, because we typically do not ask for a cover letter and/or even expect a cover letter. I do think cover letters can be really important if you’re, you know, making a different career decision that might not seem logical on your resume. So, for example, maybe a very experienced person applying for something that might be lower level, and maybe they’re at that point of slowing down their career or went to eliminate some stress in their workplace. Or maybe someone who’s in Idaho who applies for a job from Indiana, who can make the connection, which is… can be difficult to make on your resume, if you don’t have obviously on there, is I’m moving to Idaho because my spouse was relocated or my family lives there or… because otherwise you can tend to sort of pass over the candidates as well, too.
I think that’s great advice. ResumeLab reports that now in 2022, only 38% of candidates attach cover letters to their applications, even when it’s listed as a requirement in the job opening.
I do think that’s a problem, Susan. I think if… if an organization, or sometimes that’s even us at Purple Ink if we have a client who, for example, wants to know more about them or wants to see their writing skills, even. If somebody asked for it, I would darn be sure I attached it.
[Laughs] Me too. Me too. The advice I give my career coaching clients – once you have a good crisp template for a cover letter that you can quickly tailor to the job you’re applying to, doing that extra work to create a cover letter is not hard and just may pay dividends by differentiating yourself for what may turn out to be the job of your dreams. Like Nike, just do it. I just say do it.
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