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HR is as HR Does

October 26, 2011

I love going to talk to students who are in HR programs (shout out to the LSU and Southeastern SHRM student chapters).  I like to hear the stories of how and why these bright young minds chose to study HR Management and have their eyes set on working in corporate (usually) HR Departments.

Last night I had the opportunity to make my annual pilgrimage to the SHRM @ LSU chapter meeting.  After the requisite silent moment of observation for the #1 ranked Tigers, we got down to the business of HR.

Over the last few years when visiting the students I’ve covered topics ranging from “The Value of SHRM Membership” to “Your Future Role in HR,” to “Is HR Still Relevant?”  Last night we talked about “HR Y?” As part of the conversation I gave them a glimpse into my first HR job back in the Reagan era.  The days when HR departments ran on the sweat and backbone of HR assistants (like me) who filed, answered phones, typed letters/memos/correspondence (on electric typewriters no less), planned picnics and tracked everyone’s PTO manually.  The days when processing timesheets and payroll took 3 days of data entry and running adding machine tapes to calculate our batch totals.

Good times.  And fun (sorta).

OK – maybe not so fun.  But they were good because I had the chance to enter the HR field, work my tail off, and start my climb into new positions and jobs with increased responsibilities and opportunities. I venture to guess that many an HR Leader spent some time toiling in the thankless trenches of administrative HR.

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It’s always interesting to reflect on those early days of my HR career.  It was a time when the focus for many HR Departments was on service-delivery – not on strategic leadership.  I can recall the first time an HR friend with another organization got the fancy new title “HR Business Partner;” she had to explain to us what it meant.

And it fascinates me to chat with the next generation of HR’sters who are getting ready to enter the profession.  Last night we talked about the changing world of work.  We discussed jobs and types of jobs that are gone and never coming back.  We chatted about the absolute necessity of being well-versed in the use of technology, the need for them to focus on business first, and the requirement for them to think, learn and stay current – and thus relevant.

I wonder – 20 years down the line what is HR going to look like?

Every time I talk with students I remind them that they have the power to shape the profession.  HR will be what they make it; and it will be based on what they do.  Now that’s fun.

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