3 Back to School Lessons for Human Resources
by Heidi Barnett
Every year at this time, moms rejoice and kids bemoan. It is time to go back to school! Time for new shoes, new backpacks, and earlier bedtimes. As I was walking the overcrowded school supply aisle this morning grabbing school supplies for my cute 4th grader, I couldn’t help but think about the relation between human resources and children going back to school. Here are a few lessons HR can learn from the new school year.
Lesson #1 – Share the human resources responsibility
I still remember the smell of the newly sharpened #2 pencils as I walked into my first grade classroom (about a million years ago). I was so excited to see what would be in my desk and all that my teacher had prepared for me. Things have changed drastically since then. Now, parents are given a list of school supplies they need to send with their child on the first day, and on Back to School Night there are sign-up sheets for everything from reading help to party planning. Although some parents resent this additional cost and responsibility, I admire the teachers for allowing parents to share the responsibilities. HR departments can share some of their recruiting burden as well.
Engage your hiring managers and enlist their help, which will ensure better results for you, your hiring managers, and job candidates.
- Start with communicating – Before posting an open position, make sure you ask open-ended questions with the goal of understanding and learning. Questions such as, What are the job requirements? What are the hours needed? What are the hours preferred? Who are your top performers on staff right now? Why do you like them? What skills would you like to see in your new hire? What makes your department unique? Having this discussion early on can help you both get on the same page and make sure the right outcome is achieved.
- Let them login – Even though I believe HR should be involved in screening and finding the best applicants in the pool, I believe the best results come when HR and the hiring manager work closely to choose the best applicants to interview. Providing a department specific login to these managers allows for deeper collaboration. Our applicant tracking system, ApplicantPro, allows for managers and HR alike to view candidates, make notes, rate applicants, request email references, and even request and view background checks. All interactions with the system are tracked with reports available. This process is similar to education where knowledge is power and you can be the teacher.
Lesson #2 – Ask for what you need
As I looked over the list of supplies, I smiled when I saw “4 x 4 lined post-it notes in yellow.” My first thought was, “Wow. Pretty specific, aren’t we! Aren’t all post-it notes created equal?” Then I took a step back and again had a little admiration for the poor 4th grade teacher that is trying to juggle so many things at once and keep it all straight. That reminded me of so many of the human resources professionals I met with recently. Most are trying to juggle recruiting, benefits, payroll, personnel issues, training, onboarding, interviewing, and not to mention strategic planning. Over the past two months I have been the listening ear for HR about their pains, frustrations, and “wish lists.” When I ask them what they are told when they ask for the things they need, most say they simply don’t ask. One woman told me about how their employee size had doubled over a three year period; she was given hours of additional responsibilities and felt overwhelmed every single day. She wished she could have her part time assistant go full time to help shoulder some of the burden that had come with the company growth. But she never asked. Two years she hoped for this and never asked. Eventually her CFO saw a need and made the change.
If we don’t ask for what we need, we will never get what we need
If we don’t ask for what we need, we will never get what we need. It might feel like you are asking for a specific size, color, and shape of sticky notes, but if you can justify the business side and make it relevant to the overall goals of the company, you are more likely to get it. I challenge you to look at your day-to-day responsibilities. What is holding you back? What is making you frustrated? If you weren’t afraid, what would you do differently? What would you ask for? Formulate what it is you need and how that fits into company goal and go ask for it. Quick note: “It will save me so much time” is not a request that will get approved. Dig deep and align your needs with the overall goals of the organization.
Lesson #3 – Don’t be afraid to learn new things
Going back to school offers so much potential for growth and progression for young minds. Every day will be an adventure in learning. The longer we are away from a learning environment, the more we get into a rut. Learning new things can be challenging and might feel like it is “not our job.” But there isn’t a better way to learn, to grow, and progress toward a goal. Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand, and to be understood.” Cross training ourselves and pushing ourselves to learn new things, even if they aren’t part of our job description is how we stay relevant, nurture relationships, and add strategic value to an organization. One of the best ways to do this is to simply talk to your peers. Accounting is a great place to start. There is a wealth of knowledge in the brain of an accountant. Be inquisitive, go in prepared, and be humble like a child so you are able to learn and apply it. Ask yourself, what is it in my job right now that is a weak place for me? How can I strengthen that skill? Who around me is able (and hopefully willing) to teach me? Don’t be afraid. Just ask. Many times the one sitting in the “teacher role” can learn and grow as well. Quick note here: Make sure you go in prepared with questions to ask and the things you are hoping to get out of it. Going in and saying, “Teach me all you know” won’t cut it, and it will frustrate your efforts.
Going back to school is such an exciting time of the year! Applying these three lessons into your day-to-day workings will help you position yourself and your department in a much better place down the road. Now, go get learning!
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