5 Lessons I Learned From 20 years in People Management
Anyone who’s worked in HR knows that it isn’t as easy as it seems.
It’s not just about setting up phone screenings and managing complaints — an HR professional wears at least a dozen different hats. We’re the first person a recruit meets, and the last person an employee formally chats with before leaving the company. We plan events, shape the culture, and make sure that everything runs smoothly.
And when there’s so much to do, it can be overwhelming to do it all right.
Before founding Mensch, I spent 20 years working as an HR professional, where I learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t, and how to be most efficient. Chief among those lessons is that your people are the most important part of your company, and that aligning your corporate values with the people you hire will be key to your company’s success.
So, how exactly does one do that? Here are a few tips I’ve managed to pull out from all the lessons I’ve learned.
1. Be open minded. Look beyond CVs, past LinkedIn pages, and deeper than cover letters. When it comes to job applications, there’s a limit to what you can learn about a job candidate. Of course, there are always skills that a candidate must possess — but also take time to chat with candidates that don’t have all the relevant experience. While many such individuals might not be your best bet on paper, they’ll come in with a natural creativity and are bursting at the seams with fresh ideas. Get to know the person on the other side of the table not only as a candidate, but as an individual. What are their ambitions, their goals, their dreams, and can these drivers be an asset to the company. Though a job application can be a good starting point, there are so many qualities that simply can’t be explained on a 11 x 8.5 sheet of paper.
2. Aim higher than anyone expects you to shoot. As an HR professional, you’re responsible for leading management teams and providing them with the tools they need to lead employees. You help them manage expectations, set goals, and measure outcomes. You impact and contribute to the company come by helping managers set the right expectations from their employees, and to challenge them to achieve more than they knew they could. For you, it’s not all about revenue contribution, but about helping employees define their strengths, then nurture those strengths into expertise.
3. See the people through the numbers. What makes a company successful? How can we spot talent? How can we replicate successful teams? How can we recognize important trends in advance? These are the questions that each and every HR should ask themselves to be proactive. A great HR person can identify the employees who make the company what it is — in turn, making them one of those ultra-valuable employees themselves, in a inception-esque twist.
4. Make data-backed claims. In HR, our input often has the power to make or break and employee career, influence over company-wide expenses, and the pull to define the company’s DNA. Decisions about downsizes, promotions, new offices, new hires, compensation, and beyond are important and should all be supported with real and reliable numbers. For instance: if you’re opening a new branch in a new city, it’s important to have a complete and accurate breakdown of all the costs associated with it.
5. Define your goals and KPIs. Human resources is a wide-ranging field that covers everything from recruiting, to career development, to employee welfare, to organizational restructuring, to interpersonal mitigation, to office culture, and way, way beyond. Even if you’re an amazing HR, no one will know it unless you’re able to document and show your progress. Set KPIs that can easily be measured to reflect your wins or understand your challenges.
HR isn’t easy. There’s no rulebook, no guide, and no right or wrong way to go about it. Hopefully, my own hard-won wisdom helps you broaden your view and incorporate new ideas into the way you work.
Galia brings over 20 years in HR and People Management both from early-stage startups to IPO companies. Today Galis is Co-Founder and CEO at Mensch HR.
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