By Aaron Dodd, Operations Director
The other day I took a call from a young HR practitioner enquiring about a position with Mindset as an HR consultant. She is a graduate with a good couple of years experience at officer level in public service and an SME. She was disillusioned with her current role feeling that it was too administrative, lacked intellectual challenge and wasn’t strategic enough. It was clear she had a real passion for HR and true belief in what good “HR” can do for a business and ultimately its bottom line.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to offer her a role, but her predicament is all too common. Many people study HR at University/TAFEs for either the wrong reason or because the profession has been misrepresented to them. After a couple of years in the “real” commercial world it dawns on them that they could well have made the wrong career choice. They then fall into one of three categories;
- Those that give in to the system and become administrative drones, often becoming increasingly bitter and institutionalised over time.
- Those that fight on valiantly against the forces of evil to try to effect change in their organisations and realise their dream of what HR should be for the business. Some will succeed, most won’t. Those that do succeed will go on to have stellar Director level careers. It’s a tough gig and I tip my hat to those who have beaten the system and made it.
- Those that leave the profession completely.
By “misrepresentation” I mean that they have been sold a pup by academics. Many HR academics that I have met know the theory intimately, have a passion for the subject, but lack real world experience and thus have a totally deluded understanding of how HR is perceived by most decision-making business executives. They are akin to Catholic priests giving marital advice.
So why couldn’t I help out my young HR practitioner? Through no fault of her own, she simply needs more commercial experience. A successful consultant is a salesperson. It is no use having the theory and the ability to deliver if you cannot win the assignments in the first place. To be a successful salesperson selling HR consulting services requires a broad and thorough understanding of business, finance, commercial issues and strategy. Being able to engage with a Managing Director or CFO at this level so as to be able to quickly and succinctly identify their BUSINESS issues and present AND CLOSE an HR solution is paramount. Then, and only then, will your HR delivery skills come into play.
So for HR people who are looking to move into HR consulting or make yourself more relevant to the/any business, I urge you to develop your business skills and your networks (not with other HR people, but with business people). Learn to sell. Leave HR for a while. Work in other disciplines (particularly sales). Gain experience. Don’t waste your time with administration-oriented HR diplomas, study business, do an MBA.
Whatever you do, don’t take the first option. Life’s too short to be a drone.