Musings of an Engineer-turned-HR: Here’s what the budding HRs should know

It was on a not-so-fine day that Arjun, CEO of Profoundis and my collegemate met me at Lulu Mall in Kochi. I was going back to Bangalore, where I worked at Oracle as a Software Engineer for around 3 years then, and I had no clue what Arjun had to offer. He asked me if I would like to join as the Head of HR of Profoundis, which was about to be acquired by FullContact, Inc.

I personally believed that I had the traits of an HR (though when I look back now, most of those thoughts were out of place ;-)). I had a dilemma during the final year of study of my graduation whether I should pursue MBA or MTech. After a lot of articulation and inner discourse I decided to pursue MTech, which I do NOT regret now. I ended up in IT, as I assumed, but I never felt Software Engineering was my realm. Having these excruciating thoughts to jump out of my engineer role coupled with Arjun’s offer, I didn’t have a second thought. I had my personal reasons to move to Kochi, too.

If I do not say that I was apprehensive, rather confused, about my capacity to be a Head of HR at the very beginning of my HR career itself, I wouldn’t be doing justice to me. I did a lot of reading afterwards, which in fact Arjun asked me not to. He said they wanted an unconventional HR, who doesn’t go by the books, and recommended that I be not distracted and misinformed by the literature. However, I did my fair share of reading before I joined Profoundis.

What followed was a roller-coaster ride. As I write this, I can feel the cold feet I’d when I first entered the Profoundis office. But I’d something in store – an amazing team who believed that people operations is fundamental and pivotal to any business. There started this small journey of my HR career, which is now at the fourth year! The three years have been of immense learning, understanding, mistakes, corrections, unlearning and what not! I would like to scribble down for the budding HR fellows, who might have as bad a cold feet as I’d on my first day, as to what to expect, what to ignore, what to render on an HR job. Here we go:

Prepare to Unlearn and Re-learn

One might have learnt many things about HR and processes in their text book; or they might have been told that this is how the ideal HR function looks like. Be ready to face the fact that HR is different across organisations depending on the nature of business, nature of the workforce, locale and the priorities of the leadership. What you learnt in books could be obsolete by when you join the HR job – so be ready to remember/forget what you learnt and start afresh on many things—let’s preserve and remember what’s still required. Be ready to read and re-read the latest books, trends, researches, blogs, etc. so that you stay up-to-date.

HR is not just about compliance

The general notion that many have is that HR is all about recruitment and compliance – this is a myth. HR has over the last two decades evolved as a business function. While compliance plays an important role in the success of an HR team, treating them as the core function of HR is erroneous. Compliance is an assumed-to-be-required function of HR. It’s very basic. HR’s more to it. But remember—compliance is a culture. Nurture it, but that’s not only what you’re defined by.

Culture is your dad, business is your mom

It’s the business leadership and the HR leadership together that decide the fate of an organisation. If one of this duo fails, either you will end up with a zero or negative business growth or a bunch of unsatisfactory people. The two are complementary to each other—or, rather, co-existent. HRs (should get a chance to) decide the culture of an organisation, while they participate in deciding the business destiny. Gone are those days when HRs come into play when someone needs to be hired, reprimanded or fired. Starting from talent acquisition to talent development to talent retention to talent nurturing to making the workplace a great experience for your members depend on how the HR team is envisaged and functions. Your job exists because the business exists

Find your path to heaven

One may define the success of their career by multi-factors. For some, it could be the happiness of their members, achieving KRIs, promotions and merit increases, and what not! But ultimately, if you ask me, the end result of one’s actions should be such that it makes him/her happy.

Learning is the Key

You need to invest some time to learn. To learn from others, your peers, leaders, fellow HRs, blogs, and what not! Make sure you are part of the communities of your liking. I have learnt a lot from the fellow HRs through NIPM, WhatsApp groups, meetups at Infopark, conferences, etc. Whenever you’re part of such a gathering, make sure you find (rather than it giving you; thanks to Anish for the usage) some takeaway as learning. You may also follow some really good HR blogs like PeopleMatters, RBL, etc.

Learn from marketers

It’s high time HR team learnt from the Marketing teams on various fronts. Starting from employer branding, HR should look at how the marketing team hustles in getting the product into the market and reach the right targets. In my opinion, Marketing teams are the ones who first use all the theories and tools of human interactions, technology, and result-oriented-action-plans in any organisation. They are leaders in many respect – for example, take the case of Conjoint analysis which helps the product organisations decide how their product should be. HRs can very well adopt this (and many organisations have already done so) technique to define the happiness factors of their members—the benefits, the facilities, the factors by which they will leave the organisation, etc. One must look at how the marketing team performs in their organisation and imbibe what can be imbibed into their HR team—be it theories of human interaction or defining success of one’s function.

Not every grey hair deserves your ears

Keep the thought that every grey-haired man is a mentor out of your minds; it’s the grey matter that matters. You might need a mentor who can lead you through your HR career—since you’re just taking your baby steps—but that doesn’t mean that you should lend ears and years to those who pretend to be mentors. Try a few, leave them it doesn’t work. But trust me, having a good mentor is always worth the effort—but the call is yours.

Do not forget to live

When you strive to have a great work-life balance for your members, do not forget to have a life for yourself. Chill, keep calm and just be yourself. Have an introspection of whether you hate Mondays, or super happy on Fridays—if the answer is a yes, you should consider switching the job. At the end of your life, what matters is whether you have been happy throughout and that happiness is defined by you and you alone.

Also published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/musings-engineer-turned-hr-heres-what-budding-hrs-t-a-shrm-cp/?published=t