Human Resources Professionals: How to Stay on Your Toes

The HR Department of any company is an integral part of the company’s success. As such, HR professionals have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. And while the “Ability to Think on Your Feet” may not be part of your written job description, it’s among the most important aspects of any HR professional’s position.

So what does staying on your toes mean, and how do you do it? It’s not as hard as you may think. Here are a few tips for keeping up to date on what’s going on in the world of HR and the company you work for:

  1. Get a grasp on general business fundamentals and practices, particularly those in the field of the company you work for. While you may be in the HR department, you should know the ins and outs of the company and industry you work in. You need to know how it works, from the bottom to the top, in order to do your job more effectively.
  2. Become an HR specialist instead of a generalist. Unfortunately, HR generalist candidates far outweigh the number of HR generalist roles. A specialist, on the other hand, has a uniquely different set of skills to help set her apart from the pack.
    1. If you wish to remain an HR generalist, make sure you know how to sell yourself and what you are going to bring to the table.
  3. Be the ultimate role model for your company. As an HR professional, chances are you’ll be training and hiring staff, and implementing company procedures. Be the company culture you wish to see from the staff working in the company.
  4. Keep on top of everything happening in the world of HR. HR is ever-changing; new ideas begin to manifest into everyday practices while old ideas are shoved under the rug. As an HR professional, you need to be up to date on the new standards.
  5. Invest your time in your company and industry. This kind of goes along with #1, but is a little deeper. Stay on top of industry trends while keeping your eye on what’s going on in the company. You’re not going to be able to effectively sell your company if the information you have is a couple years old.

Human Resources is so pivotal in the success of a company because the department has so many tasks and profiles integrated into one group. As an HR professional, you’ll see your position, respect and company grow exponentially when you’re able to stay on your toes.

Human Resources: How to Plan an Exciting, Stimulating and Effective Orientation

New-hire orientation is a big deal. Not only is it the new employee’s first interaction with the other staff, business model and office, it’s her first step in training. A bad orientation doesn’t just leave a sour taste in the new employee’s mouth, it can seriously hurt his ideas of the company. Nothing is worse than starting off on the wrong foot!

Prepare for the orientation

As the human resources manager or member that is handling this new hire’s orientation, it’s up to you to have a game plan before diving in. Before the employee’s first day or orientation, make sure you have all your ducks in a row. Know exactly who is going to give the new hire his tour of the facility, know exactly which team member will serve as his mentor, have the employee handbook ready for him when he arrives, and ensure he knows what he needs to know or bring with him (ID, voided check for direct deposit, references, emergency contacts, tax information, etc).

A stuffy orientation is no good

It’s important to remember that this new hire is important to the health of the company. You hired them to do a job, do it well, and make more money for the company. Make the orientation light-hearted but packed with information; try not to let it get too stuffy. It’s your job to make sure the new hire gets his new job while also selling his new company to him. Orientation should result in a new respect for the company and what it does while also allowing your new hire to soak up all important information regarding working there.

Offer breaks, take time for a Q&A session, introduce him to his coworkers (particularly supervisors and those working on the same team). Give him the skinny on the details of the job, such as how likely overtime is, where breaks are taken, and how the processes of the company work (time clocks, vacation requests, etc).

Let it sink in

Remember that orientation often involves a large amount of information your new hire has to process. It’s always a good idea to let the new hire have a day or two after orientation before starting her new job. Reading and learning policies, ordering uniforms (if needed), filling out insurance paperwork, and the like are all time-consuming tasks. Let her have a day to complete and absorb all this new information.


The goal of the orientation is to introduce your new star employee to her working environment. Let the company make a great first impression and you’re more likely to have an employee who is eager to work there and ready to be loyal.

Finding and Hiring a Staffing Firm

You’ve decided it’s time to hire a staffing firm, but where do you begin? There are dozens of staffing firms available, most specializing in a select few industries. Before hiring a staffing firm, interview your candidates to help you find the perfect fit.

Like hiring an employee for your company, hiring a staffing firm requires asking the right questions and getting enough answers to make an educated decision. Here are a few questions to ask before making the commitment.

Are you an expert in my industry?

This is important for obvious reasons. Many staffing firms are dedicated to a specific industry or a small handful. Examples may include firms who specialize in accounting, administrative, technology or human resources. Hiring a staffing firm that is dedicated to your industry — or the position(s) you have available will help ensure finding the right candidate in a short amount of time.

What is your employee culture like/turnover?

While this may not seem important at first, it is. A staffing firm with a high internal turnover rate means you risk not being able to make a long-term relationship with an account manager. This is also detrimental to potential candidates. One of the greatest things about a staffing firm is that you can work with a dedicated account manager who learns what you’re looking for as far as personality, skills, experience. A long-term relationship allows you (and the candidates) to become familiar with the account manager, allowing account managers to find the perfect fit based on a wide range of criteria.

How satisfied are your employees (the candidates for YOUR company)?

Again, while this may not seem important to your company, it is. A staffing firm with high marks from its talent pool means they are doing something right. Dissatisfied employees means that somewhere along the line, the staffing firm isn’t making the right connections between talent and the hiring companies.


Once you’ve received and reviewed the answers to your questions, you are able to make an educated hire and help ensure that you are making the best choice for your company. Knowing the values the staffing firm holds while also feeling confident about the potential for a rewarding, long-lasting relationship can ease the stress of filling those sometimes difficult positions.


How Personal is Too Personal?

Personal questions have always been apart of the interview process, and for good reason. Personal questions can lead to learning more about the individual and how their personality is going to play in the position. That’s pivotal for many of the opportunities hiring managers are hiring for. Unfortunately, the black and white area that should be interviews can quickly turn into a dreary gray area with undefined lines. When the lines get blurred, it’s hard to tell whether or not you’ve crossed them.

Asking about a candidate’s family, for example, can help you to get answers as to whether or not they have prepared to have their children taken care of on school holidays or breaks. Asking about a candidate’s favorite sports team or hobby can break the ice and make the candidate — and yourself — more comfortable when talking to each other. For example, if you are hiring for a position in which the candidate will be closely working with a group of other employees, certain personal questions can help you discover whether or not the person will fit in with the company’s work environment. But diving into certain areas can lead to discrimination allegations and worse. When you get into small talk, the answers can be just as important as those that are directly related to the job, but it can also open windows to talking about race, gender, religion and sexual preference.

These things are all cases for discrimination which an interviewee may see as the reason they’re not hired. When asking personal questions, it’s pivotal to word them in a way that is not going to lead to an answer that dictates any of these discrimination-potential details about themselves.

Personal questions can also give you an idea of how comfortable the candidate is when speaking. If they can answer the questions truthfully and still make it relevant to the position, you may just have your next employee.

Common questions you’ve probably asked hundreds of time include

  • How do you find the balance between work and home?
  • Where do you see yourself 5/10 years from now?
  • What are some of your pet peeves?
  • What would change from your past and why?
  • What are your greatest weaknesses/strengths?

All of these questions have the potential to give you not only answers about the candidate’s personal life and goals, but also how they’re going to handle some of the daily interactions they will meet in the position.

The goal with getting personal is just that — and more. You want to break the ice, you want the candidate to become comfortable talking with you so you can see their true personalities. You also want to find out how their past experiences and personal life are going to influence their work.

5 Great Challenges Ahead for HR and Leaders

Adapted from a post by Meghan M. Biro, that was originaly seen on Forbes

2013 promises to be one of the most challenging years yet for Leadersand HR pros as they are forced to pick a path around healthcare regulations that haven’t been written, some level of tax reform that hasn’t been defined (er, Simpson-Bowles anyone?) and employee frustration with lack of growth, potential loss of benefits, and dimming hopes of retirement. Whatever your politics, we’re all in the same boat, and it’s listing badly. The leader’s seat is still vacant. Can you believe it?

Take a look at this 2012 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, Challenges Facing HR Over the Next 10 Years, and ‘developing leaders’ takes the number two spot of concerns HR must address as identified by  52 percent of respondents.  This is a big jump from the 2010 survey, in which a mere 29 percent of respondents named leadership development a pressing HR challenge. In business, as in the rest of life, leadership skills are critical now more than ever.

Taking the number one spot in the SHRM survey with 60 percent of respondents is ‘retaining and rewarding the best employees’.  This makes sense as a lead-in, since I’d argue the best employees are leaders – people leaders, management leaders, creative leaders, technical leaders or sales leaders. We need to fill the leadership gap, and fast.

Let’s look at the top five challenges to developing leaders and think a bit about how to address them. Here are five must haves for every leader – let’s start a revolution right now:

1) Invest in leadership development. Whether you believe leaders are born or made, companies still need to invest in their best employees to develop and sustain leadership qualities. We’re not talking advanced training in PowerPoint here; it’s a good tool, but at best it’s a tool. Real leadership training involves exposing your best employees to an immersive leadership environment, e.g. Harvard’s Executive Education Program or similar programs offered by MIT, the Kellogg School of Management, Wharton and other top universities. It’s a big investment, but it’s a form of long-term planning: build the best team you can, then invest to make them better. Your people will recognize the investment in them, and both the business and the individual will reap the rewards.

2) Create a culture of collaboration. Leaders are at their best when the company culture demands collaboration. Rewarding individual success is necessary but not sufficient.  Only in a culture of collaborators will organizations have developing leaders working together to bring other employees up and into the circle of leadership.

3) Develop communications skills. We may expect our leaders to be good communicators but too often it’s not the case. Communication styles vary widely; what may work for one organization may not work for another. This is part of developing a company culture: you need to set the bar high for communications skills, give people training where they come up short, and correct style mis-matches before harm is done. Good communicators build teams and trust; poor communicators create and feed uncertainty.

4) Drive and sustain real accountability. Leaders must be accountable. They can’t be like Homer Simpson (DO’H! It was like that when I got here – it ain’t my problem!); they must own the problems they need to solve and own their failures to be credible when claiming success.

5) Be human and reward emotional intelligence. Yes, I’m a huge fan of emotional intelligence; yes, it belongs on any ‘top five’ leadership traits list. As organizations work with emerging leaders HR must stay focused on helping new leaders hone their emotional intelligence. This is crucial. Leaders be human please.

Finally, Leaders and HR people must act now to advocate for employees of all levels – we too must be leaders.

HR and leaders alike have many responsibilities. Maybe among the most important is developing the next generation of leaders and being more innovative as times change rapidly before our eyes. Where would you start? I’d love to know.