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The HR Minion – Learning a whole new world

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The HR Minion – Learning a whole new world

Let’s just say I was dead nervous getting ready for my first day working at the biggest employer in the city I was living in, let alone given it was my first “big persons” role.

Introductions, office allocation, computer set-up and swipe card access confirmed it was time to sit down with my manager and find out the first project that I was running (slight surprise to me that I was to be given a project straight away, in all honesty). My manager’s idea of a HR Helpdesk was explained to me, what he wanted to see it look like, the service it should provide to the business and the timeframes I had. I was a bit shocked really. Firstly, I had never managed a project before. Secondly, I hadn’t set up a helpdesk before. Thirdly, I was day 1 into my new role in a new organisation.

At university, running a project wasn’t a topic that was covered. I didn’t know the process behind project development and implementation and to be honest the organisation didn’t have a clear process around that either. I received the briefing of what my manager wanted from a helpdesk and the required functions that needed to be implemented. So what did I do? I jumped onto Google and tried to find out the inner workings of a helpdesk and the cheapest/easiest one that could be implemented. I had no budget and I had four weeks in which to develop and build this. Based on common sense, I figured the first thing I needed to do was talk to my HR colleagues and find the key people that could help me make this work. I was new in the business and I had no idea who the key people were in IT, or who the business leaders were within the organisation.

The first few days I walked through what the HR helpdesk needed as requirements, what service needed to be provided, the channels that needed to be explored and how the heck I was going to deliver this. I set up some little focus groups with the whole HR team and asked what the current issues were in regards to customer service, response times, general enquires, workloads and consistent information. The common themes that I found were lack of response from HR (including payroll), inconsistent responses and lengthy delays to hear back from the HR Advisory team or the payroll team. I met with the IT team as they had developed their own helpdesk and asked what avenues they looked at, what it cost them, timeframes for development and what options they think would work for HR. After a trip to Auckland to look at a “similar” company I decided to use SharePoint as the central information management tool. It was simple to use, effective, efficient and best of all? Free. I worked closely with IT for 2 weeks building, manipulating and testing the system before I walked the HR Board through the program and explained how it looked. Four weeks later, with no budget and no previous project management experience I launched my HR helpdesk.

That is not where the brain-straining ended, after two months into my first HR Coordinator role, I was given two portfolios with 270FTE of staff, 6 managers to advise and 7 different types of employees within the 2 portfolios with both portfolios having 3 union groups connected to them, adding to the stakeholder list. Once you have a portfolio and you start to actually be the contact point for the managers in the portfolio, they know who you are and they call on you for HR advice, and honestly, all sorts of other things to. Other than customer service skills and the fact that I ran the HR helpdesk with a theoretical knowledge of HR, I actually had no idea what being a HR Advisor meant, what the job actually entailed or how to provide effective advice on the range of things HR covered.

I spent my time reading all the collective agreements, the Employment Relations Act, meeting the new managers that I was advising and getting advice left, right and center from my HR colleagues. In the four years at university and especially the 10 HR related papers in my last two and a half years, they never once covered how to be a HR Advisor. I understand that university is to prepare you for the real world, but at this point I didn’t feel like I was prepared to actually deliver in an HR role. Isn’t that the reason I paid $27,000+ for a degree in HR and Strategic Management? I was so lucky to have a great team around me, but working in the public sector means you have limited resources and only so many people to sit in on your meetings and review your work. I don’t know if other HR students had these feelings and experiences. I didn’t have the benefit of working in an HR environment while I was studying but not everyone gets those opportunities.

I thrive on having to learn and in putting in more effort than I normally would in order to learn. But this may not be the case for everyone. I enjoyed university and it taught me how to meet deadlines, how to work in groups and how to research. But it didn’t teach me what it took to be good at practicing HR. Is this something that I should expect from University? Isn’t this why we are paying a top notch institution to teach us the practicalities of HR? I’m not sure. What are your thoughts?