HR Brew

Three things I learned while reporting on HR this year

Covering the industry changed a lot of preconceived biases I had about the people profession.
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· 3 min read

Many employees toiling away in cubes—or in today’s home offices—have an unfavorable opinion of the human resources department. At other full-time jobs, I’ve found myself aligned with those who perceive people pros as working hand in glove with company executives and shareholders in an effort to fatten the bottom line. Sometimes, I thought this unholy alliance came at the expense of employees like myself.

But covering the industry full-time for HR Brew during these past several months has broadened my perspective. Talking to so many of you and listening to your war stories has given me an immense amount of sympathy for the people shepherding their workforces through these unpredictable and uncharted times.

Here’s a sliver of what I’ve learned so far on the job.

HR people need support systems, too: Demand for workplace mental health support systems has surged since the beginning of the pandemic, and according to the 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Benefits survey, almost 40% of employers with 50+ employees have updated their mental health offerings to employees in need since the beginning of the pandemic.

But HR people can succumb to burnout just as any sales manager, executive assistant, or chief operating officer can. You are no different than those on the rest of a company’s payroll—you’re weathering the turbulence of these pandemic years just like us. As Billie Hartless, the CHRO of international telecommunications company Mitel, told me earlier this year, “There’s a reason why when you fly, they tell you to put your own [oxygen] mask on before trying to help others.”

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.

That statement, viewed particularly in respect to HR professionals, has an enduring resonance with me.

This is a mission-driven profession: Back in September, I went to SHRM 2021 in Las Vegas, an event I described as “Burning Man for HR professionals.” SHRM brought a multitude of speakers from all over the country to a packed convention center, and every single person I heard speak exuded a certain sense of duty and responsibility to their workers.

Reporting on the industry has somewhat eroded my previous cynicism. You’re responding to the unprecedented moment by devising new work-week formats for workers who want a greater degree of autonomy; you’re grappling with how to keep remote workers engaged and feeling valued, while helping burnt-out and emotionally drained employees feel more hopeful in uncertain times.

HR is at the center of an inflection point: Work is changing, and it’s hard to see how we go back to how things were before the pandemic. HR is essentially leading the charge of how this new world of work—such as it is with flexible schedules, open dialogues about mental health and political expression in the workplace—will take root.

While these issues affect everyone, HR people are shouldering the hefty burden of how companies will respond to this moment.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Contact Sam Blum via the encrypted messaging app Telegram (@SamBlum_Brew) or simply email [email protected].

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.