If you are considering a career in human resources, now is an exciting time in the industry. As the HR field continues to evolve today’s organizations, there are a lot of opportunities to develop a challenging and fulfilling career. 

To shed some light on perspectives in HR, here are a few hand picked quotes from people in the industry that represent a spectrum of voices, from a recent graduate to a seasoned professional:

  • Stephanie d’Obrenan: Nine years of experience, currently a Human Resources Manager at 30 Forensic Engineering
  • Michael Kim: Three years of experience, currently a Payroll Administrator at Toronto Community Housing
  • Breyanka Thavarajah: Recent HR graduate from Ryerson University

Their insight can give you a better understanding of what drives people towards an HR career as well as the challenges and trends you may one day experience as a professional yourself.

1) What drew you towards pursuing a career in HR?

Stephanie – “I’ve always been fascinated by people and knew while growing up that I wanted to be working with them. During university, I had talked to a career counsellor who told me about HR and how it was an up-and-coming industry. I had never heard of the field before but, as I learned more about it, I thought it was a great opportunity to incorporate my interest in working with people. It also ended up working really well with my psychology degree as a lot of the concepts I learned from my courses were interrelated to the field of HR.”

Michael – “It was definitely the people aspect to HR. I enjoy being in peoples company, interacting with them and hearing their concerns. I think a part of it was a drive to see people succeed, and that’s something I came to know about myself. It’s part of the human nature to want to be the best version of ourselves and so to be in a position where I am able to help others take that next step and reach their potential is what ultimately drew me to the HR profession.”

Breyanka – “I’ve always been curious about the business world and all that it takes to run a company. When starting my business undergrad, I wasn’t too sure which direction I wanted to go in. Then I took my first HR course and saw many opportunities in the field to integrate my passion for human interaction with my interest in a business. From what I was learning, I knew that this field was heading in a revolutionary direction and I was eager to be a part of that.”

2) Why do you think HR is still undervalued by many senior leaders and employees? How can HR professionals get them to see the value of strategic HRM in driving bottom line results?

Stephanie – “I think a lot of people may still have the mindset that HR gets in the way, that it’s about policy, forms, red-tape, making rules and terminating people. For those who still undermine HR, I don’t think they see the big picture. HR is your function to drive employee initiatives, the ones that are going to keep them engaged, motivated, and productive. So I think the more we can implement the right strategies and have people adapt to the mindset that a healthier workforce is what makes a successful company, the less undervalued HR will be.”

Michael – “I think the case with a lot of companies is that there is still a misalignment between their HR and business strategies. HR specialists have a lot of ideas to help drive the bottom line but it needs to be communicated in the same form business leaders will understand, such as metrics on how much money a certain initiative will save. For employees, emotional intelligence and communication are key. One of the misconceptions of HR is that we’re just a wing to management meant to suppress you. To be valued by employees, HR professionals need to remain unbiased and use communication to better explain why certain policies are in place. It all comes down to improving the employee experience, and if you are able to show how that is done through HR, more people will realize its value.”

Breyanka – “HR is still widely seen in many organizations as an expense rather than an investment; the direct impact is either not clear or shown and I think communication is key to fixing that. More HR professionals who find themselves in this situation will need to push through to get the attention of their senior leaders. It may help to have a proposal that shows the impact of HR strategies using research, anonymous employee tips, and even best HR practices used by competitors.”

3) Considering the direction HR is headed in, what are the challenges and trends we can expect to see within the next decade?

Stephanie “HR is going to be data-driven. Everything now is becoming so automated; artificial intelligence is going to be a huge determining factor in shaping the face of HR as we can already see happening. A challenge I see is that people will still want to have a human connection and I do feel that can get lost in this world of automation. But I also think that speaks to the opportunities that’ll be present for HR. We’ll have more time to partner with senior leaders to focus on strategic HRM. I also expect executive coaching to be a big thing with experienced baby boomers retiring and the need for more leaders becomes prevalent.”

Michael “It’s going to follow the job market, so we’ll be seeing the baby boomers retire and a lot of vacancies in employment. It’ll be a challenge for HR professionals because they need to be ready for succession planning, which I don’t think a lot of organizations are. Recruiting the right people will also be more of a challenge. For HR professionals coming in now, I think it’s a prime opportunity to move very quickly through the HR ranks. But it’s really going to depend on what the economy looks like in 10 years. HR professionals will also need to be more tech-savvy, business-oriented, and subject-matter experts.”

Breyanka – “As HR progresses towards a more knowledge-based, technology-driven industry, I expect that we will see more innovative ways to manage employees in terms of engaging, retaining, and rewarding them. An interesting trend that also poses a great challenge is the co-existence of at least five generations, with Millennials being the majority, and how HR specialists will go about managing the needs of each without forming generational rifts in the workplace.”

So now that you have some perspective on the world of HR, does it sound like the right career for you?

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