HR From the Heart

Originally published on the SHRM blog February 28, 2019. 


I read "HR from the Heart" by Libby Sartain many years ago, before I really had any work experience in HR. I love how Libby talked about the different aspects of HR and the impact you could make on business and people as an HR professional. I recently decided to read the book again now that I’ve been working in the field. A lot of things make more sense to me, and some things I really needed to hear again as a reminder. I highlighted so many good nuggets as I went through the book again, but here are a few that particularly stuck out to me as it relates to HR, and a few that I think anyone any one can relate to and use.

HR Nuggets

1) HR is a calling. We are entrusted with other people’s futures, needs and work-life well-being. Libby invites us to look at ourselves and our role – how do you support and nurture the careers of the people who work for your company? In my first role as an HR Manager, and day to day go-to for employees, I realized how truly sacred this responsibility was. My employees depended on these jobs for their livelihood, what was I going to do to make their lives better by also adding value to the business?

2) There are many doors into the HR profession. It’s what you do with your time, energy, and passion for the field in the years you’re in it that really counts. What really matters is how you build relationships, help others become more successful and deliver results. Libby also shares that being a successful HR professional depends on your passion for continuous learning. Do you have that passion?

3) CEOs don’t get that excited about HR, but they do get excited about what HR can do for them. When I first got the opportunity to directly interact with business leaders and build rapport I realized I needed to figure out what kept them up at night, and what I could do to help. I supplied what was needed! I love Libby’s advice here: focus on what the CEO needs, not what you can deliver or solve. Don’t just push out another flavor-of-the-month management fad.

4) Hiring great people has to be something that your company consistently does well. “Great people attract other great people because great people only want to work with great people.” Your number 1 non-negotiable should be cultural fit.

5) If you want your employees to treat your customers like gold, they have to know what it feels like to be treated with the utmost respect. The HR department can help this customer service way of life come alive. Also remember that everyone in the company needs to be customer service focused, not just those who actually speak with customers.

6) Your job is to take care of HR. Your corporate attorney’s job is to keep the company out of court and leaders out of jail. “Doing the right thing for your employees is often more important than protecting the company against some vague potential for trouble.” I once worked for a very risk adverse company, and due to that we had a lot of turnover and I frequently was delivering news to employees that didn’t align with what I thought was right. Taking the safe or “wise” approach didn’t always mean what was best for my employees. There is a difference between the safe approach, and the law.

What you’ll take away from HR from the Heart, even if you aren’t working in HR!

1) Make sure where you work is a culture match. If you find the right environment, where you are appreciated for who you are and what you bring to the table, you will be happy. “It must be a culture you don’t have to adapt to.” If you’re comfortable from the minute you walk in the door, that’s the company for you. You also have to be interested in the product or service your company is providing for its customers.

2) Along the lines of number one, you have to be able to be yourself at work. For Libby, that meant “feeling free to smile and laugh without worrying that each little grin, each moment of fun and whimsy may be somehow shaving away my credibility.” This one really hit home for me. People often say to me, why are you always smiling? If always smiling isn’t welcome where you work, then I don’t want to work there!

3) Serve your boss’s agenda. My first reaction was “What?!” Then I read further. Find out what your boss’s agenda is and trust that they were selected for that role because their talent was obvious to the leaders of the company. Develop a great relationship with your boss, and you’ll be creating new opportunities for yourself to grow in no time. Early on in my career, this was hard to accept! I didn’t always have a boss I liked, and I felt like I had to get my personal agenda across. As you grow in your career, you learn how to better cooperate and navigate these relationships.

4) When you’re new to your role and are looking for a seat at the leadership table. Find a trusted confidante, look for something you can safely achieve right away, know your place, learn how to best communicate to the group. Make sure to stay focused on business objectives, not always programming within your function. Sit and learn from others and then begin to develop your role in the group.

5) The more you’re out there telling good stories about how your company does business, the more the company benefits. The better its reputation will be among its customers, employees, future employees, shareholders, etc. If your company is doing great things, talk about it! If you’re helping to implement great things, talk about it!

It was hard to narrow it down to even these highlights. I recommend checking out the book if you haven’t yet. Libby closes with, as HR people, let’s actively be involved with our companies strategies and help them shape the future. By doing that, you’ll be recognized for the value you bring to the organization. “We can achieve those gains and those goals if we use our heads and remember to use our hearts. That’s what it takes to build a great business.”

I hope this gave you something to think about. Hope to see you at my next book review!

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Originally published on the SHRM blog February 28, 2019. 


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