Like many HR bloggers, I field several questions a month about how to get started in HR. When I hear that their primary reason for considering entry into the field is that they really love working with and helping people, I almost universally tell them to reconsider HR as a profession. Look, I love the passion and optimism of people that truly love helping people that enter HR. Soon enough though, they figure out their talents can be better used in other fields.
Let’s get something straight: you definitely have to have empathy for people in this position and enjoy the challenges of working with different people in difficult situations. When you are laying off people with families, bills and good company loyalty, I don’t think you can react any other way. When you are helping a person figure out their payouts and beneficiaries for their life insurance because they have terminal cancer, you have to have the right personality and mindset going into the situation. When you are dealing with some of the more sensitive employee relations areas (discrimination, harassment, etc…), having the right approach can be the difference between success and failure.
I don’t know if “Fuzzy Wuzzy HR” (you know, all of the team building, cry on my shoulder, let’s hold hands and sing kum-ba-ya HR philosophies) was ever very successful but it certainly is going the way of the dinosaurs now. Businesses want savvy, business smart HR people that can also relate to the human side of our profession while still keeping the business solvent. It is a balancing act but businesses are demanding that more emphasis be placed on the business end of things.
The problem? People that love helping people (but are less skilled in other areas of HR) are being pushed out of the profession. What businesses are deciding is that you get a person who may be more skilled in HR but less skilled on the people side and perhaps you can prevent some of the instances where you actually need that super high emotional IQ person. If you can avoid layoffs due to better planning or you can offer better training to managers because you have higher skilled HR people, you can feel better about dropping the people person.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that having a high emotional IQ precludes you from having great HR analytic and leadership skills. In fact, the best HR people I know are strong in all of those areas. But I know that many of those people wouldn’t necessarily say their people skills are the biggest part as to why they are successful.
For people who are considering HR and love helping people, learn about HR and see if anything else intrigues you about the profession. If you are coming up short on that analysis, there are a lot of other ways you can help people in corporate America or elsewhere.