by Wilfred Yang
I had the chance to do some reflection on my relatively short HR career and the following are my thoughts on how to become a better HR professional.
1. Dare to try
HR has typically been seen as slow to transform. Many attribute this to the typical profile of a HR professional (business/arts/social science background). While this might be true to some extent, I felt that the mind-set mattered more when it came to transformation. The HBR article "How Domino's Pizza Reinvented itself" correctly identified omission bias (tendency to worry about doing something than not doing something, because everyone sees the results of a move gone bad) and loss aversion (tendency to play not to lose rather than play to win) as barriers to innovation. I have seen this played out amongst HR professionals, particularly those who have spent many years to build their career in the organisation, and would prefer to play it safe in order not to damage their future prospects. However, with the pace of technological evolution, status quo is no longer an option. I urge fellow HR professionals to throw some caution to the wind and experiment, fail fast, learn and move on.
2. You own your own career
In my career, I had the privilege to work with several brilliant individuals and for some reason or another, had stagnated in their career, but lacked the confidence or the desire to move on. This might sound strange coming from a HR professional, but don’t let anyone tell you what your potential is. Rather, take stock of where you are today, and if things are not progressing as well as you like, then it might be time to take charge and make a switch. Besides, exposure to different experiences will help you learn how to manage in different cultures, deal with different management and leadership styles, and expand your professional tool-box.
3. Never stop learning
You probably heard this countless times in school and this can’t be truer in a world that is experiencing several disruptions. Never lull yourself into complacency, thinking that you have learnt everything there is to learn, or allow your ego to prevent you from learning from younger colleagues. Similar to the point above, don’t wait for someone to plan your development. Take charge of it today.
4. Training is good, but application matters
On training programmes, don’t go to a course with the expectation to receive solutions to your work problems. Training programmes are good for sharing best practices and frameworks other organisations have implemented successfully, and for expanding your professional network. At the end of the day, it’s how you understand why certain practices are successful and whether they will be successful to in your operational context, and how you leverage on your professional network for advice and support.
5. Operational efficiency is as important as the big picture
Fire-fighting day to day operational issues is part and parcel of every job. However, it would be more meaningful if you knew how your work contributes to the larger strategy. A good understanding of the strategy also allows you to see where else you can continue to value-add.
6. Hard work does not guarantee promotion
You’ve heard it all before. The story of someone who had worked his guts out but was passed over for promotion. The reality is this. Hard work does not guarantee anything. In fact, I would also add work smart does not guarantee much too if you had no value-add, and no visibility to management. So the next time your supervisor asks you to make a presentation to management don’t lament on your lot because it’s one of the way for you to get that visibility.
None of what I shared are ground-shaking discoveries. However, we tend to neglect all these in our busy lives. Take a moment to reflect how your career is panning out and how you can improve professionally. This is something your school will not be able to teach you.