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Article No.: 2009, September 1, 2020

Article Title: As I Retire. . . My Vision for the Human Resources Profession

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, CEQC   

In 1979, I was the VP of Finance for a small manufacturing company headquartered in Cincinnati.Dr. Linda Gravett photo  It was a great company, with terrific employees, and my job was initially very fulfilling.  After a couple of years, though, I needed more.  More action, more challenge, more people-interaction.  The position of Human Resources Director was being created, and I just knew I was the person for the job.  After all, I hired people.  I managed people.  My department did the payroll.  So I talked the company’s President into moving me into HR.  After one week, I knew I was in over my head.
 
In 1979, the certification process wasn’t encouraged as much as (thankfully) it is today.  Since I had so much to catch up on, I studied for and passed the first-level exam and then enrolled in the Master’s Program of Labor and Employee Relations at the University of Cincinnati.  I found that the education part was the easiest thing about joining the HR field.  The hardest part was gaining acceptance by colleagues in Finance, Marketing, Sales….  After all, they often voiced, isn’t HR simply hiring and firing people?!  Exactly what I had believed right before I talked my way into the field.
 
Forty years ago Human Resources was more focused on the labor environment, screening employees for hiring managers, and recordkeeping.  Today, organizations that are thriving are doing so in large part to strategic HR partners who can project workforce needs, coach leadership on how to lead a diverse group of employees, and navigate the intricate legal arena.  Today, there is the fallout from COVID-19 that requires guidance and knowledge about an entirely new approach to working.  I hadn’t planned on retiring in the year that there would be such a sea change in our profession, but here it is.
 
The traditional view of Human Resources Management is that HR is functional, administrative and not a value-add profession.  Thankfully, because of the developments in the field in terms of education and certification requirements, HR is more often viewed as strategic, a business partner, and value added.  We can’t be smug about the progress, though:  we have more work to do over the coming decade.
 
My vision for Human Resources is that HR professionals get experience and a degree in other fields to shore up their knowledge of how a company operates.  HR professionals should get teller trainer at banks, assist accountants in accounting firms, and sit at various desks alongside front line workers at their companies.  Only then can they appreciate the skills and competencies that make their organization successful.
 
My vision for Human Resources is that we listen more attentively to the college graduates coming into our companies before assuming that they know nothing.  Perhaps they have to adapt “book learning” to the organization, yet they have ideas…..good ideas.  Let’s try some out before we dismiss them.
 
My vision for Human Resources is that we learn more about emotional intelligence and the important role it plays in peoples’ success in life and the workplace. I admit to a bias in this arena because I’m an industrial psychologist and my focus of research over the last 20 years has been emotional intelligence and learning agility.  I believe we can leverage our workforce’s technical skills much more if we pay attention to their EQ development.
 
My vision for Human Resources is that we have a stronger presence on the Hill so we can lead thinking on lawmaking rather than simply weigh in after laws are drafted or even passed.  We’re the ones who are most in touch with the balance needed between employee advocacy and business acumen……or we should be.
 
I’ve enjoyed my many years of serving companies as a Human Resources practitioner, professor, author, and industrial psychologist. My charge to those who are just getting started in these areas is to lead, not follow.  Disrupt the way old habits are getting in the way of productivity, employee engagement, and reaching company objectives.  If you can’t find an ethical organization with values that match your own, start a consulting company.  Share your ideas through podcasts and writing.  Be a relevant force in the field.
 
My best wishes to all of you that I’ve had the honor to serve.  I’ll still be around through the end of this year, and you can reach me at Linda@gravett.com or (513) 532-6225. 

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