It is not uncommon for professionals in any industry to focus their expertise outward; my hairdresser styles my hair perfectly while her own hair is most often thrown up into a careless ponytail; our landscaper gave us a magical curb appeal but his own is yet to be completed. The list goes on and it makes a strange kind of sense – professionals will often focus on their clients first – it is simply how we are wired.
As the saying goes, ‘the shoemakers children have no shoes’.
HR is not immune to this ‘client first’ mentality, especially when it comes to mentoring. Often we come up with programs to onboard and develop new/junior employees, relentlessly coaching the mentors about the importance and value of reaching down the career ladder with an extended hand.
But who is mentoring HR?
In small and medium sized organizations, where there is often only one HR professional, the short truth is this: nobody.
When only one person is on the ladder, there is simply no hand to take. And to take it a step further and beyond mentoring, most HR professionals in small and medium sized organizations do not have department specific colleagues with whom they could brainstorm with, team up for key projects, or even cathartically vent to. While organizing the ‘HR department’ lunch may be a breeze, being a stand-alone has distinct disadvantages for the individual and the Company.
HR specific collaboration and mentoring can be sought and found through participation in online group discussions (LinkedIn, for example, has many groups for HR professionals to join), participation in mentoring programs organized by the Human Resources Professional Association (the strength of these programs vary by Chapter) or by building an ‘HR team’ from one’s own professional network. These are all potentially helpful (and recommended) but the informality and inherent volunteerism embedded in these approaches leaves a lot to chance.
Another approach worth considering is partnering up with an Outsourced HR person or group in order to tap into expertise that enhances one’s own capabilities.
We are working with more HR professionals than ever before – as collaborators, mentors and partners to in-house HR folks who recognize the value of having an HR team to work with. When the in-house HR person doesn’t reach out directly, it is not uncommon for the President or business owner to secure senior personnel to mentor and assist, because they know they cannot provide this guidance themselves (CEO’s need to spend their time CEOing and not HR Mentoring).
The notion that you can only tap into an outsourced solution when you don’t have any HR is dated and does not ring true for many companies today who are looking to build HR infrastructure quickly and cost effectively.
As one CEO who recently hired us to mentor and assist his valued HR employee, “purchasing a team is akin to buying any other tool to make my HR successful. She needed a network; I purchased her a network.”
The partnership works beautifully. There is a shared goal between the President/CEO, the in-house HR person and the outsourced network: to ensure the in-house HR individual has the tools required to be as successful as possible. We offer her a team approach, guided by her professional goals and ambitions in addition to the numerous resources offered to all of our clients. All of the HR professionals we work with – quite simply – love being the client for a change. As the company has grown, she is now hiring another HR person (her own replacement) as she moves up the ladder, no longer alone.