Human Resource Manager

Nora A. Burns

Tell us about your work-what do you do? My current position is with a Third Party Logistics Provider with approximately 1,0000 employees overall and 300 at the facilities for which I'm responsible. I oversee all employment functions (hiring, orientation, training, discipline, terminations, benefits, internal investigations , etc) and develop policies/procedures related to same for both the facility, regional area and corporate levels. What skills are needed? Strong organizational skills as well as thorough knowledge of employment laws (state and federal ). Ability to mediate , remain impartial while conducting internal investigations --- strong interpersonal communication and negotiation skills . What was your major? Business with an emphasis in Human Resource Manager How did you get started in your career? While working a clerical job on campus with the University's Catering Department --- gradually picked up more responsibilities within the department including assisting with recruiting staff, conducting orientations with new hires, etc. Eventually was promoted to Office Manager and was officially responsible for HR functions for the Department (hiring, firing, discipline, safety, etc). Re-directed course-work to include HR classes so I'd know how to do these tasks. Each opportunity I've been presented with in the 12 years since can be traced back to the part time job at the University when I worked my way up. What experience do you need in this job? My current position requires a minimum of five years HR Generalist experience and two to three years of supervisory/management experience . Describe your "typical" workday: Ha ha! It's all over the board. Many times the items on my "calendar" are swept aside at the last moment -- an investigation needs to take place (harassment, drugs, etc) -- an employee has a major issue going on and needs assistance either in mediating a situation with co-workers or in arranging for personal leaves of absence -- a new client just signed a contract and we need 30 new employees hired and trained in 30 days -- or a client just canceled a contract and I need to find jobs for 25 employees who won't have work in 10 days. During my first year at this organization I spent most of my time working on employment relations issues and supervisory training -- working 80-90 hours a week. At that time I spent at least ½ my time out on the floor talking with employees, facilitating focus groups, coordinating culture surveys, conducting job analysis, etc. More recently I work anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week depending on the time of year and the business cycles we are in. There really is no such thing as a "typical" day in my current position. What is the hardest aspect of your job? Terminating employees or recommending their termination. It's been 12 years since the first time I had to fire someone and it's still the most difficult aspect of my job. This past year I was in the incredible uncomfortable position of firing a friend of mine. It's always difficult - but that was incredibly painful. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Seeing people meet their goals and succeed. One of the first people I hired at this company was looking to "start-over". He needed someone to take a chance on him ---- three years later he has been promoted twice and is one of the best and most reliable employees we have. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? If you NEED people to always like you this is not the job for you because there are difficult decisions to make and you're not going to please everyone all the time, especially since you will likely find yourself in a position as decision-maker regarding someone's termination. On the flip side, if you're after power this isn't the job for you either. The first time I terminate someone and it doesn't affect me (in that I realize I'm taking away their livelihood) I will look for another line of work. There is a significant human element and it has to be balanced with business decisions. Also, find an organization with a management philosophy in line with your own. Personally, I believe HR should be a strategic partner in an organization, others (even those in HR) believe it is a support function, etc. There are many varying opinions and philosophies so find a match with yours. Finally, get experience in an HR office while you're still in college. There are a lot of things to learn and many aspects of law and human behavior to juggle. Both book knowledge and experience must be intertwined to be especially effective in this field.