“Human Resources will never be boring because humans are never boring.”
Even on the hard days, Natalie Morgan, HR Director at CareerPlug, considers herself lucky to work in HR. Given the number of her peers who accidentally end up in the field, that might sound surprising, especially with all the stereotypes and outdated notions associated with HR. But as Morgan knows, it’s about so much more than risk management or compliance.
“HR is often painted as a black-and-white role...But it’s actually a rainbow. It requires not a reading of the rules, but interpretation and judgment and connection. You’re going to have a lot of fun,” Morgan said.
Once you give HR a try, it’s often hard to see yourself in another career. We asked leaders to share why that is.
Whether it’s finance, customer service, or sales, every department contributes to business results. But while KPIs like revenue and customer satisfaction matter, they can’t hold a candle to the individuals who log into work every day. No function wields as much influence on your team’s overall experience and performance as HR.
“Making an impact is what I value the most about my career choice,” said Susan Norton, Senior Director of HR at LiveCareer. She scoffs when she hears the tripe about People teams needing to “earn” a seat at the table. While others have to stretch to see how their work contributes to the bigger picture, she just has to look up at the people sitting around her.
“As an HR pro, I see that even small actions can make a huge difference to the business,” Norton said. People drive businesses — and by serving as a gatekeeper and cultural champion, her role gives her an outsized impact. “It’s true that I support my colleagues in a wide array of topics like onboarding, training, career changes, team conflicts, or even personal problems. But that’s a blessing, not a burden,” she said.
Many professionals opt to work at startups and fast-growing companies because they want to build. But while other functions might think of “building” in the context of new business or headcount, HR professionals are uniquely positioned to facilitate a different, more fulfilling kind of growth — no matter their company’s size.
“The people development aspect of HR is something I truly love,” said Thomas Hawkins, Head of HR at Electrician Apprentice HQ. People leaders get a front-row seat to the employee journey — often being the first and last faces individuals see, from onboarding to the exit interview. All the steps and lessons learned along the way give Hawkins a profound sense of satisfaction, akin to a teacher or mentor on graduation day.
“The main reason I love working in HR is the ability to improve people's professional lives,” Hawkins said. “It’s awesome.”
It was a recurring theme among the professionals we interviewed. While managers might facilitate development and coaching conversations, HR leaders feel like they have a stake in every individual’s growth. “My job satisfaction comes from watching people grow and develop in their roles, especially employees that I sourced, onboarded, and trained myself. It's a real sense of achievement,” said Jessica Salter, People Operations Specialist at Best Response Media.
While HR professionals might not consider themselves marketers, they play a crucial part in how the broader public perceives their companies. When organizations invest in their people and prioritize engagement, they win Best Places to Work awards and garner high Glassdoor ratings. Those that don’t end up in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
“The thing that really keeps me going is improving the candidate experience — seeing people come in and get hired and say that they never had a better experience applying for a job than they did with us,” said Tatyana Tyagun, HR Generalist at Chanty. Employer branding, or a company’s reputation among employees and potential candidates, has become a focus for Tyagun and her team. Word-of-mouth and employee referrals are significant parts of Chanty’s recruiting strategy — and both rely on having a strong employer brand.
“I get to work every day, trying to craft the ideal experience. That’s not an easy task, and there’s always room for improvement on every little aspect of my work,” Tyagun said. Despite the challenge, she finds that it’s all worth it when a candidate or friend mentions that they’ve heard great things about her company’s culture.
They’re called “People” teams for a reason. Of all the motives for staying in the field, the satisfaction of helping others was mentioned the most.
“First and foremost, I enjoy working with people and helping them. That made it easier to stay motivated, knowing I will most likely help someone every day,” said Alice Pizana, HR Manager at Herrman & Herrman P.L.L.C. Seemingly routine requests, like answering benefits questions, can affect not just your team but even their families. Unlike most other departments, HR’s reach transcends the workplace. Pizana takes comfort in knowing that even during her most challenging days, she’s making a real impact on someone’s life.
“Genuinely helping someone is so gratifying and can make a long day worth the work. Even if it is only one person, I still value the opportunity to help them every day,” she said. Norton, in agreement, may have put it even more succinctly.
“Sure, I have performance goals each quarter. But nothing, I mean nothing, keeps me more motivated than seeing other colleagues happy,” Norton said.
There’s another benefit to being in HR: You’re in good company. Resources for Humans, Lattice’s free Slack community of 10,000+ HR leaders, was built to help professionals like you connect, share advice, and ask questions. Click here to join the conversation.