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5 tips for those new to HR, from pros who have been there

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Starting any job can be tough – but seasoned HR pros know that being new to HR can be overwhelming to say the least. Between hiring, workplace conflicts, payroll and everything else that can fall under the HR umbrella can be daunting.

With more employees identifying symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, it’s easy for those just starting out in HR to feel in over their heads. 

A user on Reddit recently asked, “If you could tell yourself one thing when you started in HR what would it be?” If you’re new to HR, take these tips from those who have been there before on what they wish they knew when they started out. 

1. Communication is key

Like any other job, communication is vital, but it’s especially important for HR, where the job is largely communicating things like policies, procedures and benefits.  

“Learn and practice how to explain things well – communication is going to be a huge part of your role,” one user said. Practicing communication skills isn’t just knowing when to communicate – it’s also knowing how to communicate. 

Practice active listening, especially when it comes to employee issues. “Listen and understand before being understood when assisting with issues,” said one user.

2. Lead with authority

When you’re new to HR, it can be hard to act like an authority on company policies and procedures when you’re just learning them yourself. 

“Don’t be afraid to assert authority, even when you are just starting out,” said one user. “If you don’t know something say, I’m going to check the latest employment law on this matter and get back to you…. then go look it up.” 

“Whatever you’re facing, you can get through it with an attitude that says you can.”

3. Don’t be afraid to document 

One overarching theme in the thread – document, document, document! “Write every email like you will one day have to read it in court,” said one user. 

Get the important conversations in writing whenever possible – choose emails instead of phone calls when it comes to things you may have to refer back to. But there’s also an art in knowing what needs to be a verbal conversation and what should be an email.

4. Don’t sweat the small stuff

HR has to deal with a lot – worrying about every conflict will burn you out quickly. Pick and choose your battles and prioritize what you need to worry about.

“If it’s not about paycheck/benefits or safety/harassment – just chill and don’t let the stress get to you,” said one user. “People will complain about the dumbest stuff and try to get you to match their level of anger/frustration/care/concern. You can’t take on everyone’s pain for every little thing.”

5. Plan for an unpredictable workload

One user gave a tip for those new to HR dealing with deliverables – if you think you’ll have something finished by a certain date, tell them you’ll have it to them a day or two later. 

The nature of HR is that unexpected issues and tasks will pop up every day, so plan for the unexpected. “No one will be upset if something gets to them early, but they’ll be mad if it gets to them late.”

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