Friday, 24 June 2011

From HR Toddler to Here and Now VI

First time I've met Etienne was at "TRULondon" unconference earlier this year. First thing I remember was his genuine interest to know me and how easy it was to become a friend with Etienne within minutes. After number of random chats (some more, some less related to HR) we have both connected via Twitter and I've been following him and his blog ever since. I am happy to say that his energy and genuine interest in people became on number of occasions for me very inspirational and for that I have included him in my HR Angels list. Etienne calls himself @happyemployee and for me, he is more than that. Any time I come across Etienne, I feel refreshed, and I really do mean it. Following Etienne on twitter you will always find something interesting to talk about and reading his blog will keep you thinking about some great HR trends which he presents in his “happy way”. 
Anyway find out yourself about Etienne and his beginnings. 

While studying psychology and being quite unhappy about it, I got a letter from a colleague. This was back in 1998 when email wasn’t yet what it is today... The letter said something like this:

„I just joined a start-up and we’re recruiting like crazy. We’re a team of part-timers and we need help. Do you want to be the third member of the team?“ So we set a date for an interview, or so I thought. When I arrived, I was introduced to the HR team and shown my desk. Although my job wasn’t very glamorous, it took me less than three weeks to realize that HR was where I wanted to work. And I’m still not likely to change my mind anytime soon.

Learning How To Recruit
My first HR task was to open envelopes, extract the CV and cover letter and add the candidate’s contact information to an Excel file. Soon I was able to do additional things like screening CVs, calling candidates using a checklist, organizing interviews, taking references and writing job ads. And finally, I also got the chance to do job interviews. I must say, this was pretty awesome. And since our team hired up to 30 call center reps per month, I got a lot of practice.

Physics And The King Of The World
One thing I like to remember is how we tested for language skills. The interviews were held in Swiss-German and we tested English and French. To make it easier, I often asked about the last movie the candidate had seen. Back then the majority said: Titanic. Why they liked the movie? Because it’s so sad, and he dies in the end, and it’s so beautiful, and so sad. Boo hoo.There was one exception though. An engineering student was really impressed because he thought they got the physics right when the ship sank. Although I resisted for a very long time, I finally watched Titanic a couple of years later and was reminded of my candidate while the ship disappeared into the icy waters.

There were lots of highlights, like co-leading the recruitment of Internet Supporters (these geeks were the best!), being in charge of recruiting call center reps in the french part of Switzerland and having my aunt call my mother because she saw my name in the newspaper (that’s how we published job ads back then...). But here’s my absolute best memory: One of the disadvantages of a purely recruitment job is that once you get to know the people a little bit and they accept the job offer, you have to hand them over to somebody else. But one day somebody came to me in the break room and said: “You’re the guy who hired me a couple of months ago. I love it here. Thank you.”

So What Did I Learn?
In the end I didn’t graduate, which is of course something I wouldn’t recommend (“do as I say” and all that stuff). On the other hand I got the chance to do a lot of basic and boring stuff allowing me to acquire very strong HR skills. I mean, lets not fool ourselves. If you want to work in HR, you will always have to deal with a lot of paperwork and other administrative things. It might become less the fancier your job title gets, but it will never disappear. And while recruiting, I also learnt a lot about processes, labor law, social security, data management and reporting.

Love Of HR vs The Dark Side
So in the end, why do I love HR so much? The main reason is because it’s the place within a company where the human element meets the business side. On the one hand you interview candidates or help sort out difficulties between managers and employees, on the other hand there’s a lot of facts and figures. I’m aware that there’s also a dark side to Human Resources. Of course, we’re the ones who make calculations that help the management decide how many people will get fired. And when it comes to this, we’re often seen as the ghouls responsible. And yes, first of all we’re paid to help make the business (financially) successful, not to be nice to people. But I also strongly believe that we’re in a unique position to help our co-workers as long as our hearts are in the right place and we truly want to make a difference.

So as long as I can do interesting stuff and look at myself in the mirror, I’ll definitely stay in HR!

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