Where have I been since April?

Hi team, sorry I’ve been gone for a while – most of you may have thought the blog had died.  Life simply got on top of me, work has really picked up, the opposite of what I expected with this economy.  It seems that the layoffs we’ve all been seeing and experiencing have made some organisations fundamentally change the way they operate.  I’ve picked up quite a few contracting opportunites, where organisations are looking to contain their costs and be much more flexible with their finanical resources.

I’ve mentioned this uplift in work with friends and former colleagues, many of who have been experiencing concern about their employment future.  However the number one response I get is that it’s too expensive to start contracting.  Advertising, building a website and brand, it all takes quite a lot of funding.  I’ve actually been pretty lucky in that I’m relatively techno savy, so much of this I was able to do myself.  But even so, aspects such as adding eCommerce to websites is a little beyond me, often even allowing people to download my newsletter can be pretty time consuming to get up and running.

Some times life is about timing, and through the grapevine I heard about a product which might be able to assist those looking to make a start in HR Contracting.  Its pretty new, in fact as I write this it’s only just been released.  The site is a business directory for HR Contractors and HR Service Providers, now before you think ‘not another business directory’ I can promise you this one is very very different.  The premise behind it is that its built to be your own website.   So as a member you have a profile – just like you do with Facebook etc, and visitors to the site can search for you, and contact you directly.  What can you list on your profile?  Well the site currently has over 100 HR Services listed, you can also upload articles to promote your knowledge, and offer eBooks for sale or free download.  It actually seems really good, the way search on the site is arranged it is limited to US, Australia and New Zealand, with apparently more countries coming early 2014.

I should mention at this point this isn’t a sponsored post.  Its just letting you know about this site that seems like it might be helpful to you my readers.  The site itself is called www.LocationHR.com, and as its brand new the owner a chap called Brendan is offering members a two month obligation free trial of the site.  After that, you either walk away, or you pay for a membership.  Seems pretty fair.

I’ve emailed the link to some of my friends, and will be catching up with them to see what they think over the next few weeks.  It might just be that push they need to take back their careers, and start taking up all the contracting opportunities that seem to be around at the moment.  I’ll let you know how it all goes, and of course I’m keen to hear your thoughts and if you’ve taken the plunge.

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Tips on becoming an HR contractor

I think we’ve all experienced the requirement to do more with less in response to organizational ‘right sizing’, often achieved by vacant roles remaining vacant for extended periods of time.  For current or potential HR contractors, this presents a further opportunity to gain contract work, as organisations seek to up-skill and increase the productivity of their workforce.  Talking with colleagues and HR peers, one of the common questions coming up is about going into businesses as an HR contractor.

In response to this, I’ve decided to put together a list of tips for those considering entering the independent HR contractor space.

Saying no is okay.  As an HR contractor you’re selling your skill-set, this is predicated on you having a reputation that the client can rely upon.  Saying yes to work that you’re unfamiliar with, is a sure fire way to damage your reputation.  This can seem like you’re giving work away, and yes sometimes you’ll lose a client as a competitor will step in and complete the work – and potentially keep the client.  The aspect to remember here though, is that you’re in it for the long term.  A reputation takes a long time to earn, but can be lost instantly.

First impressions.  Related to the above point, the first impression you make will impact on your ability to have an opportunity to make a second impression.  Every meeting with your clients should be treated like a job interview – they get to decide if you’re coming back into the office tomorrow, or if your contract time-frame has been reduced i.e. you’re not coming back into the office tomorrow.  Be professional, walk the walk and talk the talk.

Etiquette.  This can be one of the big ‘trip up’ areas for individuals new to the HR contractor space.  While as employee, we generally have some allowance for personal calls, or checking Facebook etc, as a HR contractor we’re on the clock.  Your client is paying for every minute, so every minute of your time is there’s while you’re on the job.

Preparation.  As an HR contractor your paid to hit the ground running, as an employee you had an opportunity to gain your orientation to the business over the first couple of weeks.  As a HR contractor, you’re expected to hit the ground running from the first hour.  You need to know exactly what the organisation does, what the issue or opportunity is that you’re being engaged to fix, and what departments are involved if not what individuals.  Do your research, go in there with a plan – and as part of your plan, intelligent questions are encouraged.

Assignment management.  The assignments you’ll pick up will have fixed end dates, however these end dates can be flexible.  Remember to leave some space between contracts, if you’re unable to for whatever reason, be sure to communicate this to your client prior to it coming up.

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of tips for becoming an HR contractor, rather its intent was to alert potential HR contractors of some points they may not have considered.

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Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

This is a great video in the TED Talks series (if you’ve not heard of TED Talks do a search on youtube and prepare to be blown away). In this video Amy not only talks about how body language influences how others see us, but perhaps most importantly influences how we see ourselves. Being a women in HR, I’m very conscious of how I’m seen and how i want others to see me, so this was a great reminder of who I can work to achieve this.

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When did Human Resources become a ‘pink job’

After a number of years working in Human Resources I’m left with the knowledge that somewhere along the way HR became a pink job.  Working in Government departments and multinationals, every head of HR bar one has been a woman.  Now with the drive for more women in leadership roles this can be counted as a good thing, until you start to listen to the number of HR people that talk about not being at the C suite table, or how their head of HR isn’t an executive role etc.  The question is which came first?  Was HR sidelined as warm and fuzzy regardless of if head of HR wore pants or a skirt, or was it sidelined as a result of the high number of women in HR – particularly in leadership roles.

Whether it’s a carryover from its roots in Personnel Management, or the impression that the discipline lacks the rigour and strategic importance to the business when compared to production (often male dominated), finance (again often male dominated), or the retail/sales areas of the business.

Either way it would appear that HR is being held back from delivering the results that shareholders and stakeholders are demanding from their businesses.  Human Resources can deliver incredible value, however if HR is being sidelined either because it’s a pink job or its too warm and fuzzy to be taken with any level  of seriousness, then we need to take a long hard look at the profession and map out a way forward.

I’m unsure what the answer might look like, certainly I see graduate programs playing a part, ensuring that up and coming employees understand the ins and outs of human resources.  The final answer however is much larger than human resources, it’s a question of the respect that women as professionals should be able to access on equal footing as their male counterparts.  Too often we are judge on our gender rather than our contributions, and given the number of men in leadership roles – many of them fathers to young girls, one has to ask what kind of world they are leaving for their daughters?

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