Employee Advocate vs Employer Advocate: A message to graduating seniors to succeed in HR
During a visit this week to Texas Tech’s Rawls School of Business, I had the pleasure of speaking with the SHRM student organization. Many of the students in the meeting were graduating seniors who would be attending a campus career fair the next day.
We talked about the ins/outs of the next day’s career fair. How to impress employers, what to ask, how to get their foot in the door, etc. What we did not get the chance to discuss is how to be successful once you land that first big job.
To me the biggest struggle a human resources professional faces in being successful is balancing whether their role is to be the employee’s advocate or the employer’s advocate. So I want to take the opportunity to share some insight into this struggle.
Let’s talk a little bit about what the role of HR is not:
- The role of HR is not to be an employee advocate. You can’t serve two masters; an HR leader is responsible for the well-being of the company. You are not Atticus Finch battling the powers on behalf of the downtrodden. If you want to be Don Quixote tilting at fictional monsters become a union leader.
- The role of HR is not to make friends. That does not mean you cannot be friendly or even be friends with the people you manage. It does not mean that you cannot reach out to build relationships because you should. However, you have a professional role that is hard for some people to balance. If you find people comfortable with that role who can be your friends, great – otherwise keep a professional distance with coworkers.
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