A new reader (thank you!) commented with a question that I thought might be useful to others so, here it is:
"I'm entering the HR field for a very large manufacturing company as an HR Representative (pure generalist role), and, naturally, I'm a little unsure of what are some of the big things I should aim to accomplish within my first 30 days and even first 6 months. Any advice for someone starting fresh out of college?"
Congratulations on your new job! The first 30 days and really the first 6 months can be action packed at times, and dull as watching grass grow at others. But it is a very important time to establish yourself as the pro you want to be, and the one your management expects. So, what do you do? Whether it's your first HR job, or a new position at a different company, here’s a quick list of the things you should be tackling in the first few weeks and beyond.
- Read your job description. If you haven’t already done so, review your job description to ensure you know everything for which you’ll be responsible. If you have direct reports, review those job descriptions as well.
- Meet and Greet. If you have staff you’ll be managing, hold a brief "get to know you" meeting. Let them know your management style, ask about their functions and workloads. Use this as a brief intro for everyone. Later, you might want to have one to one meetings. If you’re part of a team, find a time to introduce yourself and begin to get to know your team members; find out what roles they play.
- Review and Analyze. Begin reviewing and becoming intimately familiar with all your new company’s HR policies and procedures. Read the employee handbook; read the policies & procedures manual (if there is one). Review the benefits plans you’ll be responsible for administering. Read and analyze everything. Observe, study, analyze and prioritize. This is likely to suck up the most amount of time, but again, it’s essential and will pay off when you can answer questions and offer solutions on the fly. When you can give an answer to "how much vacation do I earn?" or "does our health plan cover this?", or even "what’s our time to hire/cost to hire?" without having to look up the details, you’ll make a good impression.
- While you’re reading everything, take note of any policy or procedure that may not be in compliance with current law. If it’s within your scope of duties, you may need to revise policies, or recommend that they be revised.
- Walk around! Get to know the staff at your new company. They need to know who you are, and they need to know you’re approachable and willing to work with and help them. This includes management and supervisory staff in other departments. Begin to develop good relationships early on. It will pay off later.
- Within your first six months, or sooner, you’ll want to begin having discussions with management regarding their thoughts on issues that need addressing (recruitment, retention, performance management, etc.). This could mean those in other departments, but could also mean your department (HR).
- Learn the culture. Is it formal and routinized? Is it more casual and collaborative? Adjust your style as much as possible to help ensure a smooth transition into your new position.
- Learn the business. If you aren’t already familiar with the business, learn as much as you can about your company’s products/services. Who are your customers? What are the competitive challenges or advantages? Knowing these things and being able to intelligently discuss them will help you gain legitimacy in your role and prepare you for more strategic involvement.
- Hold the reins. We all want to make a difference and prove ourselves and our worth right away! But, resist the urge to come on like gangbusters your first week. Take the opportunity to learn about the culture of your new company before you start making changes or recommending changes. Ask your more experienced colleagues their opinions about problems, opportunities and priorities. This will help ensure that the suggestions you make will be pertinent and focused.
- Schedule a meeting with your boss, and ask about his/her expectations of you. What are your constraints/limitations (budget, authority, etc.)? Ask what two or three things you could work on in the coming year that would make the biggest difference for the company.
- Make a list. From your meetings with supervisors, managers and your boss, begin drafting a list of priorities to tackle in the next 6 months to a year.
- Do the job. Spend most of your time becoming familiar with and handling the nuts and bolts of your job/department.
- Suggest a solution or project. After you’ve had a chance to acclimate and have a better handle on how things work, consider bringing one major "problem" or project to your boss with a plan to tackle it. If possible, choose something with a major pain or inconvenience factor; maybe something that emerged as a common thread in your discussions with other management and supervisory staff.
- Join SHRM! If you’re not already a member, seriously consider it. SHRM offers a wealth of information and tools that will help you in your job. Look into a local chapter as well. Networking with other local HR professionals can also be invaluable.
Here are some additional questions to ask yourself as you work your way through your first days or weeks (especially important if you’re new to HR):
* Are you familiar with all workplace policies?
* Do you understand the purpose of each policy and the procedures required to enforce the policy?
* Do you know which employment laws apply to your organization and which employees are
protected by each law?
* Are you aware of posting and/or recordkeeping requirements under the various laws and
regulations affecting your organization?
* Can you identify all the HR information that must be communicated to employees?
* Do you know the most effective methods for communicating HR information?
* Are you familiar with procedures for maintaining good communications with supervisors and
* Do you understand the terms of all the organization’s benefit programs and specific procedures
related to these programs?
* Are you familiar with compensation programs and procedures?
* Do you understand the organization’s recruitment program?
* Are you prepared to organize and execute a recruitment plan?
* Do you know proper procedures for screening and interviewing job candidates?
* Are you familiar with requirements for checking references and conducting background checks?
* Do you understand which questions you may ask at interviews and which questions to avoid to
prevent discrimination charges?
* Do you know which types of training are mandated by law? In your industry? In your state?
* Do you know how to conduct effective orientations for new employees?
* Do you understand requirements for supervisory training?