By Susan deBruyn
Knowing the basics of Human Resources can be useful for all employees, not just those who work in HR.
“Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to”
Sir Richard Branson, British Entrepreneur
Employees are a company’s most valuable asset, right? Yet, what goes into making an employee feel valued? How many employees don’t know what Human Resources (HR) does, or who their HR staff even is?
Years back when I got my first job working in the candy department of a large department store I was hired by “Personnel”. Then, and for years thereafter, even when Human Resources was a widely used and accepted term I did not know the answers to the questions above. And worse, other than hiring and firing, I had no idea what could possibly keep the HR staff busy full time. Later, in my career in an administrative position working in continuing and professional education where I was offered attendance at any of our programs free of charge, the day came when I found an entry-level HR Basics course to be one of the only classes I had not yet taken.
Then, as a result of a unit re-organization, I actually became responsible for Human Resource duties for my department. What? I did not see this coming. Good thing I had an introduction to what I would suddenly be doing a lot more of.
A Different Perspective on Being an Employee
But let’s back up first. I did take that SHRM Essentials of Human Resources course held on two consecutive Fridays. Unexpectedly, I found it interesting. Having a great instructor who told personal stories and anecdotes made it more so. And at its conclusion, I was in a different place as far as my understanding of what human resources was and why it matters to all employees as workers and valued people. I saw myself differently as an employee and now had some knowledge of all kinds of things I didn’t know I was missing that I could benefit from personally.
After that experience, I felt I had taken a lot for granted as far as how I’d been hired, was compensated, and stayed employed. Here’s what I gained from taking that course and what you can expect to learn in a course on HR basics:
1. It will make you aware of various employment policies at work on your behalf. Who knew there was so much going on behind the scenes to protect and support you, the employee? Employment laws govern what can and can’t happen to you. The enforcement of and compliance with these laws protects you and your job. Being more aware of this gave me a feeling of security and inclusivity.
2. It will increase your knowledge of basic HR and employee best workplace practices. In difficult interpersonal situations, you’ll know to make sure your actions affecting other employees are consistent with governing laws and policies. This knowledge from even one more colleague in the workplace, no matter their job title, can make a difference in diffusing employee grievances, keeping tense interactions from escalating, and protecting your company from wrongful behavior or discrimination claims.
3. You’ll learn HR terms, and names of federal laws and acts such as Title IX, ADA, FLSA exempt and non-exempt, and what FMLA is. Not all will apply to all workers but if so, depending on your workplace or agency and its size, these governing policies are in place for your benefit.
How Insight into HR Concepts Benefits Your Career
In addition to the educational factor, there are many other career-related reasons to become knowledgeable about basic HR concepts. If you are thinking about going in an HR direction, want to have HR as a skill set for future positions, think you may find yourself in an HR-related job, or want to become a more HR-savvy and sensitive manager, an HR Basics course can provide an introduction to all the various components HR covers. Previously I’d thought of HR as mostly handling onboarding and termination but it can also cover many other areas of the employer-employee relationship such as payroll, benefits, development/training and compensation.
Turns out I worked my way up in the HR field over a period of more than twelve years and it all started with the SHRM Essentials course. To this day I remember things I learned from that class that helped a colleague, or that piqued my interest enough to investigate further and then share with a team member. Investing in an intro HR course might be the start of an HR career, but regardless, there’s something of interest in it for everyone.
Susan deBruyn recently retired from The University of Texas at Austin as a Senior Human Resource Coordinator after working more than 16 years in the professional and continuing education field for adult learners.
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