What does an HR person do all day? Every HR professional knows there’s no such thing as a “typical” day at work. In our Day in the Life series, we speak with pros from a variety of cities and industries to get a snapshot of their work lives.
Title: Director, Organizational Development
Company: H.W. Kaufman Group
Location: Farmington Hills, MI
Number of Employees: 2,200
HR Team Size: 21
Years of Experience: 10
Favorite part of HR: “My favorite part is coaching leaders and helping them get promoted into their next management position.”
As Director of Organizational Development, Oneil handles everything from acquisition integrations to leadership development to performance management. He’s passionate about breaking HR stereotypes and proving that working in insurance can be fun. Here, he gives us a look into one day of his life as an HR professional:
5:00 a.m.: I wake up and take my golden retriever, Winnie, for a quick walk.
5:30 a.m.: I make a cup of coffee and sit down to read the news on my tablet. I scan my Twitter feed, which is mostly HR and business related. It’s a great way to catch up on legal updates and learn something new.
6:30 a.m.: I get ready for work. I wear a suit and tie every day, so it takes me a bit of time to get ready. Then I pop open my laptop and check my calendar to prepare for my day. We have an office on the West Coast, so I try to respond to any emails that came in overnight because of the time difference.
8:30 a.m.:I arrive at the office. We have two buildings right next to each other, so the first thing I do is walk through both and try to say “good morning” to as many people as possible. This way I’ve already engaged with employees before even making it to my desk.
I find that people won’t trust you if they don’t know who you are. Walking around the office helps employees know you’re human and not some bureaucrat sitting behind a desk. HR often has a reputation that can put people on edge, because it seems like we’re only there to evaluate them or deliver some kind of bad news. Being present every day helps show that we care and alleviates that tension.
9:00 a.m.: Sometimes an impromptu meeting will fall into my lap. Today, a manager from our field office called in with an HR crisis. A prominent member of our team had submitted her resignation, so we discussed the possibility of a counteroffer and how we could get her to reconsider.
9:30 a.m.: When I do get to my desk, I start checking emails and reply to anything that needs immediate attention.
10:30 a.m.: Before lunch, I try to grab some desk time to tackle ongoing projects.
I work on acquisition projects, so I usually analyze the policies of the company we’re seeking to acquire. I’ll do a handbook review to compare their policies to our policies. We want to get a sense of what those changes are, and accommodate and communicate the changes in a way that eases the transition. I also have to figure out new job titles, put them into salary bands, draft job descriptions, and work with our benefits team to ensure our offerings are comparable.
Another project I’m working on is tweaking our performance management cycle to make reviews shorter and more frequent. We’re trying to build the framework and structure in our company so that all managers do more 1:1s. We want managers to do more check-ins to clarify expectations and give more regular feedback. I’m always looking for more ways to make reviews more meaningful to both managers and employees.
12:30 p.m.: I try to go to lunch with someone I haven’t gone with before or someone I haven’t gone with in a while. I’m open to any kind of food, so we could go anywhere from a nice sit-down place to a burger joint. It doesn’t matter where we go to eat, I use food as a way to build connections with colleagues.
1:30 p.m.: After lunch, I walk around the office again. I try to find a senior executive and just pick their brain with questions unrelated to HR. HR professionals have a tendency to live in our own bubble, but we need to learn from the broader business as well. I work for an insurance company, so I’m constantly asking executives about different insurance concepts or trends. To be effective, HR needs to know what we do as a company. The more I know about the business, the better equipped I am to hire candidates or advance existing employees within our field.
2:30 p.m.: I’ll have my weekly 1:1s with my direct reports. We’ll use the half hour to solve problems, talk about their personal development, and build a stronger relationship.
3:30 p.m.: My afternoon typically consists of either more meetings or desk time to check and reply to emails. I get two different types of emails: crisis emails or non-urgent emails. When I’ve addressed all the do-or-die situations, that’s when I catch up on my non-urgent emails. I read the Namely Blog and SHRM newsletters to make sure I’m up-to-date on any big law changes or new company culture trends.
6:30 p.m.: I use the quiet time in the office to catch up on last minute work I missed during the day. Then, I pack up, head home, and get ready to face the next day’s set of surprises, challenges, and conversations.
Stay tuned for more in our Day in the Life series, where we showcase the minute-by-minute responsibilities of real HR professionals.