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Executive Perspective Blog #2

My Personal Take On HR

When I’m asked what Human Resources (HR) does, my simple answer is that we help companies deliver amazing business results while ensuring their people excel in their professional and personal ambitions. Maintaining such a balance is not an easy task. On one side, we have the motivations of the company. On the other, the motivations of each employee and each potential new hire. But that is our mission.

One of my colleagues loves a quote often attributed to Einstein; “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I think it fits perfectly into what I am describing. Achieving balance takes a lot of hard work across multiple HR and business disciplines, including areas like organizational design, talent acquisition, learning and development, rewards, culture, and more. This balance also requires us to work directly with leadership to ensure we all “walk the talk” as we create the enterprise of the future.

Working hand in hand with business leaders, HR is there to build organizations aligned behind their ambitions, passionate about fulfilling their purpose and capable of setting themselves apart from competitors. We must also be efficient and dynamic in our pursuits, and exciting and enriching enough for our employees to feel the rewards are worth the stretch. How we work needs to be sustainable and responsible so our shareholders, customers, consumers and the broader society have confidence in us.

In many ways, HR often needs to be out in front. We anticipate the future, proactively prepare for social, economic and business trends, and help plan for challenges and changes – all while delivering in the moment for today’s business.

Even though all of this may seem like a lot to take on, being the architect behind successful and winning organizations is something that gets me excited and makes me proud. We enable people to grow and shine.

However, no matter how much planning and building we do, HR itself doesn’t manage employees within the company directly. That on-the-ground connection happens through the hard work of our line managers and leadership. For employees to be properly motivated, we need to ensure their managers have everything they need to bring out the best from their teams.

It also means that, at times, you need to be brave and have candid conversations with your leaders. We've all seen HR teams where it's lots of rainbows and sunshine and bunny rabbits, but that kind of outlook doesn’t always show you the truest reflection of reality. Part of our job in HR is asking people to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves. We also often need to make difficult decisions. For me, it is important to ensure that whatever we do, we do it responsibly and with respect for everyone.

Let’s celebrate what we do well, but let’s also keep in mind what we can improve on. Successful HR professionals always look for insight, see situations authentically, and then have the courage to acknowledge and act on them.

Part of my strategy with this is to have open dialogue sessions with different employee groups. We do these across the organization because we need to know what's going on and how people really feel. I find that this is when people put aside the ready-made answers and share their actual experiences.

At the end of the day, how do we know our efforts are working? The best indicator for me is when I get random messages from people I work with. Sometimes they’ll say things like, “Hey, look at what we've done together.” Or, “With your help, we achieved all of this.” It’s then that I can really appreciate how HR actually made a huge impact. And that's what I value most out of this job. It’s the impact. It makes all those tough questions and hard work worth it.

Ultimately, your role in HR can have an incredible influence by bringing everyone together. By making sure that what you put in place is not only well accepted, but is actually taken on board by the leaders, by the line managers and by people at every level.

Only then can everyone succeed. And if you ask me, that’s what happens when HR works at its best. We drive the change! We are the Change!

If you’re interested in working for a company that’s truly dedicated to winning while ensuring your professional success, join me at reynoldsamerican.com/careers or follow my page for future blogs.

Anna Dolgikh – SVP & Chief Human Resources and Inclusion Officer