Monday, September 08, 2008

What’s it like to be a…Human Relations/Labor Relations Manager?

My actual position is: HR/Labor Relations Manager and I am also responsible for Safety and Hourly Employment activities.

What does a normal day look like?
Up at 4:30 a.m., drive to work at 5:30 a.m., thank the Good Lord for all of His blessings and another wonderful day. To work by 6:00 a.m., get coffee and fire up laptop, check Lotus Notes, voice mail and then start my day. No two days are the same, what happens from 6:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. just depends… When you are in the “People Business” you have to just roll with it. Being in HR/LR, your customer is anyone who walks through the door with an issue or problem. It is important to welcome them and focus all of your attention on them and their issues. You must make them feel they are the most important person at that moment. Be positive, calm and polite. The phone, the computer and others at the door can all wait. Always remember to try and walk in the other person’s shoes to try and understand their issues or perspectives.

If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
The way in which we treat people has changed. Years ago the Golden Rule was used: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Today we use the Platinum Rule:Treat others as they would like to be treated. People are our most important asset.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job?
You cannot expect to run or lead a company without first understanding the business you are in. It does not matter if you are talking HR, Labor Relations, Safety, Employment or any other non-core or support activity. You first must understand what your core businesses activities are. As an example, say you are working in the automotive industry, you must first understand how to build cars from a plant floor perspective. How can one discuss issues, try and resolve people’s problems if they have no understanding of the business they are expected to operate in? So my first job was a Manufacturing Supervisor position. This is where I learned not only how cars were built but how to handle or manage people. 

How did you get to where you are now?

• Integrity. “Walk the talk”. If you say you are going to do something do it. If you can not do it, say so. You will be known by your actions.
• Effort. Give 110% effort each and every day. Work hard and fast. The company is paying you a good wage for what you do. Anything less will be noticed.
• Attitude. Be positive. No one likes a complainer. If you have nothing nice to say keep quiet. Also remember: “If you change the way you look at things,
      the things you look at will change.”
• Respect. Treat people as they would like to be treated.
• Customer Satisfaction. Always know who your customer is. Focus on the customer. The customer is who you provide a service to. If the customer
      is happy, those above you will be happy with your performance because it means you are doing your job.
• Compassion. Walk in the other person’s shoes to understand their issues. Listen more than you speak.
• Utilize a “win-win” negotiating strategy. If I win today and you lose, what will happen next time? You will win and I will lose. But if we can some how
      both win, we will both feel good about what we are doing and walk away satisfied. Positive relationships are the key to success in any organization.
• Volunteer. Do not wait to be asked.

What kind of training/education did you have?

BSBA Northern Michigan University, worked 5 years then obtained Masters Criminal Justice University of Detroit while working full time. Took 5 years to accomplish.

What would you suggest?
Same. Bachelors first, work for a while so you understand what real business life is all about then go for an advanced degree. You must have an advanced degree in your field of specialization to advance.

What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?

See “How did you get to where you are now” for this answer. Also once you are hired, try and seek out a mentor. Many progressive organizations assign mentors to new hires or hypots (high potential employees). The mentors teach and train their mentorees things that most employees will seldom learn or be exposed to in a career. If your company does not have a formal program, look for a highly competent leader and ask him to teach you what he has been able to learn over the years. If you do not ask it will not happen.

What are the rewards in your position?

Happiness. I love what I do each and every day. I call it directing traffic. Analyzing a situation, providing direction and creating an action plan. People come to me with issues or need something, whether it is a corporate program manager, a Plant Manager, the head of the Union, a co-worker, a salaried employee or an hourly employee. They are all treated the same. They all have the same needs and are all there for one thing—to do a job in a safe work environment free from harassment or intimidation, make a contribution to the company to the best of their abilities so that the company can make a profit, earn a respectable income and return home safely each night to their families.

Each and every day is a challenge because no two days are the same. Each day brings pure excitement.

What makes a good day for you?
Every day is a good day. It is called attitude. If you say it is good then it is good, if you say it is bad then it is bad. We all control our attitude. It is what we think.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Technology will continue to increase, thus the tools we use will change.

How could a person find out more about your field?

Ask to shadow a person in the field. A day or a week on the job without pay, just for the experience, is priceless. Or ask professionals in your field to come in and speak on their experiences.

When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?

I always had to lead and coordinate no matter what I did while growing up.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are today?
Not complain. One will see things that are not fair or right. Sometimes we just have to swallow hard and keep quiet.

What was your first job like after college?
Manufacturing Supervisor, then Labor Relations Representative, HR Representative, Safety Representative, Training Manager, and lastly HR/LR Manager at a GM plant.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 09/08 at 01:39 PM

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