How to be an HR Executive, Tolu Ajayi- HR Assistant.
Tell us about what your job involves?
It involves the management of the employee work cycle. From finding and attracting the right talent, to nurturing the talent, through inducting them into the business. You then develop that talent and ensure they are upskilled and are able to excel in their role. It also involves dealing with employees’ personal lives, managing work relationships, understanding people to be able to predict behaviours and provide behavioural solutions for the effective management of people at work.
How did you get to where you are now?
I studied Human Resource Management and Psychology at University. During this time I worked with Starcom Mediavest Group for three months over the summer, which confirmed to me that HR is what I wanted to do. After my summer internship I was kept on for another three months, working for them remotely, while I completed the final year of my degree. During my final exams I applied for the role at Wunderman and was offered the job before I graduated, so I started with Wunderman a week after my final exam.
What are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?
I would say my biggest challenge right now is time management. In HR you need to be able to plan ahead but at the same time, be ready to drop what you are working on to attend to any problem that presents itself. So a lot of the time you plan your week and the projects you want to work on but need to be reactive. I enjoy it because it means no two days are the same and the way I overcome it is by taking this into consideration and dealing with queries as efficiently as I can. A ‘to do’ list always helps too!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
What I enjoy most about my job is the people I work with. In HR you have to love the people and have a passion for seeing people do well and it’s nice to make people feel at ease on their first day.
What characteristics do you need to do your job?
I would say you need to be patient. Other people work in teams of about five but in HR you are ultimately in a team of 200, depending on the size of the business, because you work with everyone. So you have to be patient with people because sometimes they may not behave in a way you would like. You also need to be a confident person; not necessarily the loudest person but a person who comes across confidently to others. It will help when having difficult conversations, presenting in front of people at all levels and when making decisions that involve a number of stakeholders. You have to be confident in the knowledge you have and know you have made the right decision. Furthering this, you have to be a problem solver. The business and managers will present you with problems every day and you need to come up with solutions, sometimes immediately.Lastly, you need to be switched on! Things will happen around you that you can use to predict the behaviour of others and present solutions to managers before problems even arise.
How do you think your job will evolve over the next few years?
I think HR will move away from being centred around best practice and move more towards being people focused, with better expertise in behavioural sciences. This will make people thrive rather than employment legislation and how to make sure we are on the right side of the law. This should always be done but I don’t think processes should be centred on it. I don’t think it is the best way to get the best out of people.
How are you adapting for this change?
I am going to start a Masters in Occupational Psychology next month, so I think that will equip me for the new world of HR. I may just be bias because I love psychology but I think it has a big part to play in how well people are managed and how much they give to a business.
What would you recommend to anyone thinking of doing what you do?
I would recommend you approach HR with an open mind. There are a number of skills that you can learn from all disciplines that can be used when working in HR. There is admin involved, because we have to make sure the business is law compliant, but there is a lot more to HR than administrative tasks. You have the opportunity to be creative and come up with initiatives to engage people to be challenged through critically considering the problems that come up. You also have the opportunity to learn a lot from people because you meet so many new people from different walks of life.