People & Leadership

Why I love working in HR: 14 HR experts explain why they love what they do and share tips for success

We’ve scoured the globe to find out why leading HR and People experts love working in the sector - and what really drives them.

Working in HR can sometimes be hard – but it can also be immensely rewarding.

Day in, day out, you can be juggling a whole range of spinning plates, constantly trying to make sure one doesn’t drop.

While at the same time, doing your best to support your company’s biggest asset – your people.

Well, we thought we’d share a bit of well overdue HR love.

We’ve scoured the globe to speak to some of the world’s leading HR and People experts to find out: what makes them tick? What do they love about working in the sector?

What advice would they give to others about working in HR?

Their answers are enough to spread a bit of extra joy to your job this week; and remember why you love what you do, too.

1. Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business: HR professionals are emotional care givers

“I wrote a tribute to HR professionals where I compliment them for being the emotional care givers as organisations go through the trauma of social disruption.

“HR professionals are learners who seek new ways to solve old problems, enablers who make others better, and value creators who help all stakeholders win.”

His advice to others in the sector?

“Don’t run up sand dunes,” he says. “I do this by being clear about what I want, who I serve, how I build, and where I am.”

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2. We’re given a chance to create meaningful and lasting relationships, says Aadil Bandukwala, APAC marketing director at HackerRank

“Everyday we’re given a chance to create meaningful and lasting relationships, learn new things, live our passions and solve complex problems that can impact the lives of millions of people.

“Creating lasting relationships and a strong belief in Steve Jobs’ maxim ‘the journey is the reward’ is what inspires me and brings me to work every single day with much enthusiasm.”

Aadil’s advice to others is to keep looking ahead. His favorite quote from one of his mentors reflects this: “If one always looked to the skies, one would end up with wings.”

3. I love understanding how the economy and political factors weigh into HR strategies, says Josh Bersin

“I love helping HR professionals improve their companies, and I love the profession itself. It’s a complex and very important domain, and most HR professionals are passionate, hard-working, collaborative people.

“I also love studying data, understanding how the economy and political factors weigh into HR strategies, and how technology continues to impact HR strategies and solutions.

“It’s a fascinating, growing, very important part of business – and as AI and more technology enters the workplace, HR strategies have become CEO-level issues in topics like engagement, reskilling, digital leadership, and organisational redesign.”

Josh’s advice is something he says his father taught him: do what you love.

He explains: “I always gravitated towards jobs, work, and companies I truly enjoyed. By doing that I developed a series of wonderful career experiences and it has all been wonderfully fulfilling.”

4. For Gemma Dale, co-founder of The Work Consultancy, it’s about the impact HR pros can have

“[I love] the opportunity to make people’s working lives better, even in a small way.”

Her advice is to simply “never stop learning”.

5. It’s the passion that still inspires me, says David D’Souza, head of engagement and learning at CIPD, the UK professional body for HR

“I love working in a profession that is still maturing and exploring different ways to make a difference. One of the benefits of my role is getting to speak to a range of HR leaders doing great work, but also to see the next generation of practitioners coming through.

“It is meeting the students coming through and seeing their passion and ambition that really inspires me.”

His advice for others in the sector is to “serve by leading, and lead by serving”. He explains: “You are here to support others.”

6. Businesses don’t serve people – employees serve people, explains Ben Eubanks, host of ‘We’re Only Human’ podcast

“Businesses don’t serve people – employees serve people. Businesses don’t make products – people make products.

“And that concept of the workplace being a very ‘human’ place to be doesn’t change despite all the automation that we’re seeing; it’s [actually] a chance to be more human and stand out from the crowd.”

Ben’s advice? “Don’t settle for being average at everything – be great at something.

“Continuously explore and experiment within the HR profession to find which specialties and options are most compelling and exciting, and then spend more time trying to do those kinds of things.”

7. Gautam Ghosh is a consultant at talent advisory services at VBeyond Corporation

“[I love that] as a consultant in HR I get to interact with a variety of people in different industries – and every interaction is a learning opportunity.” explains Gautam.

“Always look out to the edge – that’s where the next wave of change is coming from.”

8. Why I love working in HR? The people, says Jon Ingham, HR consultant and author of The Social Organization

“There are some great people working in HR. I love working with them. We just need to ensure that our search for business relevance doesn’t detract from what makes us so special in the first place.

“We should be spending at least as much time encouraging people in the rest of our businesses to become more like us, as we do trying to become more like them.”

Jon’s advice is to “Work out how you are and be that.”

9. If I can help someone thrive, then I’ve added something to this world, explains Susan LaMotte, founder and CEO of exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm

“The simple fact is jobs are vital to our society and our worth as human beings.

“If I can play one small part in helping someone find a workplace and employer where they can thrive, add value and be valued, then I’ve added something to this world we live in.”

Susan has a great nugget of advice: “Don’t lead your work. Let it lead you. I absolutely love what I do and from that one piece of advice have learned a great deal about where to spend my time and energy.”

10. Founder of HR Bartender blog Sharlyn Lauby loves that HR is never boring

“One of the things I love about HR is that it’s constantly growing and changing. From compliance with new laws and legislation, to technology and employee expectations.

“It’s never boring and always challenging.”

Her advice? “Live where you want to live, and then go find a job there.”

11. Lisa Rosendahl, Human Resources Director at US Department of Veterans Affairs, and co-founder and editor of Women of HR blog shares two things that keep her coming back

“Over my many years in HR, there are two things that keep me coming back.

“[Firstly], the variety of work that comes into the department each day. It keeps me and my staff on our toes.

“Secondly, the people I work with.

“I have had the honour of working with some of the most dedicated HR professionals in the field and look forward to coming to see what they are going to do to solve a problem, provide a resource, or improve a process to the benefit of our customers and staff.”

We love her advice to others.

“You are responsible for your own career,” she explains. “Stop thinking that if you work hard and do a good job people will notice. They are too busy working on their own careers.

“Uncomfortable as it may seem, tell people what you’ve accomplished, why it’s important to them and to you – and never forget those who helped you along the way.”

12. HR is the internal organs that give companies life, explains Shally Steckerl, Founder at The Sourcing Institute

“[I love the] exposure. There is no other department in an organisation with such a wide berth. HR, and particularly recruiting, is involved in all levels of an organisation top to bottom, and in every function of the company.

“People are the most important and valuable part of a company; HR is the internal organs that give it life.”

Shally shares his essential tips for others: “Ask more than you tell. Listen before questioning. Understanding comes through observation without expectation.”

13. No day is ever the same, says Jon Thurmond, Regional Human Resources Manager at Team Fishel, and Co-host of Twitter chat #HRSocialHour

“I started my career as a teacher and ‘fell’ into HR.  Since then, I’ve worked in several industries and with companies from 200 to 20,000 employees. I like the fact that no day is ever the same and that I truly learn constantly.

“The HR people I’ve gotten to know from working together and via social media globally are some of the best people ever.”

Jon’s advice is to make time for you. “HR pros help a lot of people, from management, to employees and peers every day,” he explains.

“If it’s reading blogs, taking part in a Twitter chat, or attending an industry event, be sure to find ways to take that time for you.”

14. Getting the right people working in the right ways means companies can achieve more than they ever imagined, says Perry Timms, author of Transformational HR: How Human Resources Can Create Value and Impact Business Strategy

“[I love] that business and work is all about people. Companies have very little true value outside of their people.

“Machines, products, buildings, and even brands can all be replicated by others – but how you get the best people for your organisation, do best by them and for them, and let them do their best, means the difference.”

Perry’s advice is that “It’s not how good you are – its how good you want to be.”

He explains: “It’s not just your skills but your will, too. Your drive could determine how clever, successful and impactful you are on others and the world.”

How to rediscover your love of working in HR today

HR leaders love working in HR, but the enormous challenges they’re facing today are coming at a severe personal cost, Sage’s Changing face of HR research reveals.

Despite 57% of HR leaders saying they love what they do, 95% say HR is too much work and 73% say they spend more time on paperwork than their people strategy.

However, only 54% of HR teams are using automation to free up their time.

Although technology isn’t a panacea for everything in HR, automating core processes and paperwork is one way to alleviate some pressure and focus on why you got into HR in the first place: to make a difference.

Discover more about HR automation and how to use technology to automate core HR processes – so you can scrap the paperwork and focus on your people.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in November 2020 and has been updated for relevance.