Picture perfect HR

HR lessons from the photography industry.

I recently caught up with my friend, Andy, a professional photographer from Apertuready, over lunch, and wanted to find out more about his approach towards his work. I’m not great at taking pictures, and the only reason why some of my photos look good is simply that I have a good camera phone. I suppose that sounds familiar for many, isn’t it?

Andy provided some useful insights into what good photography should look like. I became curious and started asking him a little more about what it takes to deliver a quality shot, and to become as good at my work as he is.

Here are three key pointers I took away from that meeting.

1. The difference between an avid photographer and a trained photographer is not in the EYE, but the MIND

2. All elements come to define not just the event, but also the emotional connections

3. There is no right, wrong, or perfect way to take a picture. What defines a good photo depends on the strength of the visual narration

These got me thinking deeper about thought processes, and it led me to a realisation that the three key insights highlighted were actually highly relevant to what an HR professional should be aware of in order to excel.

The difference between a value-adding HR professional and a trained HR professional is not in the knowledge, but the "heartware"

As an HR professional, we often talk about familiarising ourselves with the labour law, company policies, and knowing our business well. Those are important and are fundamental to us justifying our claim that we are trained professionals.

However, what differentiates a value-adding HR professional from just one who is just trained would really be what I call, the heartware. I recall how I was working with my line managers back in my corporate days where I did my best to fight for their interests while ensuring that the organisation’s priorities were met.

I clearly knew what the corporate stand was, but to see these people being left out of some areas and not taken care of just didn’t sound right to me. That incident made my line managers realise that I had their interests at heart. Following that, it did help to make my path as an HR business partner a lot easier because they knew I was constantly doing my best to not only get my work done with the knowledge I had, but rather, focus on delivering great value to all stakeholders.

All actions define not just the quality of HR, but also the trust our people have in us

Every initiative that we roll out as HR sends across a message. It is not just about creating welfare or upholding policies. It is really about the intent and the message employees receive when they see the HR implementations coming their way. And that, affects how they perceive us, as well as the trust they have in the team.

All human beings are creatures of emotions. What makes them tick is often not just the quality of your work, but rather how that impacts them. Quality delivery is a basic expectation. To gain the trust of people, it also involves consistency in delivery and its corresponding messaging from the work which you deem to be in the best interest of the stakeholders.

It is never easy, but time will tell whether you truly deliver with a people-first mentality or not. That has longer term implications on the trust that your stakeholders place in you.

There is no perfect, right or wrong way, to deal with people matters. What defines a good delivery depends on the way we approach and narrate it

Best practice. This is a common terminology that many practitioners out there love to use. But is there really a best practice? For me, I rather think of it as practices that are best for our organisations (i.e. contextualised according to our individual needs).

The challenge as well as the beauty of our profession is the ambiguity that we face when handling people matters on a daily basis. Who is there to judge on what is the best way to resolve an issue? I’m a big fan of Suits, and I recall a quote from the lead character Harvey Specter: “What are your choices when someone puts a gun to your head? You take the gun, or you pull out a bigger one. Or, you call their bluff. Or, you do any one of a hundred and forty-six other things.”

The idea here is simple. You have choices and we use different lens to see things. We need to first be aware of that and paint a picture that can help align the needs of the stakeholders. That way, we get the buy-in we need and deliver the value we desire.

About the author

Sam Neo, Founder and Chief People Officer, People Mentality Inc.

Delivering tasks or delivering value?

As a HR professional, we often get drowned in tonnes and tonnes of transactions on a daily basis that we fail to take a step back at times to ask ourselves, “Are we simply delivering tasks or are we delivering value to the people and organisation?”

A simple conversation with Andy made me realize that when we look beyond what we do, we can get more useful perspectives that help us become a better version of ourselves and at what we do.

Next time you take a photo, maybe you will start thinking a little bit more about the way you do so and in turn, also consider the way you want to shape your career as an HR practitioner. 

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