You Know You’re a Secretary If You… Plan the Holiday Party.

Jessica Lee HR, Jessica Lee

It’s time for a new series here on FOT: you know you’re a secretary if…

470387743_7196fad06a_b Go ahead, go ahead. Get angry. I know that my pal, the HR Capitalist, had some folks {word of the day alert!} unfriend him with the claim that if you won’t/don’t recruit as an HR pro, you’re really just a secretary. Harsh? My feeling is… don’t hate the player, folks. Hate the game. So, here’s another one for you. If you plan the office holiday party? You’re a secretary. BAM. Okay, or maybe you’re a rookie still.

Now, before you pitch a fit, in my first HR gig, party planning duties fell upon me. Before me, it was called the “Christmas Party.” And then when I took it over, it became the “Holiday Party.” And finally, to appease everyone and make it as agnostic of an event as possible, and out of my desire as a growing HR pro to please everyone and still be as “compliant,” it became the “Year End Party.” Christmas offended the non-Christians. The holiday reference offended I can’t remember who… and so it became the year-end party. Bah humbug. But that’s not the point of this post. Planning the Christmas, Holiday Year End Party is for secretaries and rookies because surely, there are better ways to spend your time as an HR pro, right?

Yet, I still see HR pros being polled about the office holiday party. Given the recession, are you cutting back on the holiday party? My answer? ASK SOMEONE ELSE. We (should) have better things to do. And from there, I then see reports out on the state of holiday parties. My response? REPORT ON SOMETHING ELSE.

Now, I agree that the role of an HR pro is to champion an organization’s culture. It’s why I’m in love with the fact that organizations like Zappos and Rackspace and DAXKO have culture vultures as part of their HR teams. But planning a party doesn’t really speak to culture, especially not a holiday party. And granted – I learned some great skills in having to do some party planning earlier in my career. You learn to manage a budget. You learn to manage outside vendors. You learn to not get sloshed at your own company’s party, because you’re fretting about the execution of every little detail and meanwhile, everyone else gets trashed and then you get to see how folks act-a-fool which results in learning to not ever be “that” person who calls the HR lady a cross-dresser. (True story! And you know who you are with that one. 😉 That was a first…) But those skills can also be learned elsewhere.

So here’s the deal. You’ll stop getting asked to plan the holiday party – OR, you’ll delegate it and no one will ever question it – when it’s so clearly obvious that you have better ways to spend your time. Spend your time working with a manager to develop an up and comer. Spend your time working on evangelizing your organization’s employment brand. Find some ways to cut some costs from someone else’s budget by re-engineering a process. Re-jigger an HR process that will cut steps out and save employees time and therefore money. No one will ask you to plan a holiday party or summer picnic when it’s clear you add value in so many other ways. Believe it. Happy year-end!

Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.

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See Jessica’s riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here