What?!? Oh yeah, I’m serious! I want HR Managers to be over 40.
But I have a method to that madness as millenials start to curse me out. It’s the experience factor… both of life and work.
I look at HR, and I see an industry encumbered by policies, rules and regulations. Get your Bachelor’s, your Master’s and a PHR. You’ll be fine. If you’re lucky, you’ll accomplish all of that by 25. But, so often when you read a job description for an HR Manager, the “human” component is assumed and not required. The years of experience account for time in the workforce and don’t necessarily allow for life experience, which shapes us all.
I want an HR Manager who’s well rounded, who’s seen it all—good managers, bad managers, late employees, great employees, lay-offs, terminations for cause, reorganizations and so on. I want people who have lived to tell the tale and have seen processes through. Even better if these circumstances have happened to them.
I also want HR Managers to have life experiences. They need to know how to help employees manage the incredibly challenging times personal lives hold. There will be divorces and death and rehab. There will be cycles in life when it just doesn’t get any better and times when it seems like it just can’t possibly get any worse.
If I hire an HR Manager who is over 40 in this day and age, I’m getting someone who’s worked through 9/11, survived a recession, probably been or taken a company through a layoff… or two. In their own lives they’ve probably had a dog, or a parent, or a friend pass away. They may have had kids, maybe they adopted, or became stepparents. They’ve seen someone through rehab, they’ve brought dinner to friends who’ve just had babies, or surgeries. They often know what it’s like to juggle work and home and can probably tell you what didn’t work for them, or how they survived the toddler years.
I don’t say this lightly, but last year was probably the most challenging of my adult personal life… I became the temporary caretaker of a toddler, my dog died and then my dad passed away after a very short battle with lung cancer. To quote Homer (Simpson that is…), there were many days where it was literally a case of it being the worst day of my life so far. I was very fortunate to have people who managed me here at FOT, StaffingAdvisors and at my volunteer gigs who really understood when I needed to toss the work out the window last April. And I know for certain that all of them “got it” because they had been there, recently and not so recently, and it made all the difference in the world.
And they were all over 40.
Am I wrong? Can you be the best at managing a people function if you haven’t acquired the life experiences your employees faced? I know it’s unrealistic to have every single experience I’ve mentioned… but just a few create the compassion component all HR Managers should be required to have.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.