Putting the H back in HR

One of my first jobs out of school was as a Human Resources Assistant with an insurance company in John’s Landing, a quaint neighborhood not far from downtown Portland. I worked for a bubbly lady we shall call Melanie with luminous eyes, a ready smile, and shiny cropped black curls. Framed studio photos of Melanie’s two adorable boys individually and snuggling with their parents adorned her desk, and she beguiled with funny stories about parenting small children. I performed ‘first job’ sorts of duties including filing papers, answering the phone, greeting visitors, and scheduling appointments. One of my less ordinary requests was to go on lunchtime runs along the waterfront pathway with Melanie… and John… the CEO. You can see where this is going, but being the naive young lady I was at the time, I did not. All I can tell you is that there was some sort of fierce energy exchange going on over my head as I ran between these two people. It was the H in HR that attracted me to the field and the H that drove me away. No thank you.

I opted for a career in mental health which has led me along a fulfilling pathway of supporting and empowering individuals and families across the lifespan, with opportunities to reinvent my professional expression along the way. Even still, I have kept a curious eye on HR postings, but job descriptions revolving around compliance, open enrollment, and hiring and firing practices never managed to lure me.

Peers in my generation are an insightful and valuable breed in today’s workplace because we know life before and after high tech; the first time I personally used a computer was to write my senior thesis in college. Marvelous technological advances mark our life experience, not the least being the backspace feature in word processing to correct typos rather than gunky Wite-Out (huzzah!). All of this innovation points to the collective genius of the mind, but we see with clarity that something dire is being lost along the way, and it’s that pesky H again.

During ReimagineArt’s beginnings, a participant from one of Portland’s largest, most well-known companies took me aside to offer impassioned thanks for the special time ReimagineArt had just facilitated for her team. Hoping to capitalize on this enthusiastic response, I asked if she could help me meet the people in HR who schedule these types of team building events. Here gaze and voice dropped as she flatly informed: “There is no H in our HR.”

Language in the workplace over the last few years around employee experience, people and culture, connectivity, and engagement is heartening, but I am impatient knowing that while employees hunger for more personal significance and meaningful co-worker experiences, employers continue to drag their feet on the uptake. There is reason for optimism, however cautious, as the general ethos around employee care appears to be shifting from nice thought-experiments to practice, and companies are wising up to – and most importantly – beginning to invest in these things!

I hope for the sake of millions that the all-important H will find its rightful place in the workplace in the foreseeable future. ReimagineArt is dedicated to the cause and poised to be a front-and-center in the movement.




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