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Viventium Celebrates Women’s History Month: Oprah Winfrey


Oprah’s Advice (Sort Of) for Breathing New Life Into HR


Welcome to Viventium's Women's History Month series, in which we examine HCM topics with some wisdom from influential women in history.

Maybe you work in HR because you’re a “people person.” Or perhaps it’s because human capital management gets you excited. Or maybe, like so many HR professionals, you never dreamed you’d work in HR and yet … here you are, living the dream.

You like what you do, but you often wonder: How can I enjoy my job more? How can I add more value to the company?

We posed these same questions to Oprah Winfrey, and she said —

OK, we didn’t actually ask Oprah anything. We didn’t have to. She already has the answers, because no one has offered more useful and relatable self-improvement advice over the years than the queen of self-empowerment. Oprah would be the first to tell you that achieving greater job satisfaction and adding more value to your organization go hand in hand.

But how?

Know Your Worth

Start by knowing your worth. Do you know who knows hers? That’s right, Lady O. And we’re not just talking about her bank account. Oprah has a deep understanding of who she is on a personal and professional level. When you think Oprah, you think inspiring, empowering, and a bunch of similar words you’d find in a thesaurus.

When your employees think about HR, what comes to their minds? Maybe they think of HR as those people who plan picnics and create boring policies. Or maybe they might think, “Wait, we have an HR department?”

Either way, sure, some colleagues are counting on you to plan the annual picnic and accomplish all sorts of administrative and operational undertakings. But don’t fall into the trap in letting such tactics define your work. Don’t let anyone in your organization think of you as That Person Who Plans Picnics.

You know there is much more to HR — and when you recognize and embrace your worth, others will catch on and do the same. As Oprah puts it, “When you undervalue what you do, the world will undervalue who you are.”

Think Strategically

Breathing new life into HR means infusing more strategy into your role. Though it often seems like there’s no time to focus on strategic initiatives, “in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity,” according to Oprah. You owe it to yourself to defy impressions of HR as policy-pushers and record-keepers and define your role more strategically. If not you, who else, right?

There’s a better way to put all of this, and you know who said it: “The choice to be excellent begins with aligning your thoughts and words with the intention to require more from yourself.”

Except, that’s easier said than done. You’re doing a lot, and it often might seem like you’re pushing massive boulders up mountains. But don’t get frustrated. You can still be energized in your job by doing strategic work, but what’s the best way to actually identify that work?

An HR Audit

To ensure that you focus on what matters most for your company, your department, and yourself, start by conducting an HR audit. Think of it like drinking an HR Red Bull that will wake you to new possibilities.

An HR audit examines your policies, practices, and procedures to help make you more alert to the things you shouldn’t necessarily be doing and, more importantly, what you should be doing to be more efficient, effective, and impactful. Main types of HR audits include:

  • The Avoid-a-Lawsuit Audit: An HR compliance audit may not be the most exciting activity, but your organization is looking to you to ensure that, you know, you’re not breaking laws and regulations. But don’t just use this as an opportunity to make sure you aren’t pulled into the latest hashtag controversy. Use it as a chance to examine your overall culture to discover not just ethical gaps but positive qualities about your workforce. Then use those findings to create the culture you want.
  • The Everyone-Is-Doing-It Audit: A practical way to help your company gain a competitive advantage is to benchmark your practices against those of other organizations that get HR right. A best practices HR audit can reveal an array of exciting initiatives at other employers that you might consider adopting.
  • The Strategic Audit: What are your department’s and your business’ weaknesses and strengths as they relate to talent? How are your current systems failing or excelling to align HR efforts with larger organizational goals? Even if you think you already have a good grasp on such matters, the results of a strategic audit can equip with you powerful data that you can then use to inform and influence senior leadership.
  • The Functional Audit: Unlike a general HR audit, this type of audit concentrates on specific parts of HR, like talent acquisition or payroll. You’ll be able to gain a new, in-depth perspective that will help you make more strategic decisions around outsourcing, co-sourcing, and a range of other options related to various functions.

Armed with the results of these HR audits, you’ll be in a far better position to target the right problems with the right solutions in strategic ways. For instance, if you find that administrative and operational aspects of your job are sapping too much time and effort in ways that keep you from focusing on more strategic work, the right technology can help create greater efficiency around benefits, hiring, and payroll, and other HR activities.

Ultimately, the more you focus on strategic HR activities, the more you will enjoy your job, as well as elevate the HR function. Oprah wants you to succeed, and so do we!

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