Five things you should do as HR in tech

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Thank you to NESA by Makers for the photo!

Working as HR in a tech company can be so fun! You’re not the rule maker and enforcer (I mean, you kind of are, someone has to be); you’re the leadership coach, conflict resolver, and the safe space to talk about employee concerns. Most importantly, you contribute to your whole company’s success. Business goals can’t be reached without an amazing team. You’re the person who builds and supports that team! Especially in small businesses and startups, every single hire is critical. I’ve found this to be even more true in tech than in traditional industries. Because of this, the job looks a little different when you’re working in a tech company.

1. Embrace the techie dress code… mostly

If you’ve ever seen the show Silicon Valley you know the dev dress code is a graphic tee and a hoodie. No, it’s not just a stereotype!  Now, I would never say that the HR person in a tech company should be meandering into the office at 11am in their comfy pants and favourite baggy sweater. But you also look equally ridiculous in your crisp suit and tie or nice sleek dress and heels. The tech community is on to something here. The updated HR dress code of nice jeans and a T-shirt is super comfortable and doesn’t need dry cleaning!   

2. Learn the “code”

Here’s the thing. The tech world is fast-paced and ever changing. Remember when everyone was using node.js and it was the hottest thing around?  Dude, it’s way easier to use go-lang for microservice architecture because it was rigorously tested by Google. But what stack are you guys using these days? Because MEAN is way better as MERN and they’re all talking about it. Angular is so passe.  Right. That.  Candidates expect you to know what you’re building, why you’re building it, the difference between C, C++, C#, which operating system the team is using (you either love Microsoft or you hate it!) and if they’re coming in to work on new development on a monolith or new development from scratch.  It’s a lot to learn and a lot to keep up with. But the shift to having a recruitment team that understands the ins and outs of the technical requirements is good. It means that less time is spent by the dev teams and hiring managers talking to people who aren’t qualified for the job.  It also means that the candidates are having a smoother experience and know what they’re getting into if (or when) they onboard.  

3. Keep the peace

One of the most disliked parts of any HR jobs is “making the rules”. What is the dress code? When are our office hours? What’s the process in place for reporting an issue with a co-worker. All of those (and so many more) are created and enforced by the HR team.  The requirement for office rules have changed when it comes to tech. These are a group of people who expect to be treated as the adults they are. Office rules have become office guidelines that look a little like this: Dress code: Wear clothes. If you wear something inappropriate, I’ll tell you!  Working hours: Do your work. Be here for meetings.  Sick days: Don’t spread your germs. If you’re sick, WFH or stay in bed. We’ll see you when you’re better. It’s a lovely shift to a trust-based culture. It also means that you get to have all the awkward conversations if someone has accidentally made a bad choice or has tried to take advantage of that trust.   

4. Be transparent about confidentiality

Transparency is heavily woven into the fabric of the tech culture. The team wants to know why decisions are being made and who made them. And (don’t worry) they’ll tell you if they disagree with that decision.  While this change doesn’t just affect HR, it does play a significant role in HR’s dealings with the people. This expectation of transparency is excellent. People should be accountable for their decisions and be able to stand behind them.  However, HR is a role in which there is lots of confidential information. You are the keeper of salaries, complaints and conflict resolutions. There is a lot that not only you shouldn’t share, you cannot share.  The tech HR person is expected to explain why they can’t share that info. Why can’t you be transparent? Why won’t you tell me why you were talking to that guy yesterday? And you should answer. With a real answer.  I was talking to that guy yesterday because I needed to discuss something with him. Everything that was said in the meeting is confidential, the same way that when I book a meeting with you, it’s also confidential. It’s how you know that you can trust me.  

5. Represent

HR in the tech world has become the “Cultural Ambassador”. The job is no longer constrained to hiring, firing, payroll and making the managers conduct annual performance evaluations.  Recruitment in the tech space is fiercely competitive. So if you want the best people, you’re going to have to fight for them by creating a great place to work with an awesome culture. HR is leading the charge in making that happen.  It’s a great move because, at the end of the day, your people are your culture. And HR is hiring those people. Smart move, tech industry.    So … When you’re the HR person in a tech company, you get to enjoy the best of tech culture. You also get the opportunity to expand your influence and grow amazing teams. And you get to do it in your comfy clothes!!
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