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What I learned at HRPA 2020

Annual conference reminded me how complicated, and important the human resources professional is to every organization


February 20, 2020
By Michelle Snyder

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The HRPA 2020 Conference and Tradeshow took place in January at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Photo: Talent Canada

One of the most common questions an HR professional hears is “What, exactly, do you do?”

My general response — without thinking too hard, and in an effort not to confuse them too much — has always been: “I take care of the people.”

There’s so much more to the profession, and so many nuances, but at the end of the day it still comes back to the people at the organization.

I had the opportunity to attend the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) 2020 Annual Conference & Tradeshow in Toronto last month.

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It was an eye opener — there were an overwhelming number of sessions to choose from, and it made me ponder that question even further: “What exactly does HR do?”

As an HR generalist, I wanted to attend every session — there were so many topics covered that were critical to all areas of human resources. It was hard to narrow it down.

That’s because we have to wear so many hats — we are expected to be strategic business partners. That means we have to understand all areas of the business, not just one area of specialty like most professions.

We are also coaches, teachers and counsellors. We provide guidance, we listen and we reinforce best practices when dealing with people — all the while keeping the business and the bottom line. It’s often a delicate dance.

Depending on the day, we might also feel like a lawyer, physician, accountant or a therapist. All of these roles weave their way into our profession in one form or another.

More importantly, though, we foster a culture that creates an environment that people enjoy coming to everyday — though we often get labelled with the moniker “fun police” when things take an unintended turn in direction.

For me, HRPA 2020 reinforced why the profession continues to be rewarding and satisfying. The landscape of HR has changed, for the good. The traditional roles of recruitment, payroll, benefits, health and safety, training and compliance still exist.

But they’ve morphed into something greater than the sum of their parts — and the number of hats HR has to wear just keeps increasing.

Events like this are a critical way to help all professionals stay on top of their games, learn from the best and continue to evolve with the profession.

So what, exactly do I do in HR? I take care of the most important asset in the company.

Michelle Snyder is the human resources manager at Annex Business Media in Simcoe, Ont. Annex is Canada’s largest publisher of B2B magazines, with more than 65 publications serving a wide range of industries. For more information visit https://www.annexbusinessmedia.com/