Reality Check: HR Needs More Support
Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.
How can you ensure the wellbeing of your HR team in the face of disruption? In this episode of All About HR season 2, we talk with Julie Turney — Founder of HRatHeart Consulting Inc. — on the need for self-care and organizational support for HR professionals.
Julie is an experienced people champion and HR coach dedicated to helping HR professionals build resilience, agility, and future-proof careers while maintaining their mental wellbeing.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- The optimal HR to employees ratio for HR to thrive
- The best HR communities you can join to find support
- Three tips to protect your mental health as an HR professional
Watch the full episode to find out the roles of the individual and the organization in creating a safe and healthy workspace for HR professionals!
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Julie Turney: Get the additional support that you need either through tech, where you can, but get the additional resources through people and get the necessary support that you need so that you can add the value that your organization truly deserves. So when organizations say my HR team is not strategic, I go: how many people are your HR team? Oh, two. And how many people are in your organization? Oh, 1200. And you really expect your HR team to be strategic? That makes no sense.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to another episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie and on today’s episode, I speak with Julie Turney. Julie is an HR for HR coach. She is an author. She’s a fellow podcast host herself. And she is many other things. In our conversation, we talked about how is HR actually doing after two crazy years? Who’s taking care of HR? How can HR take care of itself in a better way? And we talked about the importance of an HR community and so many other things. I think it’s time that you go check out our conversation straight away. Before you do so, you know the drill: hit that notification button, subscribe to the channel, and like this video. Thank you and goodbye.
Neelie Verlinden: Welcome to another episode of All About HR.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi there, Julie. How are you?
Julie Turney: Hi, Neelie. I’m doing well. How are you?
Neelie Verlinden: I’m very well, too, thank you. And I’m especially excited and looking forward to this conversation, Julie.
Julie Turney: Yeah, so am I.
Neelie Verlinden: Now before we really dive into today’s topic, Julie, maybe it would be good if you can tell our listeners a little bit about your own journey and how that pretty much led to your purpose, I think I can say.
Julie Turney: Yeah, pretty much. I started my journey with HR at the age of 22, after my first termination. And just the way that I was terminated from that job really ripped me apart because I was terminated while I was in the last trimester of my first pregnancy. And I didn’t know at the time that you couldn’t terminate someone while they were pregnant. I never went through any kind of performance discussions or any kind of performance improvement plan, nothing. And so the way that I was terminated just never sat well with me. And I thought: well, you know, if this is the way organizations are treating employees, it’s not right. And there has to be a better way. And that kind of started my journey into HR. So I got my first HR job, probably just down in my late 20s, just before I have my last baby. And I work my way from being an HR admin through to being a CHRO of an organization. And one of the things that always stood out for me is that HR is this role where we’re constantly giving to people and we’re constantly giving to the organization. Very seldom do we take time to step back and take care of ourselves. And so as a result of that, I experienced a couple of bolts of HR burnout, one of them almost very close to either sending me into a mental asylum or to my grave. And if it wasn’t for the love of my mother or my children, I’m not sure where I would be right now. But my mom ended up staying at my house for a couple of weeks and kind of like just pulling me back to life. And that kind of started my journey back to like, what do I want out of this profession that I call HR that I love so much? Where would I best serve the people who I want to help and support? And I realized that in going through my process of healing, going to therapy, going and hiring a coach to help me kind of figure things out that I realized the best place that I served was serving the people who serve the people. And so it kind of started me on this journey: well, you’ve been in HR for over 16 years, you know what it takes to make a great HR professional. I’m always giving advice. I’m always mentoring. I’m always supporting. But in this instance, I give HR professionals what they deserve: a safe space to lean in, to heal. And so it started me on this journey of creating this company HRatHeart, where I now coach HR professionals. And so for the most part, it’s the things that we struggle with – putting theory and practice together, the moments that we have those heavy, heavy situations, whether it’s a termination, or you know, we’re furling people, or you know, it’s a situation where we’re dealing with a sexual harasser. That’s for someone who should know better. And just the heaviness that comes with all of those things – employees who are dealing with their mental health and supporting them, employees who are going through the method, violence – whatever it is, because all of those things end at the doors of HR because we ask people to bring their entire humans to work, right? And so when those things that heavy on us, we then deal with vicarious trauma which traumatizes us, but we have nowhere to go to deal with it. So other than therapy, I was like: Okay, well, let me see if I can make this work. And for the last year or so, I’ve been fully supporting HR professionals in their careers, giving them safe spaces to lean in, grow, and thrive.
Neelie Verlinden: I think this is such an inspiring story, Julie, and I imagine you’ve heard that so many times. But while I was listening to you, what I was thinking, is that hearing you talk, the one thing that really came to my mind is in all of this, where is the HR for HR?
Julie Turney: Exactly. That’s exactly my point.
Neelie Verlinden: I mean…
Julie Turney: It’s why I’m here.
Neelie Verlinden: Yes, exactly. It’s like we have forgotten about that. And for the past two years it has been all eyes on HR, for looking at them for the answer. Are we taking care of our employees? So are we now going to try and get everybody back into the office again or not? Etc, etc. And I think that we can already agree on the fact that the next year, 2022, is not going to be any easier because there’s still a lot of issues to be dealt with. And I think there will still be a lot of expectations on HR. How is HR coping with all this pressure?
Julie Turney: Yeah, so HR isn’t doing very well. Now, while it is that HR professionals are getting the respect, they’re getting the responsibilities, they’re getting the awareness to their capabilities of being more strategic. With more responsibility comes more pressure and comes more anxiety. And so with all eyes continuously being on HR, I think it’s safe to really say that we wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for HR and IT. So for the last 20 months, it truly has been HR getting down into everything. But when it comes to mental health, the perspective from a lot of HR professionals, a lot of my clients say: you know, people in the organization expect me to be happy and chipper all the time, but I can’t, because this is hard and this is heavy. And I asked a question recently in the AIHR community about like: what is a fair ratio of HR professionals to employees? Because I had a call with someone who said, they just left their job recently as an HR director, because the ratio was one to 700. And this is part of the other problem that we’re going to see if organizations do not step up and recognize that they need to give their HR professionals the proper support, to get rid of the unfair ratio of HR to employees. Now, even when you think about the family setting, I am one mother to three children. Now, back in my grandmother’s days, she was one to 10 children. My other grandmother was one to 8 children. Now, at the end of the day, when we’re thinking about making a family, sometimes my 1 to 3 children are enough to drive me crazy. So when you think about one person supporting the professional development, personal development, mental well-being of 700 people, that is huge. Now, where there may be some areas of you being light touch, if you are an HR generalist taking care of 700 people, there’s no way that that is ever fair. And this is one of the things that a lot of our HR professionals are dealing with. They’re not getting the support that they need to either have the best HR tech to offer the support. A lot of people are still doing stuff manually, which kind of really freaks me out and makes me very scared for a lot of our HR people. Now while it is that we love what we do, and we love supporting our people, we love supporting our organization, it means it’s not sustainable. We can’t touch every possible facet of HR, because when you think about what HR is, and all the different areas that it takes, if you are just one HR generalist managing L&D, managing compensation, managing performance management, managing talent management, recruiting and onboarding, it’s impossible for you to be 100% effective, dealing with all of those things, never mind touching things like culture, and diversity and inclusion. It becomes virtually impossible for you to touch all of these things in a way that is meaningful, and truly adds value to the organization. And so this is the thing that I constantly talk about with organizations, with leaders, and with HR teams. Get the additional support that you need either through tech, where you can, but get the additional resources through people and get the necessary support that you need so that you can add the value that your organization truly deserves. So when organizations say my HR team is not strategic, I go: how many people are your HR team? Oh, two. And how many people are in your organization? Oh, 1200. And you really expect your HR team to be strategic? That makes no sense. And so these are the things that we have been dealing with. HR is not ok. HR has not been ok for a very long time prior to COVID.
Neelie Verlinden: Just out of curiosity, though, when you asked the question in the HR community, what was the kind of ideal ratio or responses that you got from there?
Julie Turney: So in the community? Some of the responses that I got were: it depends on the needs of the organization. I also asked this question on Twitter. In addition, like some people were saying: Well, maybe like one to 200 or 250. Funny enough, in the Twitter space, because so many people answered this question on Twitter, and some people are saying one to 50, or 1 to 100. But I think on average, it could be about one to 100. And that would be okay. Especially if you are a generalist, touching all of those things, and touching them effectively, one to 100 could be fair. In the past, I’ve read one to 40 or 1 to 50. So the ratios do depend. And it also depends on the type of organization, if you have a really forward-thinking organization where leaders are really involved in the organizational culture, and they are supportive of your HR initiatives, then you could very well get away with one to 200 or 1 to 250, maybe 300. If the level of trust is high, and the culture is a supportive culture,
Neelie Verlinden: So how can we take care of HR?
Julie Turney: Getting HR the support that they need starts with HR. I think a lot of times, and this is one of the challenges that I had started my coaching practice, is that a lot of people would say: you know, I’ve been in this profession for 10 years, 15 years, five years, whatever, I’m doing good. The organization I’m with is great. They support me. And that’s all fine and well. But you still have to do very hard stuff. You still have to do very heavy stuff. Where do you go to get that support? So it starts with HR recognizing that they do need that support, that they do need that help. One of the things that I experienced as I was going through this journey, over the last year and a half, is the stories that I’ve heard of so many HR professionals who’ve died because they never took the time to get the help that they needed. We lost quite a few amazing HR professionals through suicide or to COVID. We’ve lost a lot of HR professionals through heart attacks, aneurysms, because they haven’t taken the time to step back and say: this is too much, this is not okay, and I need to create boundaries that are safe for me. And this is the point that I’m trying to make. This is the reason why I advocate now for self-caring HR. My own personal experience with HR burnout, the stories I’ve heard of so many other HR professionals who vulnerably opened up and shared their stories. It starts with admitting to yourself that you are not a superhero. There are things that exist in the mind of creatives. We are human beings, with feelings and with emotions, whether we have families to manage or we are living on our own. We still have the right to be loved, to be respected, to be cherished. And HR is very heavy. It’s very hard. It can be very fun and very engaging. As a matter of fact, for me, being someone who suffers from ADHD, I love HR because I get to touch so many different things. So it really helps me with my ADHD to be able to not have to deal with one monotonous thing all the time. For most HR professionals, studies have shown most HR professionals do suffer from high functioning anxiety. We thrive in times of crisis. Most HR professionals are neurodiverse. But you need to get the help and support to help you be a better you. And that starts with you admitting you can’t do it all. You shouldn’t have to do it all. And then how do you move forward? The next thing I would say is that I try to advocate for transparency. So when people enter a coaching relationship with me, I always encouraged them to let their managers know, to try to get support from the business even to pay for the coaching. Because I think it’s important that you get that backing from your organization and from your leadership. As a matter of fact, one of the things that I will be advocating for more in 2022 is that HR for HR coaching is included in compensation packages for HR professionals, because the two just go hand in hand. It should be a given that your HR team should at least be going to therapy once a month, or at least once a quarter, depending on where they’re sitting. I think that these things are very important. But I want to help organizations to get a better understanding of why these things are necessary. Because your HR people are not okay. And if you’re taking the time to look at places like LinkedIn, or Twitter, you’ll see when we’re talking in those spaces, that we’re not okay. You don’t have to look very far to see it. In almost every single comment of every single post that I put when I talk about things like creating boundaries, taking care of your mental health, self-care initiatives, and it’s more than just buying an app and telling people that when you’re feeling a certain way, go to this app. It’s more than just a survey to see how people are feeling with smiley faces or with different emojis. It’s more than that. It’s going to your HR people and asking them a question. Right? How are you feeling today? Not just how are you feeling, but how are you feeling today?
Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely. Something else I really wanted to touch on with you, Julie, and you did mention it briefly already. But it’s about the role of HR communities. Because when we’re talking about HR for HR, does belonging to an HR community play a role here?
Julie Turney: Absolutely. I think that one of the things I always tell HR professionals is to find your community and get your sense of community because it’s the one thing that I learned in my HR career, that I suffered from at first, was that I didn’t have community. Question comes: Well, where can I find community? And the first things I always say to people to look within your HR groups. So like, if you’re a member of SHRM or CIPD, then you can look in those communities and you can get support. And a lot of those communities can be very helpful. But outside of that, there are other communities that you could be a part of, that will help you to develop and grow and also provide a safe space for you. So some of my favorite communities. Number one for me would be Hacking HR, created by Enrique Rubio, I absolutely love what Enrique has done in creating that community. He gives selflessly to the hacking HR communities. He created mentorships. He created different labs, learning labs. He selflessly gives by creating that HR conference every single year where he puts all of those speakers together free of cost. That’s a great community and they have a great Slack channel that you can go into for free, where you can get advices, support, learn stuff, you can see what’s been what’s being done in that community. It is very open, very transparent. They’re open to futuristic HR thinking. I love Hacking HR. I can’t even talk about them enough. Second I would say if you are looking to upskill and reskill yourself, then AIHR hands down. And the community within that space is absolutely beautiful. And I love the fact that we’re able to share different topics and be so vulnerable in that space. And I just love how you guys have worked effortlessly to put that together. The third for me would be Disrupt HR. I love Disrupt HR. I actually hosted disrupt HR events in the Caribbean. But I think it’s a great space to learn and to develop community. When you see Disrupt HR events come together and you see all those HR professionals in that space, it’s just such a beautiful thing to see. And then the topics, so disruptive, but impactful, and really powerful. To really help empower HR professionals to do better and be better in their organizations. That would be just a few. I mean, when I talk about HR for HR, it’s something that gets talked about all day. You’d have to stop me. Because there’s so much to talk about. It’s not just the things that HR is impacted by the organization, by the way leaders feel about HR or the way employees feel about HR, but also how HR feels about HR.
Neelie Verlinden: But for the listeners that might not notice Julie and I have talked before. And so I know that Julie has a few really, really great tips on what each and everyone can do themselves, working in HR, to just try and stay sane and be just that little bit happier throughout the day. Right and to have a more positive mindset as well. So I was going to ask you about that, Julie, if you could maybe share three or four pretty easy things that everybody can do. And that could actually, you know, be helpful. So maybe you want to share those.
Julie Turney: yes, I am happy to share those. So the first thing for me would be very easy – taking walks. You know, separating yourself from your work. Sometimes you just have to step away and walk away from it, and then come back. Exercise is great. And then mindfulness, which is like, very high on my list actually. I love the Calm app, and what they have created and what they’re doing to help organizations, but also to help HR professionals. And at some point, they have a link where HR professionals could engage in their services for one year for free. And I hope they bring it back. I’m looking forward to seeing if they bring it back. Because HR professionals need it. When I dive into mindfulness, it really does help with just keeping you calm, understanding the importance of staying grounded, being aware of the things that cause you anxiety, and where your anxiety shows up – in the clenching of the jaw, the holding of your breath, you know, the putting your feet on the chair versus on the ground. And just helping you to be more aware of your surroundings. Mindfulness is very helpful. And journaling also is very good. Getting it out of your head onto a piece of paper where it’s safe versus talking to people who you’re not sure you should really be sharing that stuff.
Neelie Verlinden: Thanks. Those are definitely a few very practical things that everybody can start doing straight away. Julie, I believe that on your podcast, you sometimes do some myth-busting as well. Right? So I thought, I’m not going to ask you about a myth. But I thought maybe I can ask you about what in your opinion is the biggest cliche about HR?
Julie Turney: Oh my goodness. Well, when the tables turn, that’s how they look. I would say the biggest cliche about HR, probably for me would be that we love people. Every HR professional is not necessarily here because we love people. We’re here because we want to see organizations do better and be better. We want to see organizations develop and grow. And that doesn’t mean for us as HR that we understand everything, which is why we’re always constantly in this space of learning and developing for ourselves so that we can help organizations because sometimes people do the craziest things. How do you love that? You can’t. But we are here because we want to see people develop and grow and do great things and be great and help organizations achieve their objectives and their goals. That doesn’t always mean that we love people. We like people because we have to interact with them. But it doesn’t mean we’re all here because: Oh, we love people. And we think it’s such a great speech.
Neelie Verlinden: Nice one, Julie, I like it. I like it. And I think it’s a very good distinction to make. So thanks for that. Now, something I always like to do in every episode, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, is that I asked every guest to share an epic win and an epic fail with us and of course, with our listeners.
Julie Turney: Oh my goodness, I’ve had so many epic fails this year. I think that that’s one of the things that people don’t get to appreciate because they see all the good stuff that happens on the end, but they don’t see all the stuff that happens in between where you have those big fails. For me, it would be that earlier this year, I’ve been trying to put out this particular product. And every time I go to put out the product, I’ve suffered from imposter syndrome, which has held me back from putting it out. And actually, at the time that I went to put it out, my system crashed. So I had to start all over again. And because I’ve had to start all over again, procrastination has set in, so I haven’t really gone to it. For me, that’s an epic fail, because at the time, what I had created looked really good, and was ready to go. I was just held back because of what was happening in my head. Then when I went to launch it, my system crashed. And now I have to start all over again. So that’s an epic fail. An epic win for me would be publishing or releasing my book. Yeah, that would be an epic win for me, I wrote my book for HR professionals to recognize that they weren’t alone in some of the stuff that they were going through. And I wrote it for the HR professionals who are here, that aren’t doing their jobs effectively, to either decide that they want to make a change, or it’s time for them to leave the profession. That’s an epic win for me. And then I created a journal in the workbook to go with it. And I’m really proud of that as well.
Neelie Verlinden: So yeah, thank you so much for sharing those and it does sound like a truly epic win, the book. For people who are watching the video, you can see the book on the background there. For people who are listening in, the book is called Confessions of an HR Pro. Definitely go check it out, Julie. As always, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. And I mean, I may not be an HR for HR coach, but I could have talked about this for at least a day, I think. But so yeah, thank you very, very much for joining me.
Julie Turney: My pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me, Neelie.
Neelie Verlinden: Thank you everybody once again for tuning in. If you haven’t done so yet, please do not forget to subscribe to the channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video. That was all for today. I hope to see you soon for another episode of All About HR. Bye.