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HR: Finding the Secret Ingredient

Some of my fondest memories from my childhood came from watching my mother baking in our kitchen. It always amazed me that a range of items came together to create such wonderful (and delicious) treats. As I grew older, I began to experiment in my own kitchen and found that I really enjoy the whole process of cooking and baking. There is something calming and satisfying knowing that all your hard work can result in something great.

When I first started out as an amateur foodie, I followed a lot of recipes, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I felt limited, especially when I would follow instructions, and then get something that was dull or “okay”, when I wanted flavour, vibrancy and “yum”! So it was back to the cutting board. And you know what? Over time, I learned my way around the kitchen, getting a gradual feel of what worked, and more importantly, what didn’t. It might have taken years of trial and error, but I’m now more or less comfortable with creating my own recipes and making adjustments along the way in order to turn something that tastes “off” into something that can round out an entire meal and “pop” off the table. Not to say that I don’t go back to using recipes – some are tried and true keepers and others I tuck away for when I want to try something new and don’t know where to start. Inspiration has to strike somewhere!

In many ways, there are all sorts of similarities and parallels to be drawn between cooking and HR. Think of it this way: the fundamentals of HR are the “recipes”—the foundations of a policy, or a template for a process. You can follow the recipe as written and in all likelihood, your end result will be something you can be absolutely satisfied with, or, as you move through your career, you can take those foundations and create your own products based on what you and your organization need. There’s an element of chance involved, sure, but simply through experimenting and thinking outside the [ice]box, you’ll learn what works, what doesn’t, and what to do to personalize those HR fundamentals and make them best suit your needs. And when you move on to the next organization, you may find that what works as a keeper recipe for one client may not necessarily work for the other, and you’ll have to adjust again—but by that point, you’ll be so past the cutting board, it won’t matter that you have to add an extra dash of salt or pepper.

And just like a seasonal pantry, with a rotation of new flavours every so often, the corporate world is constantly changing, and there are always new “ingredients” thrown into the mix. What worked a few years, or even months ago, may not work now – and you have to be ready and willing to adjust your mindset to keep up. Think of it as having a recipe for your mother’s best chocolate cake, but your pantry is out of cocoa – what do you do? Do you scrap the whole thing, or do you adjust and make it a vanilla cake using the same basics from the original recipe? HR is about taking the tried and true, and learning to adapt with what you have on hand. You’re not always going to have every ingredient you need, and you’re not always going to have a group of people who want to eat the same thing, but it’s going to be your job to take what you already have, and use the skills you’ve developed over the years to bake the best cake you can.

The process may not be as calming, but the results can certainly be just as satisfying. I promise. So go on—dig in and give it a taste. Bon appétit!


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