Human resources can be anything but simple. Amanda King thinks otherwise.
I met King about a month ago when I moderated a breakfast panel for Leadership Harrisburg Area. King and two other authors, Doreen Lecheler and Sylvia Hepler, each spoke of their personal journeys that led them to book publishing.
The title of King’s book, “HR Made Simple,” struck me as anything but. In my own experience, human resource management can be overwhelmingly positive and sometimes draining. But good human resource practices usually reflect a positive work culture.
After the panel, I asked King to share some of her back story with our newsletter readers.
CPBJ: What drove you into a career with HR?
King: Human resources found me. I went to college thinking I’d work on Capitol Hill the rest of my life – I chose my college around that career goal and I chose my internships around that career goal.
I had the good fortune of working for former Congressman Bill Goodling (R-PA) in his Washington, D.C. office. At the time, he was the chairman for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Little did I know that when you work for a chairperson in Congress you do considerable work for the committee. I was exposed to numerous workforce-related laws like ADA and FMLA.
I didn’t like working in government but my experience in Mr. Goodling’s office sparked my interest in the human resources profession. And when I came home to York after college I decided to combine what I learned working on Capitol Hill with my natural ability to recruit and engage members in social activities in college. I started my HR career as a recruiter, and talent acquisition strategies continue to be a core of my business today.
CPBJ: What made you decide to step out on your own?
King: My last corporate position was an incredibly exciting, global position. I was hired to create and implement a strong human resources function for this company. Starting with the fundamentals of a consistent handbook, payroll processes, benefits programs all the way to performance management and succession planning programs.
Over the course of those four years I realized that if a global company had grown to that size without having solid HR programs in place there were certainly other companies that needed that kind of support. That experience was the inspiration for my consulting practice – showing businesses of all sizes that strong HR programs make them a stronger organization.
CPBJ: What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in those footsteps?
King: Make a plan and follow it. If you don’t start with a plan it will make your life – professional and personal – more complicated.
Make adjustments. You won’t know everything when you start out and that’s OK. Allow yourself to make adjustments as time goes on whether that’s related to your market niche, your ideal customer profile or your approach to developing opportunities.
Stay dedicated to your plan and time management. That includes working hard on creating your network and developing your goods/services offering. Make time for yourself since it can be easy to fall into 14-18 hour days when you work for yourself.
CPBJ: Why did you decide to author a book?
King: I’ve heard a phrase consistently throughout my career – “I hate HR.” Why is that? Because it seems confusing and overwhelming and the work can require having difficult conversations. Most leaders want to focus on what it is they do best and avoid the tough people conversations. I wanted to write a book that demystified human resources practices and made HR simple. So the book is titled “HR Made Simple” and focuses on three core areas of HR: recruiting the best talent, engaging that talent, and basic compliance practices. If a company does recruiting and engagement properly the rest is easy.
CPBJ: Share a time with me that you failed at something professionally. What did you do to pick yourself up and what did you learn from that?
King: I’ve allowed myself to get overwhelmed during my career. Either travel felt overwhelming or my workload felt overwhelming or now client support can feel overwhelming.
In the past when I’ve gotten into that state of overwhelm I would retreat, which only made things worse. I’ve worked hard at breaking down some of those natural tendencies of mine. I am committed not to allow my work to take over my entire life. And if I’ve said “yes” to too many clients at one time, I contact them and am honest about my commitments.
Sometimes that means I have to re-set their expectations of my time. Those are tough conversations to have with clients. It is a reminder to be more conscious of what I can handle and setting realistic expectations up front for me as well as my clients.