Justin Harris, PHR, M.B.A. is an HR Practitioner and Cigar Aficionado specializing in Employee Relations, Management Development and Organizational Behavior. He has spent the last 10 years helping managers in higher education, banking, and in the retail industry get the most out of themselves and their employees. Justin prides himself on being an “Unlikely HR Guy” and uses practical, everyday examples to teach lessons on employee engagement, communication and self development.
1. Most job postings cite “X” years of relevant work experience and specific education criteria as requirements to be considered for the position. With this in mind, what prior work experiences and degrees/certifications/training helped prepare you for your current role?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work in great environments that have prepared me for my current role as an HR Generalist. My combination of retail, banking and customer service experience have given me the foundation I need to successfully work with and manage all types of people.
My Undergraduate degree is in Journalism/Public Relations and I have an MBA in Human Resources Management. I also earned my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification about a year ago. While those things help me on paper, none of them mean a thing to the employee that is having a hard time and needs someone to talk to. None of the letters behind my name have helped me to empathize with groups of employees when difficult messages have had to be communicated. They’ve set a great professional foundation for me, but nothing beats real live service and work in the trenches.
1B. What (if any) additional knowledge or skills that you don’t currently have would make you even better at your job?
I’ve always had a desire to study employment law on a higher level. I’ve always felt that would give me the perfect combination of “people” skills and legal expertise to truly be a one-stop-shop in HR.
2. Some jobs require the incumbent to be very analytical. Others require one to be a strong communicator, and others still require traits like patience, the ability to multitask, self-directedness, comfort with ambiguity, and exceptional attention to detail. Are there any behaviors and/or attributes that you would say are essential to performing the work that you do?
Working in higher education requires me to work with very strong personalities and a wide range of employees on many different educational, economic and professional levels. I think a critical trait to have in my space is endurance. Endurance is key because universities are extensions of state government and change is slow and oftentimes painful due to bureaucracy and a majority of employees being afraid of change.
3. Jobs guru Lou Adler says there are only 4 job types of jobs in the world (producers, improvers, builders, and thinkers). Which type of job are you in?
My dominant role would be Builder with a little Improver mixed in. I can take a good thought and help it to become a great plan. The improver in me is able to evaluate most things and make the necessary tweaks to make things run smoother and more efficiently.
4. Does your job involve either directly or indirectly supervising or managing people? If so, how many direct (or indirect) reports do you have?
Management is my passion. I’ve been blessed to have lead teams that have made major impacts in major companies. Fortunately and unfortunately, no one CURRENTLY reports directly to me. This allows me the freedom and time to develop training and development FOR the managers and leaders in my organization.
5. How does what you do impact the business? Think complexity (different types of impacts) and scale (degree of impact). Put another way: Who and what would be impacted if your job wasn’t being done well, and why would it matter that they were impacted?
Since I’ve been with the University, I’ve really served as a spokesperson for the Office of Human Resources. I help to ensure that our office is more accessible and more transparent than what employees have been accustomed to. My main objective has been to not only change the way we do business but to change the way the employees and the Administration view us, our profession and our impact on the bottom line and our culture. I’m also counted on to ensure that we are embracing technology and staying ahead of the HR curve.
6. Is your job safe? Rate its safety on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being “seated all day in an air conditioned vault” and 10 being “I’m an astronaut going into space”. If your job isn’t safe, what working conditions (specifically) make it hazardous?
I feel extremely safe at work. We are fortunate to have our own Police Department right on campus. Their headquarters used to actually be directly beside our office…so we had the safest seat in the house. Given all of the school incidents that are in the news, I’m proud of my Organization for not only having FEMA approved Emergency Readiness plans, but a new office of Emergency Management that constantly monitors any potential threats and disasters.
Personally, I mix up my routine by spending enough time in my air conditioned vault and walking around campus to different offices meeting and getting to know people. So to finally answer your question (laughing), I guess it’s a 5!
7. Is there anything I missed that people should know about your job? Is there anything else you want to say about what you do?
Just that I’m extremely happy to be in it. My University has given me the autonomy to try new things and to lead several new and exciting projects. They also allow me the flexibility to pursue other things I love, such as blogging and participating in networking and development activities such as those sponsored by SHRM and the College and University Professionals Association – Human Resources (CUPA-HR), where I was recently appointed as President-Elect of the Tennessee Chapter.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.