How well do you know Your Company? Well enough to give the Tour?

by Michael Haberman on August 16, 2012 · 3 comments


One of the long-standing and ongoing complaints about HR is that we don’t know the company business. I have heard it, I am sure you have too. In classes we teach the importance of knowing your company and its business inside and out. But do you? Let me ask you the question, how well do you know your company? Do you know it well enough to give the company tour?

I had the very good fortune early in my career to join a company that emphasized training for newly hired management trainees, sales representatives and HR newbies. We spent 7 weeks learning the business by spending time in EVERY department in the company and becoming familiar with EVERY job in the company. As I was going through my training I ended up talking to employees in the administrative offices who had never spent any time on the manufacturing floor. They were doing their jobs and using terms that really had no meaning to them in the context of the product being made. They were just “terms”.

The proverbial light bulb lit up for me and when I was done with my training I suggested to my boss, the VP of HR, that we could improve people’s jobs if they had some idea of how what they did was connected to what was made. So I was given the “green light” to start a tour for existing employees. Once a week I would take a group of employees, and eventually outsiders, on the tour. This lasted until I got transferred to a plant HR position. But it was fun and I really learned the business. This knowledge was useful, especially when I became the Corporate Recruiting Manager. Once when conducting a tour with a candidate I got what I considered a major compliment when the candidate told me they had never met an HR person who knew their company as well as I did. It made my day! Today I still value that statement.

So if you are interested in really learning your company you need to learn how to conduct the tour. Set up a training program for yourself that allows you to learn everything about your company. Then begin to conduct tours. You too may get a compliment about how well you know the business. And if your boss says it is not necessary, well that may be an indication of the value of HR in your organization.

Do you believe the statement “If you can’t lead the company tour then you don’t know your business”? If you can’t will you still be seen as a business partner? Or is that necessary to be seen as a business partner?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg Moore August 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

Mike,
Sage advice for any HR person desiring to be a true business partner. All too often people get busy with the transactional side of HR, which is important, but if that’s all you do, that’s how you will be seen. Attending staff meetings with other departments, participating in business reviews and understanding proceses and strategies are critical to your success. I’ve been blessed to have folks who have mentored me and helped me develop my style of getting into the business to know and understand it so I can help my ‘customers’. HR pro’s need to do the same with their teams, give them the exposure they need to the business. You will be amazed at the results!

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Nathan F January 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Hi Mike, loved the article and I completely agree with you. HR is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of building a successful company. People are the lifeblood of a company, not products.

I’m coming at this from a different perspective because I work in career consulting and would like to organize company tours for the students I work with–so they can get better exposure to local companies. Could you share some advice on how to approach companies about this and whether or not you think they’d be interested.

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Michael Haberman February 3, 2015 at 10:41 am

Nathan:
Have you approached anyone yet? I think many companies would be interested in conducting such tours, particularly if the students can be future employees. Tell the employer that it is good recruitment advertising, good citizenship, and good company PR. Maybe you can interest a local reporter on what you are doing and get a newspaper article for the company.

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