Learn Your Industry, Know Your Company’s Competition, and Know How Your Company Makes Money

Most organizations sell a product, sell a service or receive funding for their operations. You job is to understand how that money comes in, how it is spent, and how and/or when the organizations makes money. You know that you understand this when you can explain it, in detail, to someone else.

Is your industry contracting, growing or staying the same? Are your company’s profits growing? Are you products competitive? How are your receivables, cash flow, and margins?
Human resources gurus talk about being business partners. You can only be a business partner if you understand business –deeply.

There are many sectors of the economy where experience in a particular industry is vital to being hired in senior levels of human resources. However, in many smaller organizations or at lower levels in the department, industry experience is not always a bar to being hired. The challenge, then, is to demonstrate your interest in learning about this new industry and how your role fits. Many human resources professionals, however, are afraid to ask any questions for fear of looking unknowledgeable or foolish. Little does one realize, however, that people like to talk about themselves.

In technology companies, it is not at all uncommon for the techno-geeks to look down upon the administrative staff because they understandably haven’t a clue about the technology. The real success story comes when the human resources professional puts forth effort to learn and understand the technology.

How should you proceed, you ask?

  • Read industry periodicals.
  • Find a manager you can trust and ask them to teach you.
  • Do external research.
  • Learn how the organization makes money.
  • Learn how the industry has evolved and where it is going.
  • Ask your experts how you can contribute from a human resources perspective.
  • Take a course.

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