Punk Rock HR Question 32: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?


Happy Friday. Let’s not pretend like you’re working, Suckers. We have another punk rock question and this one is a doozy. I need your help. Grab a donut and let’s go!

Dear Laurie,

I’m the HR coordinator for a large, dual-employer hospital department, handling the payroll and personnel paperwork for our 300+ employees. I despise payroll. It might not be so bad if it were electronic, but both employers (one with several thousand employees, the other with over 24,000 employees) use paper-based systems. After reading many job postings, I realize that I’m still not qualified to be an HR assistant in a lot of companies because I lack the experience in actually using HRIS or handling benefits implementation. However, I cannot stand doing this payroll work much longer!

Should I stay or should I go?

Reasons to leave: Payroll, payroll, freakin’ payroll. Also, half of our employees work for a university, which has the most inane, user-hostile procedures for EVERYTHING you can imagine. Since most of our employees’ wages are linked to cost centers which have expiration dates, many employees also have expiration dates. To extend the expiration date, the paperwork has to be reviewed and approved by at least four different departments, and can be held up for days or even weeks (if they expire, they don’t get paid). If someone gets a raise, great, not only does it go through the same review process, but I have to calculate any retroactive pay and submit even more forms to get that paid out. (funny, other companies use these things called “computers”) Whining about the university aside, I’m not getting much exposure to the broad range of HR. Onboarding, I do all the time. Personnel folders, I’m surrounded by the darned things. I have no experience with PeopleSoft or other HRIS packages because we don’t do anything electronic in our office. (the hospital’s parent org uses Lawson, which I cannot access; the university uses an ancient system with a command-line interface, and I have limited read-only access) Oh, sure, I’ve been playing with computers since 1980 and spent years in IT support, but I can’t claim HRIS skills and thus would be weeded out by any resume-scanning software. Benefits? Compensation? Employment Law? Nope, those are outside my scope – both orgs have separate departments for those. The department’s administration handles employee relations issues.

Reasons to stay: There are many, believe it or not. The administration trusts me to do my work. I have tremendous autonomy and schedule flexibility. Now that a second AA is in our office and has taken over some of the paperwork (unfortunately, none of the university stuff), I have – in theory – time to work on projects. My interest is training & development, maybe OD eventually, and I have projects in mind that would benefit the department and at the same time give me valuable experience in planning, implementation, and evaluation of T&D efforts. I haven’t been able to work much on the first project, because stupid emergencies keep cropping up – caused mainly by the university procedures, of course – but I intend to do a lot on my own time because of the value to me. The pay is quite decent (high 30s, metro DC, still working on my bachelor’s) and the bennies are excellent (22 days of annual PTO!). I hardly ever see my boss, but she’s easy to work with on those rare occasions when she’s not swamped with meetings/calls.

My options as I see them… I could leave to take an HR Assistant position elsewhere. This would almost certainly bring me broader HR experience. This would almost certainly take away all of the scheduling freedom and responsible autonomy I have now; I might gain the latter back, eventually, but how long would it take? Also, the more I read HR blogs and the SHRM forums, the more I realize that I want to be a specialist and not a generalist. Besides, it’s not that easy to land a position – I applied for about 15 carefully-chosen assistant positions last winter, used tailored resumes and cover letters for most of them, and only got two interviews (one position was promising but lost its funding, the other would have been a lousy fit on both sides). At this time of the year I would be competing against all those Bright Young Things with freshly-printed diplomas, not a chance…

Option #2 is to take a position as a training assistant. The work would be mostly scheduling and registration, as is appropriate for entry-level, but I would (in theory) learn a lot about T&D and could work my way up.

Option #3 is to stay put. Maybe I can tolerate the soul-destroying parts of my job long enough to (1) finish my BS and bank enough cash that I can do grad school full-time, and (2) work on the projects I have in mind, thus gaining critical experience. The hospital has its own T&D/OD department (it’s small, but in our office building – I’m going to talk with them, of course) and corporate has its own T&D division – maybe I can make the lateral move eventually.

Option #2 is the most appealing right now, but the only positions I’ve seen advertised recently are seeking experience. I do have a little training coordinator experience from a previous techie job, and yes, I have a tailored resume that emphasizes this. Option #3 might be the most sensible, but the whole “soul-destroying” thing is a bit of a downer.

Any words of wisdom? Help!

Suckers, what do you think? I’m going to mix things up and leave my thoughts in the comments section.

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