Humans of HR is a bi-monthly blog series in which we feature human resources thought leaders who are committed to making work more human.
Victorio Milian started his human resources career in 2003, working in recruitment. After holding various roles in performance management and compensation and benefits, he took a consultant role at an HR consultancy firm called Humareso. In his day-to-day role, he is the HR director of a not-for-profit preschool for kids with special needs – a particularly vulnerable population.
Workhuman: Can you tell me more about your role?
Victorio: I'm surrounded by small children all day long, and I do everything – supporting recruitment and onboarding efforts, compliance, professional development, and total rewards, as well as managing their HRIS system and supporting their initiatives to support the families and kids they serve.
Workhuman: What does working human mean to you, especially in this context of working around children?
Victorio: It's seeing the direct link between the strategy that is implemented within an organization and its impact on the staff and other key stakeholders. We have an open policy where if the staff want to give me their opinions about our strategies, they can. For me, working human means having those conversations not only with key stakeholders like the executive team and supervisors, but also the teachers in the classroom.
Workhuman: How do you help the people around you work more human?
Victorio: I try to balance policy and procedures with the day-to-day realities of the staff. Ninety-two percent of the staff here are women – many parents, and many single mothers – and they have unique challenges and realities that we must consider. A big challenge is time and attendance; being able to secure child care services that allow them to get their children to daycare and then to work on time is a reality.
We work with staff members to understand their challenges as they may relate to time and attendance. It's not just a black and white, ‘Well, you were late five times. I have to give you a verbal warning.’ It's, ‘Well, we see a pattern here, so let's have a conversation around how we can help you avoid progressive discipline.’ And if it's a true legitimate issue, then we work with that individual to have some flexibility to accommodate that need so they can have peace of mind to be able to perform their job.
Workhuman: I can imagine it's tough to balance flexibility because preschool children are often on regimented schedules. Is that right?
Victorio: Pretty much. That's part of why it's important to have the conversation. We have to be able to say, ‘OK, here's what we can do to accommodate your particular needs, but this is contingent upon you still being the best employee you can be.’ We tend to find that they're relieved when we have those conversations. Often, altering their schedule by just 15 minutes gives them enough flexibility. And because we were able to codify an adjustment that works for them, they are then able to deliver on their part in terms of supporting the kids and the families.
Workhuman: Can you tell me a story about a challenge someone has faced and how you helped them overcome it?
Victorio: We created a workforce development program based out of the school because we recognized the need for certified teacher assistants here in New York City, for our particular program and broadly speaking. We also hired a workforce coordinator to lead that program. They have the experience, they have the passion, they have the drive. However, they started having personal challenges at home, and they would contact me and say, ‘I can't come in today’ or ‘I'm going to be late because of this emergency that came up.’
I sat down with the individual to say, ‘I’d rather know before I walk in the door at work. If that means texting me at 2 a.m., do not hesitate. By the time I walk in, I want to already have a plan in place to be able to support you around your needs.’ When they heard that, they were relieved. They thought because they were a new employee that this would be a strike against them. By having that conversation with them, they were able to realize, ‘OK, this situation is not a threat to my job as long as I communicate in advance.’ The relationship has gotten a lot better as a result.
Workhuman: What do you think is the greatest need in terms of making work a better place?
Victorio: This is a not-for-profit, which means money is always an issue. Shortages in terms of compensation and benefits are a real distraction to the staff. If health benefits somehow were magically covered, or if the salaries were better for living here in New York, my staff would be in a much better position to give more of themselves to the kids and to the families. They already make tremendous sacrifices to work intently with kids with autism, physical delays, verbal delays, or behavioral issues, and with families who may be homeless or going through other stresses outside of school. Making work better would mean eliminating those distractions that prevent people from coming in and doing their jobs well – you know, if I had a magic wand.
Workhuman: Do you have any hopes or predictions for the future of HR?
Victorio: In certain arenas, HR is going to really transform. It's going to be more data-driven, and I think HR is going to continue down the path of being more high-touch, strategic, technology-driven.
Workhuman: I hear you went to Workhuman Live in Nashville. Did you have a good time?
Victorio: I did. This was my fifth event.
Workhuman: Is there anything you learned that you’re able to bring back to your job?
Victorio: Just soaking up all that good energy and then bringing it back has been a benefit to me. There's also been some practical stuff as well – having a strategy around recognizing the individuals who support your organization. We do in practical ways here, and it's helpful for us because we already know that from a total rewards perspective, we can never compete with larger not-for-profits or the New York City Department of Education. We have to find other ways to motivate people to show up and do good work, so there's been some takeaways in regard to showing gratitude.
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