Jun 15, 2020 | Clare Chiappetta, MA, HRCI Contributing Writer
Putting People First: Yvette George’s HR Journey
Yvette George, PHR has spent her entire career serving people. While she’s shifted between the private and public sectors throughout her career, her dedication to the people she serves has never wavered.
“I’ve been doing human resources for about 25 years now,” George says. “It is my purpose.”
George’s passion and purpose have been apparent throughout her career. From her experiences in the Navy to her position as Henrico County’s new head of human resources, facilitating equity and supporting her workforce through change have been her top priorities. Here’s how George’s love for people powered her HR journey.
Exercising Her Love for People Through HR
Like many people, George didn’t intend to pursue a career in HR. She lucked into it. “I found my niche in HR back in the military,” George says. Her Military Occupational Specialty in the Navy was originally as a radioman. However, the person assigned to personnel in her unit didn’t report, so George stepped up. “I was asked to man the personnel station in Guam,” George says. “I was 19 years old at the time, and that’s when I found out that HR was an area I’d like to focus on.”
That moment sparked a lifelong career in HR public service. Her next move was a bachelor’s degree in organizational development and management with a concentration in HR. “I started off as an HR assistant and moved my way up,” George says. “It was constant growth.”
From her experiences working with people, George learned a lot about equity in the workplace, from overcoming biases to simply keeping an open mind and the value of connection. “It’s all about the people,” George says. “I have a very strong love for all people.”
Putting Equitable Policies First
Although she’s worked in both the public and private sectors, George is drawn to the public sector because it’s easier to ensure equity for all. “People have better opportunities because the public sector outlines the processes and procedures that everyone has to adhere to,” she says. Equity is an imperative of the public sector, and that focus aligns with George’s approach to HR. “Whether you’re the CEO or the janitor, if something is happening in the organization you deserve to be heard,” George says.
George is passionate about equal access across all facets of work. Equity begins with policies and procedures, George points out. Equitable practices in day-to-day work won’t move the needle on equity unless they’re backed by organizational policies. “You have to ensure that the policies work for all,” George says. “When I take over my new role as director of HR for Henrico County, that will be my first task.” This effort should extend from job posting access to equitable healthcare options everyone at your organization can afford — and everything in between.
Relying on Certification During Change
A self-proclaimed “wild child,” George’s military background has given her the discipline to withstand rapid change. “My parents planted the seed of self-discipline,” George says, “but the military watered that seed and helped it to grow.” Certification provides a similar discipline in her HR career. Continuing education credits for recertification are vital to keeping pace with the velocity of change in the workplace. “Certification keeps me in the know,” George says. “Right now you blink and something changes.” Not staying up-to-date, she points out, could result in a lawsuit.
She also believes that HR has to be a change agent, and certification supports that. Understanding the shifting landscape of HR over the years has helped George merge the different generations in the same workplace, from modernizing methods to helping older employees learn technology and maintain equal access. “Even with the changing times, you’re always going to need people in HR,” George says.