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Joanna Osuch
Head of People
ExtraORDERnary
18.08.2023 | 5 min

ExtraORDERnary Joanna - Understanding the business is key

Joanna's taken quite the journey, from basic admin and personnel tasks to the heights of strategic employee development that are genuinely pushing our company forward. How'd she pull that off, and why? Let's get the scoop from our Head of People, Joanna Osuch!

ExtraORDERnary Joanna - Understanding the business is key - 2024 32
Table of Contents
  • How did you kick off your journey with HR?
  • Hard (administrative) and soft (strategic) HR – how do you define these terms?
  • What skills do you think are essential for strategic HR?
  • What’s the most significant challenge in HR work for you?
  • So, what's the secret to helping employees sort things out independently?
  • And how did you join the Order Group?
  • So, what do you love most about your job in OG?
  • And any advice for someone wanting to break into HR?

How did you kick off your journey with HR?

Like many stories of this sort, it was a mix of chance and intention. After finishing my history studies, I knew I wanted to make a societal impact. My dad has impaired sight but is very active both in life and professionally, so I figured working in a foundation helping socially excluded people would be fantastic. I chose further studies in social rehabilitation. 

Even though it wasn’t a 100% match to my career aspirations, that’s when I stumbled upon an internal HR role in a big company. I was handling what we often call "hard HR" in Poland.

I worked primarily on administrative tasks for a year, but I also noticed the "soft" side of the job and found myself drawn to it. The people's growth within the company started fascinating me more than my daily operations.

From there, I sought jobs in that direction, and the next HR role I took was directly tied to business support. That's when I also stepped into the IT industry, and for over four years, I've been in IT, focusing on strategic HR.

Hard (administrative) and soft (strategic) HR – how do you define these terms?

The modern form of HR has only been around for about 20-30 years in Poland. Before this shift, HR departments, called "Kadry" (Personnel), mainly handled administrative, payroll, and accounting tasks. However, Human Resources evolved to prioritize a people-centric approach, moving away from just financial operations.

When people hear “soft HR,” which we call strategic HR in Poland, they think of hiring, firing, and organizing fun company events. Employees might love or hate these, but higher-ups often see them as a painful cost, and honestly — often rightly so.

I, however, advocate for strategic HR, which genuinely supports the company's development. It facilitates and accelerates communication between employees, managers, and the board, resulting in a more efficient, smoother, and agile company.

In strategic HR, there is also more room for various types of employees and business-focused specializations, e.g., analytics or strategy. And the deeper you go into strategic HR, the closer its collaboration with the business becomes and the greater the support from the board in strategic actions.

What skills do you think are essential for strategic HR?

From hard skills, understanding the business is key. First, in a broad sense: how companies function, what are the general market rules, economic trends, etc. Then, more specifically: understanding your company's structure, clients, business goals, and growth direction. 

Curiosity and openness are among the most crucial soft skills. To reach the strategic level I mentioned, you must be prepared to step outside your comfort zone and delve into areas you may have little to no knowledge about. And to do so, you need to observe, ask, be inspired, and learn from those who know more than you. 

On top of that, HR, especially at the strategic level, revolves around people. So, it's essential to embrace and value diversity among employees. It's easy to be drawn to those like us, but with such a wide range of personalities in a company, you need to look beyond your natural inclinations.

Within the workplace, seeing the strengths in our differences is crucial. Instead of letting them divide us, we should leverage them to boost and enrich each other.

What’s the most significant challenge in HR work for you?

Working with people is a double-edged sword for me. It's why I love my job, but it's also a major challenge. I get energy from people, but they can sometimes wear me out. 

The real task is managing my time and setting clear communication rules and goals. There was a time when everyone came to me with any sort of questions, and I considered that my professional achievement. 

But I've learned that absolute HR mastery spreads knowledge throughout the team. Now I feel fulfilled when the team solves things amongst themselves, and I'm just there to back them up.

So, what's the secret to helping employees sort things out independently?

First, you've got to understand it yourself. This means learning from others, books, or even formal courses. Once you grasp that HR is at its best when it's not always in the thick of things, you can share that wisdom. 

So it’s about educating yourself and the team and then setting up practical communication tools in the organization. And this isn't just a top-down thing. It's about connecting with everyone, from new hires to management and also peer-to-peer. 

And here's an interesting thing: just like a scrum master aims to step back from the process, I feel a win when the team achieves something without my direct involvement.

So In an ideal world, HR's role would be more in the background — where things just naturally flow. But let's be real; it's not a perfect world, and there's always work to be done. :D

And how did you join the Order Group?

Back in May 2022, a bit by chance. I was in corporate recruiting at the time when I got pinged on LinkedIn by Order Group. Right away, I felt that this company had a lot of room for action, learning, and growth.

At first, I was in a one-person department. But I never felt alone, thanks to the support from management. On the flip side, I enjoyed a good deal of autonomy. They trusted me with space to act and gave a thumbs up to my initiatives.

So, what do you love most about your job in OG?

I get this question a lot, especially from candidates. My go-to answer is always the freedom to act. 

In our company, everyone's voice matters and is heard. There's genuine respect for different viewpoints and ideas. We don't just change things on a whim. We discuss, weigh the pros and cons, and give the green light if it makes sense.

And any advice for someone wanting to break into HR?

The longer I'm in this field, the more I see that "it depends" is a magic phrase in HR and business in general. Things move fast, and there are no guarantees. Sure, there are some basic principles, but every situation has its unique flavor and demands a tailored approach.

So, to tackle HR challenges effectively and to adapt to the evolving landscape, it's crucial to deeply understand your company, your industry, and the broader business environment. 

And this requires a willingness to learn and an openness to new insights.

So there's no one-size-fits-all, and thus being curious, asking the right questions, and being adaptable are, in my opinion, the keys to success in the HR industry.

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