There is never a set time for when an HR professional will feel they are in a strong position to move and face the challenging leap into management, head-on.
But for those that do want to climb the career ladder and become a director within an organisation, there are several factors to consider before jumping in feet first, and also expecting things to happen as soon as they begin their new role.
Therefore, once that CV has been polished and submitted – or a request for a promotion is made – the real challenge is yet to come for many HR leaders, and preparation is absolutely everything.
For the directors of tomorrow, here are four ways to hit the ground running so they can make a true impact within their companies.
- Staying strategic
It is a word used far and wide in the business world – especially within HR – but having a clear-cut plan which remains robust, pragmatic, relevant and focused on an entire organisation’s success can be one of the most valuable competencies a commander-in-chief can bring to the table.
With strategy at the forefront of an HR leader’s mindset, they can focus purely on something greater than the day-to-day operational issues, and consider the bigger picture. Firstly, they must understand the firm’s goals before even considering how each team fits into the mission.
However, it is a challenge to introduce a more strategic focus into a company for any manager – especially if something was not already in place. It is up to the HR professional to remain patient and authoritative in their approach so that they remain focused on the task in hand.
If they get pulled into every single direction possible, fire-fighting a myriad of today’s operational issues – such as key, high-risk Employee Relations (ER) issues, existing recruitment concerns, Learning and Development matters and reward reviews, for example – that will demand time to rectify. The result will be something which can severely hamper a company’s crucial strategic position.
- Understanding the culture
Even an existing employee who has been promoted to the role of HR Director should not expect their ideas to completely transform a ‘way we have always worked’ mentality overnight. It takes time, planning and crucial knowledge.
If someone in a leadership role has a poor grasp of the culture and goals that drive the company, the chief will not only compromise their own credibility, but risk making an unpopular decision which polarises the office and causes in-house disruption.
In this instance, a collaborative, understanding attitude is required, in order to effect positive change. An HR leader has the power and authority to make things better for the company because they can align operations, improve cross-company communications and get the firm to become more fluid in how they adapt to internal and external changes.
But none of that can be achieved if the research into how the company operates is not done at the very first opportunity.
Instead they should investigate the company’s history, structure, position in the growth cycle, future objectives and overall culture, so they can begin to understand the best ways of putting forward more agile ways of working.
Acknowledging this process takes time and – giving it the resource it duly requires – will help the HR leader discover what makes the organisation tick, and which outcomes to focus on first, in order to achieve success for the firm.
- Forming long-lasting relationships
Whether clients, colleagues or the executive board – no person should be forgotten at any stage by the incoming HR leader. And, even if the manager has worked for the firm for a number of years, they should still be eager to continue to build a positive rapport with people throughout the entire organisation.
Truly getting to really know – and accept – how everyone operates can contribute to the ‘buy in’ from allies that an HR leader will crucially need in future. On the flip side, colleagues must be provided with the belief that their leader can affect welcoming change, feel they are being listened to, and their opinion is valued.
Therefore, HR leaders should be taking the time to oversee everything. They should be figuring out how to improve things for the better, and be able to underline the strengths each person possesses – because their key skills could prove to be vital in the near future.
If such necessary groundwork is not done within the early part of an HR leader’s career – and continued throughout their employment – a person can mis-strike the balance completely.
- Communicating effectively
Without talking and leading from the front with authority and authenticity, an HR leader will simply fall at the first hurdle.
An open, honest and personable leader can bring everything together. They can be the ones to set out a strong, streamlined level of communication that everyone follows and where collaborations form successfully. As opposed to mis-informed employees whose actions can impact upon the entire business – especially operationally and strategically.
The best communicators should be agile and willing to embrace how to evolve their communications to suit each team – whether face-to-face, on the phone or via emails. Every group operates differently and understanding that can help a manager make the best impact.
Strong communication, coupled with strategy and operational support, are the gateways to success. It is therefore up to the HR leader to set their stall out from the off and show they are someone teams can approach and who has the company’s progression and overall interests at heart.
There are so many key skills needed for a director to hit the ground running in their new position. It not only takes a certain mindset to be able to step up into a world whereby one wrong decision can be critical, but they must also learn to be patient, authoritative and strategic throughout.
If they get it right, the next HR leader can push towards having a highly fulfilling career within the industry – and create a business culture with operational efficiencies that can withstand the test of time – no matter how unpredictable the economic climate may be.
I am the Founder of ESP Group, a very different employment law firm and HR consultancy business, with our own in-house legal and HR experts. The vision for our business was to deliver an exceptionally personal, yet cost-effective service that truly meets the evolving needs of modern and forward thinking HR teams and their organisations. We’ve recruited some of the very best employment lawyers to make this vision a reality.
I have over 30 years' experience in designing and building specialist service-based businesses and products for the corporate market. At the same time as developing our own fast-growing consultancy business, one of my key roles is to ensure we help busy Human Resources professionals make a real commercial difference to their organisations.
Ours is a notoriously fragmented industry, renowned for being somewhat archaic in its approach to providing customer-focussed, innovative, straight-talking and affordable services. But the legal services market landscape is changing and we truly believe that our integrated ABS law firm and HR consultancy business is at the forefront of this movement.