Career-minded HR professionals gleaned the secrets of how to make it at a career seminar held at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) annual conference and exhibition, where they learned that the CIPD qualification is not all that is required.
Simon Howard, of Work Group plc, chaired the interactive ‘career’ seminar in which Mike Watts, professional development director for the CIPD, Mike Haffenden, founder of Strategic Dimensions, Alison Levy, director of HR at Crime Reduction Initiatives, and Samantha Allen, managing director of Boyden UK Global Executive Search, shared their secrets of making it to the top of the HR tree.
Allen said that qualifications play their part for entry HR level jobs but in the realms of senior and board management, business experience is what is valued: “Great HR directors can sit around the boardroom table and it may not be apparent what discipline they sit in. They could be a marketing director because they understand the dynamics of the business so well.”
However, Watts told delegates not to ignore the part that qualifications play: “Any profession requires some form of accreditation. HR will never require qualifications to practise but there is evidence that it is moving that way – you only have to look at the number of jobs that require CIPD qualification to see that.”
But Haffenden said that the CIPD qualification only holds value when it is coupled with other attributes and, drawing on her own experience, Levy told delegates: “I didn’t do the CIPD qualification until I reached HR manager level. I found it easier to do once I had that background. The jobs that I’ve got have not been because I had the academics but the experience.”
According to Haffenden, HR professionals could do worse then becoming experts in negotiating, selling and planning the skills that are required in the business world, according to him.
Criticising HR professionals for being “jargon-rich and knowledge light,” Haffenden went on to tell delegates that depth and breadth of knowledge was what was required to really make it: “You wouldn’t want poor knowledge from your dentist. You must have a depth of learning and the CIPD qualification doesn’t really provide that, knowledge is what you need in a senior role.”
Allen added that it was just as important to have knowledge of HR as the business area that the function works in: “Irrespective of level you have to read the broadsheets every day and know about the sector you work in.”
Watts added that being able to demonstrate achievements was also important: “It’s not about being a great people person. The real value is turning people into a value for the organisation and it’s our job to demonstrate how that’s been achieved.”
On sector experience the panel were split. Allen told delegates that the more multi-sector and multi-function experience they got the better; Levy, who has worked in all three sectors, agreed but Watts said: “You’ve got to be able to solve complex problems. I’m not convinced you need to change sectors all the time.”
Concluding the panel offered the following top tips:
- Obtain different experiences:
- Keep taking on/asking for assignments
- Know your stuff
- Be a people expert
- Develop your skills in critical reasoning
- Know the organisation you work for
- Contract well
- Build a portfolio of evidence
- Know who you are and what you like doing
- Build your personal brand