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Annie Hayes

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How to: Make it to the top of the HR tree

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Mark Carriban, Managing Director of HR recruitment outfit, Hudson offers some top tips.

It has been said that working in Human Resources can be a thankless task. It is a challenging role often underappreciated by senior executives. But it is one of the most rewarding positions in business: there are few jobs more gratifying than developing human talent and placing that talent within a context where natural synergy means both individual and business benefit.

Of course, acknowledging the existence of the challenge is crucial if you want to make it to the top of the HR tree.

What skills do the top HR performers need and how do you acquire them?
Firstly, people are never an easy commodity to deal with, wherever you work, so patience is a good start.

Understanding the commodity you are working with requires a strong ability to listen, to communicate and to understand the complex interrelationships between the abilities of an employee or potential employee, the expectations of the employer and the culture of the overall organisation in question – be it your own or a client’s. The importance of an ability to accurately assess a “culture fit” is becoming increasingly well-known.

But above all else, a solid appreciation of the commercial big picture and needs of your organisation are the foundation stones for becoming a business partner rather than a disparate department. HR is becoming more accountable within the workplace and the focus is shifting towards providing a 'value added' resource with strategic emphasis. HR professionals need to understand and adopt this model quickly to succeed.

Overcoming the occasional executive preconceptions about the superfluous nature of HR requires that you speak their language. Communicating in commercial language goes hand-in-hand with being a successful HR business partner. Unless you can understand and translate business objectives into HR strategies, you have no chance of translating your ideas and proposals into meaningful HR initiatives.

Simply learning and deploying a few voguish business buzzwords, however, is manifestly not what engaging with senior executives means. You will need to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the latest trends and currents having an effect on your business or the business of your client if you are to sound credible. Making HR relevant to senior decision makers is about sounding and being authoritative, rather than reeling off acronyms.

Reading and absorbing annual reports or other corporate literature, as well as the trade and business press, is a good starting point. But if you are serious about being a top HR professional you will need to become an authority on the current state of the market you are operating in, which means attending conferences and industry events. It also helps to have experience of organisations not only in growth but in decline, in order to understand the impact this can have on a company’s culture.

How important is the CIPD qualification?
Being a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is without doubt a valuable asset in your professional HR career. For many employers the CIPD qualification demonstrates that you have achieved a solid grounding in HR and in addition shows a commitment to developing your HR career.

Being a member will allow you access to professional resources such as regular updates on employment legislation and will also allow you to network with other HR professionals within the CIPD Institute. However in line with many professional qualifications, its value is more superior when combined with practical experience within the HR Field.

The variety of HR roles
The HR arena is undoubtedly an extremely diverse industry to work within whatever stage of your career you are at. An HR generalist role could involve you applying your HR knowledge to a wide variety of HR issues from employee relations, recruitment, policy or diversity to learning and development, talent management and compensation and benefits.

You could also choose to specialise if you develop a real interest or skill in one of these particular areas – for example recruitment manager, diversity specialist or employee relations advisor. Furthermore, as HR continues to evolve and becomes more and more aligned to meet business objectives, the need for you, as an HR Professional, to adapt and meet the varied and changing demands of the business is imperative.

Next step: what is the value of networking?

One Response

  1. Making it to the top in HR
    I agree entirely with the comments in this article, but my response is more about why we continue to try and grapple with the same problems faced by HR ‘professionals’since as long as I can remember. I believe very strongly we overlook one vital ingredient….. that we should encourage all those interested in a career in management to view an HR position as another management opportunity. And I will take the opportunity while offering a comment on this article to included it as part of my crusade to stop people in business talking about “challenges”. Has it never occurred to anyone we enjoy opportunities far more than challenges…….especially those top executives who move on when the heat gets a bit unbearable, ostensibly to find another “challenge”. Well hello, which planet do they think we woke up on this morning?? And is not the greatest ‘challenge’ in business the ability to keep a successful operation getting better and better??

    Anyway.

    Those who are most able to fill the requirements outlined in this article will most often, in fact almost always, come from a background where they have spent time in general management at a senior level and then determine they wish to get from their career those objectives mentioned. They will understand about business operations; they can ‘talk-the-talk’; they have lived with problems and frustrations at the coal face; they have had to deal with less than effective HR folk!!!!;. they will be aware of how best to be heard at senior level; and perhaps most important of all if they have been successful, they will be “crafty” enough to know who best to get on side, and how. It is not enough to be lectured to and about these matters. You need to have been there and done it. If anyone disagrees, then ask yourself why it is that so many of those MBA and similarly educated grads now operating at very high levels, do not appreciate and make best use of their HR people.

    And then in their refocused career pursuit, the greatest incentive must be to help others attain goals greater than they anticipated, otherwise, why bother? How close is that to the ideal Team Leader in any situation?

    Enjoy this website very much. Cheers.

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