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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Top five qualities of a successful HR Director in 2013


Stephen Archer, director of business consultancy Spring Partnerships, looks at the top five qualities HR Directors need to succeed this year and to remain focused, despite the on-going pressures they face.

Commercial or Organisation purpose awareness
Without a clear understanding of the precise nature of the organisation’s purpose and its challenges it is impossible for an HR manager to effectively lead the task of delivering the right human resources to enable the organisation to succeed. This means that the HR manager must sit alongside the board or be on the executive decision-making team. The execution of any strategy demands the provision of resources. It’s vital to have people with the skills, attitude and experience to be able to deliver on a strategy. The truly engaged HR director through their knowledge of human resources will be able to help develop the best strategy because the knowledge of the ability of the people, individually and as a team, is clearly understood.

The ability of teams and individuals to perform to their utmost is essential. An understanding of appropriate performance guidance, demands, measurement and development is the mark of an HR director that helps the organsiation and its people by never standing still. Performance is dynamic in its nature and so too are the best organisations. Intuition will come into play here, not all performance can be measured in black and white. A feeling will develop for limits and where pre-conceived limits may be stretched in cases.

Development of people
Emotional intelligence is essential in an HR manager. This means an insight and sense as to what others are feeling. This is an essential step in guiding the development of people in line with their real ability and ambition. This can demand creativity in the manner in which people are analysed and inspired to see through clear lenses what can be achieved. Good people development will lead from mere competence to true excellence. This may mean training but people development is not an episodic topic. It’s continual. There will be a focus on the employee and what needs to learned – not just what knowledge is needed.

Clarity or purpose and sustained presence in the role will make an HR director an exceptional contributor. The role demands a direction and consistency that are key to people trusting and relying on HR for guidance and support. Even so, limitations and guidelines must also be set out. The modern complex business has a structure that can seem rigid. A smart HR leader will work within the structure and not let the structure get in the way of the needs of people. A good HR leader will remain committed to the success of the organsiation through its people and teams. Employees respect leaders who are human and who don’t hide behind authority. The best leaders are those who are able to be authentic.

Only a motivated workforce can be an effective one – in the western world this is universally true. An HR director must be committed to the drivers of motivation in all people and especially the line managers who in turn must motivate. Success for all will come from continually understanding the motivation enablers and the motivation disablers. All managers and directors need to understand these components – even the ones that are hard or impossible to fix. This is not just about incentives, it’s about sustaining the reasons to work and believe in the cause(s) and the teams. Commitment to managing motivation cannot be overvalued. Knowledge of the people and their context must be huge and integrated into all decisions.

These qualities are crucial for today’s successful HR director. Times have been hard for all businesses over the past six years and although the recession is over, the pathway to recovery will no doubt be rocky. This all takes its toll on employees. An HR director with these qualities will be able to successfully guide, help and support employees through these tough times, ultimately paving the way for business success.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence