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How to Become a HR director

Published on: 24 Aug 2015

A HR director role is generally regarded as the pinnacle of a HR professional's career within the workplace. It is the most senior HR position within most companies, and is the next logical step you should be looking to take if you are currently in a HR management role.

While in larger companies, the role of a HR director tends to be more strategic than operational, there may be a need in smaller companies for directors to take a much more 'hands-on', operational role.

While it is certainly difficult to attain a HR directorship role, due to the amount of competition that these positions often command (for instance, there are usually many more HR managers at any one time then there are HR directors!), there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of success.

Learn the strategic side of HR

Many HR managers can perform their daily tasks perfectly well simply through mastering the operational side of Human Resources. However, making the step to directorship will also involve you spending a great deal of time learning and becoming confident in the strategic side of the role.

These strategic tasks may include:

  • Creating and implementing a thorough change management program
  • Overseeing and participating in mergers, takeovers and acquisitions
  • A greater focus on succession planning and talent management

While most HR managers will be familiar with these tasks, only a few will have had any direct experience in actually dealing with them at any meaningful level.

If you are serious about making the step up to HR director, you need to begin studying and learning about these strategic elements with immediate effect.

Learn to manage upwards

If you are already a HR manager, chances are that you have become pretty good at 'managing upwards'. However, to become a HR director you are going to have to take this ability to a whole new level.

HR directors will most normally report directly to the CEO or COO of a company, and may often find themselves reporting directly to the shareholders themselves.

These are people with an enormous amount of experience in business, and at this level you will not be reporting only on matters of HR, you will be reporting on the effect of your department on the overall business itself.

To withstand these new pressures, it's important that you practice the art of managing upwards with senior figures in the company as soon as you possibly can.


HR directors are very often the public face of a company's HR function. To that effect they are often expected to attend industry seminars, conferences and networking events.

As a HR manager, you may have never had the opportunity or inclination to attend these events, but you must now face the reality that they are necessary to you performing the job of HR director successfully.

However, you can start attending these events while still in your management position. HR conferences take place up and down the country on a weekly basis, so the best thing you can do at this point is to start getting involved with as many as you can, and start making new connections with other influential HR figures.

This will help you enormously when you begin to interview for HR director roles – as the old saying goes, 'It's not what you know, it's who you know'. The more influential people you are acquainted with, the more you increase your chances of landing your first directorship role.

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