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Seven ways to accelerate your HR career

Written by: Stephanie Sparrow
Published on: 1 May 2017

Seven ways to accelerate your HR career

Have you got what it takes to rise to the top? Stephanie Sparrow asked the experts for tips on HR career progression.

From the challenges of Brexit, to ensuring that work is meaningful, this is a fascinating time to work in HR. But are HR professionals in danger of losing the plentiful new opportunities ,  to colleagues from other departments? Anecdotal evidence says that they are being overlooked for major roles, with organisations opting for those whom they perceive have a holistic view of the business, not just their immediate responsibilities.

“I have seen people coming into HR from operations for example”, says Nick Goldberg, CEO UK and Ireland of talent development and transition company LeeHecht Harrison Penna. He urges ambitious HR professionals to hold their own by “showing how they are adding value”.

So, it pays to prove your worth. But which attributes will catch the recruiter’s eye, or alert your department that you are a rising star? Have a look at our seven suggestions to accelerate your HR career in 2017.

1. Prioritise the employee experience

Chief executive of the RSA and chair of the Review of Modern Employment Matthew Taylor is championing decency and fairness in the workplace

At the same time, employees are becoming more vocal, and organisations are becoming better listeners; more than half the HR professionals who responded to the CIPD Workday HR Outlook Survey said that their organisation has improved the communication channels over the past 12 months, either through formal initiatives or more conversations with line managers.

Employees want to put themselves first, as the 2017 Sodexo Global Workplace Trends report points out. Commenting on the findings futurologist James Bellini says that: “an increasingly ‘blended’ workforce – reaching beyond the boundaries of the enterprise to external networks and fluid ‘gig’ ecosystems – will be much more self-aware and demanding. It will seek out corporate cultures that prioritise the employee experience, with a strong focus on individual health and well-being, the realisation of personal brand potential and a commitment to diversity and good corporate citizenship.”

2. Talk to the customer

As well as listening to employees, successful HR professionals in 2017 will be those who talk to clients and suppliers.

Goldberg recommends attending client meetings with the aim of “understanding the company’s purpose”. Developing such knowledge can be useful to shape conversations with employees.

3. Look outside

Don’t wait until you have a job interview to observe what lies beyond your organisation.

“Our role in HR is to be the function that shows the business what’s happening outside”, says Karen Moran, director of the Disruptive HR consultancy.

“You’re not doing your organisation any good if you are too internally focussed,” she says. “Those emails and endless meetings are just a distraction.  Get out and about, talk to your employees, your leaders, leaders outside, other organisations, offer to speak at events, experiment with the new  – even failing is good”, says Moran.

4. Innovate

From deploying artificial intelligence to managing data, organisations are under pressure to be innovative. Career-hungry HR professionals maximise this impetus.

“How can we support the business if we don’t take time to innovate ourselves?” says Moran.

“So, if you’re looking to progress in your organisation you should be continually innovating.  Take the time to understand the latest HR products on the market, the latest trends in how we motivate individuals, what’s cool in reward, what’s different in L&D and so on.”

5. Show gig savviness

As reports that more than half of HR directors expect the gig economy to grow, and at the Sapience HR consultancy director Sue Hook predicts that it will continue to have a great impact on HR professionals as the working population seek the most efficient ways of working, and others juggle multiple jobs.

Thanks to the impact of recent case law she expects to see a new series of claims for employment rights. 

“As happened with zero-hours contracts, it is entirely likely that a review of gig economy workers’ status, rights and contractual implications will follow in order to plug any loopholes that allow unscrupulous employers to exploit those working in this category”, she says.

6. Be curious

Exceed interviewers’ expectations by being interested in the new.

“I’d want a HR person who can show they are curious and ready to try out new things that their sole purpose is to help my organisation create the right conditions for employees to do their best work”, says Karen Moran.

“To demonstrate this in an interview you need to be thinking about it right now – talking to people not just in HR but in marketing, technology, leaders, employees. Network, listen and read about what successful other organisations are doing that is working for them.

“This requires confidence that you can let go of the comfort blanket which I too have been guilty of holding on to in the past – that years of HR knowledge and best practice will serve us well”, says Moran.  

7. Tell your story

Accelerate your career by conveying your expertise says Sue Hook.

“Show the impact you have had”, she says. “Talk about real examples of what have done and the impact on your company”.

Explain the financial benefits of your initiatives she says, because conveying cost saving links actions to outcomes. “For example talk about how reducing short-term sickness absences has saved x amount over three years”.  

She adds that having a career plan will help to accelerate your career.

“It’s about having a clear idea about where you want to go, and doing something every day towards that, such as networking with someone.”

She adds that it doesn’t have to be rigid. “A plan is a shape; it can change and it can alter, but it encourages you to seek information and make a choice.”