I’ve recently joined a large, complex sales organisation in the newly created role of HR director. The senior management team are quite sceptical about the value HR can add to the organisation. How can I ensure I get their backing and that HR becomes an integral part of their agenda?
As a new HR director, you are in a unique position to really make your mark. The cynics will soon change their minds the first time you help with a problem, so it’s important from the outset that you are viewed as an enabler and a facilitator, but – most importantly – a peer.
I am sure you have developed broad-ranging experience in previous roles, but to really gain respect from the senior team, you must demonstrate the commercial and practical value you can bring. In a newly created role, often the existing team will have no experience of working with an HR professional, and sometimes they are simply unaware of the benefits they can gain by working closely with a senior HR colleague. Your own personal characteristics – self-awareness, empathy, and your ability to build relationships – are key to your success.
It is critical that you cultivate strong relationships and build internal allies with the rest of your management team and CEO from the very start. Network with your peers and opinion-formers – top down and bottom up – to gain a complete view of the organisation. You will lack credibility if you propose solutions based only on your first impressions.
Try to identify a mentor within the senior team who you can work with, or perhaps agree the services of an external coach, at least for your first six months. Setting some short- and medium-term goals is also important, as you can generate some ‘quick wins’. By revising your company car policy, creating a staff handbook, or establishing a career break scheme, for example, you will be seen by your peers to be delivering immediate value.
You should be operating at a strategic level, and ensuring that the business strategy and the HR strategy are fully aligned, so establish with the CEO from the start what their agenda is and develop an HR strategy that supports these goals.
You suggest that your company is very sales driven, so describe in detail how you can make a significant commercial contribution, and demonstrate personal accountability. This will help keep your function top of the agenda and be viewed as a significant contributor to overall business performance.