Uncertain where my weaknesses lie

I have been in HR for many years and have just begun work at a very senior
level for a large UK organisation. Although I’m well qualified and experienced,
I am slightly concerned there may be gaps in my experience that I don’t know
about. I’m looking for development opportunities which would help me ease into
my new role, but I have found very little development which is aimed at senior
HR people. Any suggestions?

Clare Judd, senior consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

You mention that you are well qualified, so I’ll assume you have a post
graduate qualification. As you don’t know where your knowledge gaps lie, I
would suggest several approaches to ensure that you continue to develop your

Networking with peers within and outside your business sector is essential
for benchmarking best practice in other organisations. Useful events to network
could include the CIPD knowledge network groups or breakfast seminars.

By attending short courses or one-day seminars you will continue to develop
and broaden your technical knowledge. There are several seminars aimed at board
or senior level HR professionals and these tend to be advertised in the HR
trade press.

Continue to read the HR trade press, particularly those aimed at the senior
HR professionals (eg BoardroomHR produced by Personnel Today) and supplement
this with specialist journals.

Finally, you could look at having a mentor or coach. Both use processes that
enable individuals to achieve their full potential.

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy

There are a number of options you may want to consider.

Many senior people have felt the need for mentors. While in the past a
mentor was seen as a sign of weakness, they are now often seen as a fundamental
part of senior management development programmes.

The CIPD is introducing new standards from 1 June 2002. You may want to
think about benchmarking your knowledge and skills against these, particularly
the higher level ones. There are some colleges and consultancies which can
support you to gain Certificates of Competence against the standards.

Have you also tapped into your local professional networks? It is often the
case that they are developing both formal and informal programmes to support
the development of their members.

Peter Wilford, consultant, Chiumento

If you are in a senior role it is likely that you are looking for some help
in developing your strategic vision and keeping up-to-date with HR initiatives
– you could consider a short business strategy course. If you are concerned
about your overall level of business knowledge then it could be worth
considering an MBA. Make time to read books and articles about the latest ideas
and business theories. To update your HR knowledge, network with colleagues in
other organisations to understand the types of initiatives they are

You may also consider mentoring/coaching. It is not clear whether you are
the senior HR person but, if so, the obvious person would be a senior line
manager or director. Also, you need to stay abreast of developments.

An experienced HR professional from outside the organisation might be your
best bet here, particularly someone with a breadth of experience like an
interim manager.

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