How to be an HR hero: from good to great

Scott
Beagrie looks at what it takes to be the best in HR

The
first step towards becoming a great HR professional is to make sure that you
are truly good at what you do and then work upwards. For more than a decade the
profession has been urged (by the great and the good) to become a strategic
business partner and, apologies if you’ve heard it all before, but it is this
shift that lies at the heart of setting you apart as an exceptional performer
who, at the same time, contributes to building a strong company.

So
if you haven’t done so already, you need to start redefining your role. But
talking about what you might do is not enough: you need to make things happen,
and you need to want to make a difference. Becoming great also means placing
the company first, rather than pursuing personal glory.

Ultimately,
you will only be viewed as great if your department, and in turn your company,
performs beyond expectations. So here are five key areas in which you must
excel to elevate your company’s performance – your own fame will naturally
follow.

Acquire
global operating skills

HR
has a critical role to play in an organisation’s development both locally and
internationally. Seize every opportunity to work with international partners
and learn how they do business: how they recruit and train, how their HR
department functions and what the main cultural issues are. Even if your
company isn’t currently operating beyond UK shores, chances are it will be
soon, and if you move on, global operating skills are likely to be a must-have
on the CV.

Demonstrate
you are business/financially savvy    

Familiarise
yourself with reporting and accounting procedures so that you can give a
plausible explanation of every section of an annual report. Keep up-to-date
with the company’s financial performance and understand its business goals, as
well as new products, services and commercial challenges.

“Know
the business and its objectives, strengths and constraints,” says Peter
Pestillo, chairman and chief executive of automotive supplier Visteon
Corporation. “The true test of HR excellence is ‘Does the business succeed?’ HR
must be a series of tools and techniques to foster that objective.”

Take
a leaf out of Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy’s book: as part of her turnaround
strategy, the former head of HR made a friend in finance, who became her “tour
guide”, helping her to decode the company’s balance sheet.

Be
strategic and visionary

Create
time to see the bigger picture and to plan and act strategically. Your role is
no longer simply about today’s HR practices and recruitment policies, but also
next year’s, and those that need to be in place five years down the line.
Having that vision will enable you to recruit outstanding people to meet the
business’s future needs.

Get
a handle on IT and HR technology

Technology
will continue to impact on the way HR performs its duties and the way in which
the workforce is recruited, trained and developed – from web-enabled HR
systems, to video-conferencing and online learning.

In
addition, HR must be aware of the mass of data that is now available to it from
people management systems that can be used strategically to identify skills
gaps, for example. HR cannot afford to abdicate responsibility for it and must
work together with IT to safeguard its stake in future technology.

Develop
an aptitude for change management

Organisational
transformation is a people issue, and HR’s role is central to managing change
effectively. Leading a successful change programme will demonstrate the wider
contribution HR can make to the business, and as such, is likely to prove a
core differentiator. But there are a number of factors HR needs to tackle and
get right, such as resistance to change, accountability, and enterprise wide
performance management.

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