I have worked in HR since I graduated nine years ago. I have completed my
CIPD studies and have a Masters degree. Although my career has steadily
developed, I’m beginning to feel that my lack of ‘real’ business experience
outside HR may be slowing my progress. Any suggestions?
Victoria Wall, managing director, Victoria Wall Associates
Having gained nine years experience, you will be regarded as an HR expert by
your colleagues and line management; however the more ‘business’ knowledge you
can demonstrate, the more opportunities will open up to you. Lack of experience
will not slow your progress, if you make every effort to gain real business
knowledge of the industry sector in which you work.
Ensure you are up to date with new developments within your organisation and
industry sector, read trade rather than just HR press, and if possible attend
internal meetings and training courses as an observer. Good business acumen
shown by knowledge of the ‘bottom line’ and by understanding the sector you are
working in will raise your credibility internally and develop your career to
the next stage.
Grant Taylor, consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes
It would be interesting to find out why you feel your progress is slow and
how you are measuring your progress. It could be you are ready for your next
move up the ladder and feel you lack experience at a business rather than
departmental level. With your good academic background you now need practical
experience at the next level, and to gain this you need to add a ‘business
perspective’ to everything you do.
You need to consider how you may be able to add value to the bottom line of
the business from an HR perspective and then be proactive in taking your ideas
to the senior management team.
By doing this you may find yourself included more readily in strategy planning
and business level decision-making. If you are unsure about how you may achieve
this, you need a mentor to learn from. Attach yourself to someone you can learn
from by for example, asking to shadow the HR director in some of their work, or
consider moving on to somewhere where you will have more involvement at this
level if that is not possible where you are now.
Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS Consultancy
While you may read about the HR impact on the business in this and other
magazines, the reality is that many organisations do not yet recognise the
contribution HR can bring to business effectiveness. This can be attributed to
a number of factors; for example the lack of opportunity to be involved in the
business, the perception of senior staff on the role of HR, the need for HR to
balance business needs with a professional and ethical approach to the people
You need to look at your organisation and see if any of the above applies.
If you think not, you need to push for more involvement. Give the senior team
examples of how HR can better support the business.
If you feel your present organisation will not be supportive, move on. You
may consider a general management role to broaden your experience and then look
to move back into HR at a later date.