“When you scan an organisation for rising stars, it’s rare to hit on someone from HR.” So says Martin Reddington, author of a new wake-up call for the HR profession, Transforming HR – creating value through people, published this month.
Unfortunately, says Reddington, HR people are seen as passive and lacking in confidence, and that ‘old chestnut’: lacking understanding of the business, which hardly bodes well for any career progression.
The irony is, of course, that HR professionals spend their days facilitating career progression and growth for others, often overlooking the old adage ‘physician heal thyself.’
“It’s time for HR to build social capital,” says management expert Catherine Bailey, of Cranfield University. What she means is that HR people need to create their own learning opportunities which raise their profile and credibility within an organisation, and which ultimately give the profession more standing in the business community in general.
“The people who are really successful are those who are well connected,” she says. The way to build these effective connections is through informal learning-employing methods, such as mentoring or networking.
“Look at external networking, for example,” she says. “Not just in HR but also in the industry arena so that you are able to provide a cogent view of what is leading edge for other businesses.”
But with all informal learning, the key is to plan your time and efforts carefully. “Don’t start with the ‘how’, but with the ‘what’. Look at what you need to know and think how and where you are going to find that information or contact. Keep your efforts focused,” says Bailey.
At GNER, HR director, Mike Goodie, agrees with the need for focus. “ If you want to get ahead in your career, know yourself, and be good at your craft,” he says.
“Informal learning works when it is targeted. Try to keep up a dialogue with experts whom you can bounce ideas off. Use networks that have developed with a focus or a discipline and find people whose integrity you respect,” he says.
What is it? Mentoring is based around a one-to-one developmental dialogue, says professor Bob Garvey, head of the Mentoring and Coaching Research Unit, based at Sheffield Hallam University.
“It can include personal and work-related issues, which may impact on work performance, but t