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Life of HR

On Saturday 25th of February 2017 I presented a session on the DNA of an Ideal HR Director, this was based around research by Hays Recruitment and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). This was part of an event organised by Lancashire CIPD Volunteer Committee and the lovely branch chair Jenny Bond invited me to speak.

The survey had been conducted at a time of significant change for the UK economy and for HR professionals both HAYS and the CIPD wanted to sound out the views of the HR profession and open a debate on:


  • What do they think are the skills and capabilities required by the ideal HR Director as we emerged from a global financial crisis?
  • Are the skills and capabilities needed in the future any different from those needed now?
  • And what are the perceptions that junior professional have about the role of their senior colleagues compared to those of the HR Director themselves?

The research focused on three areas:

  • Strategic credibility
  • Business knowledge/acumen
  • Personal credibility

My session was 45 minutes long, it was impossible to cover the full report in this time, plus I wanted make it an interactive session. I shared the research with the audience then gave them the opportunity to share their views. The first question was? What are the key capabilities required by an ideal HR Director in order to contribute to and advance strategic level planning? The report identified the strategic credibility priorities of a leader were:

  • Cultivating a high performance culture the ability to foster collaboration
  • Knowledge sharing across the organisation and encourage a culture of innovation
  • The need to develop a far greater understanding of social media and the opportunities it provides

The audience agreed with the research particularly when it came to social media, I asked for a show of hands from the audience regarding how many of them had a LinkedIn account. Most of the 70-strong audience put their hands up. However when asked if their account was currently in use and frequently up-dated it was a different story! One of my personal recommendations was that as a credible professional in the current climate it was imperative that you create ‘brand you’ which means making sure you use all the tools available to you to get your message out there.

LinkedIn – Key facts and figures

  • 476 million + registered users
  • Fast growing – more than 2 new members per second
  • Global reach – over 200 countries and territories in 24 languages
  • More than 40 million students and recent college graduates
  • 40% of users visit Linked In daily.

Peter Cheese in this month’s People Management states that, “Professionalism is also about belonging to a wider community”! As HR professionals, we need to create our brand and share it as widely as possible. Another community that we should make the most of is the CIPD itself with a community of 140,000 members worldwide.

Business knowledge and acumen

What are the key capabilities required by an ideal HR Director in order to understand and contribute to business operations and planning?

They need to support the business but with a growing external focus, what are the current global trends and what will be their impact? Understand and support the value chain/business drivers and help to actively build sustainability through strategy and policy. It is vital that the HR strategy supports the Business strategy.

This question generated a great deal of response about the way in which HR is perceived by the rest of the business. HR unfortunately is still seen by some Directors as a cost rather than a benefit, if there is a problem it tends to land at HR’s door, but when HR has done a good job and things are going smoothly there is often no recognition or appreciation for a job well done. Often due to excellent policies, due diligence, coaching and other interventions HR has managed to avert a situation that could cost the business a great deal of money or damage their reputation but once again some HR professionals report that this is not always recognised.

If CEO’s are looking for a Director who is commercial and strategic as stated in the March issues of People Management in an article called ‘Secrets of HR Head Hunters’, then HR needs to demonstrate that this is the case. One of the comments made by a delegate at the event was that it is was difficult to gain access to the board to demonstrate your business acumen. A recommendation from another delegate was to:

  • Build a relationship with the CEO outside of the business context
  • Challenge when necessary e.g. making sure we anchor the core values of the business
  • Don’t be risk averse
  • Build trust

It is important that HR understands the whole business not just the people side of things, so demonstrate an understanding of:

  1. Customer satisfaction
  2. Profit margins
  3. Logistics
  4. Distribution.

The final area was around personal credibility – the skills and knowledge required by an ideal leader in order to influence and engage successfully with internal and external stakeholders.

HR needs to be visible throughout the business, build internal networks and have that face to face contact. Too often HR who are supposed to be focused on the ‘people’ side of things is cloistered behind an office door busily focusing on analysing data. That is part of our role; however building a connection with people in the business is extremely rewarding and beneficial. Laura Guttfield who is the HR Business partner at ITN productions is being mentored by the Chief finance officer Bryan Martin she says “HR doesn’t just start and end with people. It stretches across all areas of the business”.

I would like to thank CIPD Lancashire for inviting me to speak at the Life of HR Lancashire CIPD Conference and Exhibition. It was an extremely successful event which I thoroughly enjoyed, thanks everyone for your positive feedback.

References have been taken for this blog from:
The DNA of an Ideal HR Director by HAYS recruitment and CIPD, copyright HAY plc 2014
People Management Magazine March 2017

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