what makes an exceptional hr leader?
By jeana quigley in Editor Picks and Leadership
If there’s one thing HR leaders understand, it’s that people truly want to do great work. Every single one of us. We understand this when we look at our employees, and we certainly see it in our own careers. We want to do HR in a way that makes work easier for those around us and truly impacts our companies.
So what can we do to make our work in HR truly exceptional? Here are five things HR leaders do to make sure they’re on top of their game:
- Simply be a nice person. Let’s start off at the most basic level: you’ve got to be friendly and have your people trust you if you want to be able to help them. Be someone they can come to and talk openly with, someone they can trust. Someone who is accessible when your people have needs and want to discuss matters relating to their jobs and the work they do. Sometimes it’s even more personal when it affects work. The way to build that trust is by genuinely caring about your people and their success. After all, 77% of us in Human Resources went into this field because we truly want to help people.Despite how strategic our roles are getting, our top goal is to help people become better employees and grow. And don’t forget that your people need to see you being just as “human” as they are. After all, we are talking “human” resources. You may make mistakes from time and time, but that’s okay. We can admit mistakes and strive to do better next time—just as we hope our employees will so they can continue to learn and grow.
- Develop careers. HR leaders know they get the most value out of employees when they’re up-to-date in their industries and continually learning and growing. That’s why 54% of HR leaders said they would rather be focusing their time on professional development than what they’re currently doing. Training and giving employees opportunities to develop new skills is one of HR’s biggest strengths. Understanding your employees’ career-growth aspirations is so important. If you’re providing opportunities for employee growth, then you’re a big reason for their success and job satisfaction. This also plays a huge role in HR’s recruiting efforts: When asked to choose between two similar job opportunities, 60% percent of applicants chose the job with stronger potential rather than the job with more pay raises.HR leaders are also in the position to help employees gain coaching experiences or even set them up with mentors to help employees achieve career goals. When you do everything you can to help employees reach their personal goals, you’re recognizing employees’ value and potential. You can continue to do this by training and developing them, measuring their performance, and having employees set goals so they can continue to reach higher. The overarching goal of all this employee development should be promoting from within. One of the major factors in having engaged and happy employees is offering them advancement opportunities. In a recent study, the top reason employees leave jobs is because they’re not getting promoted so they look to other companies to advance their careers. It’s the natural progression of this employee development you’re already offering.
- Know your stuff. Part of developing your own career means you’re staying current with compliance and laws. If you’re organized and are letting HR software automate many of the functions you used to do manually, like PTO and payroll, it’s easier to be organized and focus on staying current with labor laws, compensation and benefit trends, and recruiting practices. Great HR leaders are also following HR technology trends that other companies are adopting. Some systems help companies look at their employee data in a new way and help them make future decisions, giving them insights on how to best move forward and be more strategic in their roles.But don’t just follow the trends, do something about them. Make things happen and show that you’re willing to do what it takes to make the impossible timelines or duties possible. Here’s an area where you can be creative in your work. Find new ways or think up fresh ideas on ways you can make a huge impact on your people and your company. You can be the example for employees to follow or look to when they need guidance.
- Really know the company. Another way HR leaders can show they’re at the top of their game is by understanding the ins-and-outs of the company. That means, knowing how the company works from every department, from every role, and basically being just as invested in the company’s success as the owners or the CEO. As HR leaders, we have a lot of information that can give us terrific insights into how the company ticks. Seventy-six percent of business leaders depend on collaboration when developing their companies’ strategies.Then consider how to use those insights to impact the entire company. Do you analyze the market and your industry? Do you know what may be around the corner? Do you know your competitors? Have you thought about situations that may arise and how you can respond to them if or when they arise? When you’re aware of every facet of your company’s situation—like business’ metrics, financial model and organizational risks—you become much more valuable. When you have anticipated scenarios, you’ll be prepared when the need arises to find solutions. Think of the strategic partner you can be when you’re solving difficult problems, acting proactively and giving valuable advice when the need arises.
- Be flexible. Great HR leaders see their roles strategically and make decisions based on how they will affect the company’s overarching goals. We want to make a huge impact on the company. We’re forecasting our hiring needs and considering the future. We’re developing reward and recognition programs to help engage our people longer, and we’re constantly working toward increased retention. We’re focusing efforts on our company’s culture and getting every one of our employees engaged and making a difference.Yes, these actions are helping you maintain strategic perspective—and it feels good to see these things materialize. However, you’ll need to switch back and forth often between high-level strategic talk and listening to your employees about problems they’re dealing with in the office. None of the strategic, business-level function is possible without good, satisfied employees who work in the trenches. Being flexible enough to shift quickly and effectively is an important part of being an exceptional HR leader.
So this simple list of five things isn’t quite so simple. Just like our employees, we want to improve and be better. If we focus a little more on the higher-level functions and do a little more every single day, we will be. And while you’re at it, make it official—make a goal. Something beyond your normal scope. Set some stretch goals and stick to them.