4 Ways to Become the Next HR Leader


Peter ByrneFounder of ESPHR

Friday, August 9, 2019

There is never a set time when an HR professional will feel they’re in a strong position to face the challenging leap into management.

Article 5 Minutes
4 Ways to Become the Next HR leader

But for those that do want to climb the career ladder and become a director within an organization, there are several factors to consider before jumping in feet first, and expecting things to happen as soon as they begin their new role.

Therefore, once that CV has been polished and submitted – or a request for a promotion is made – the real challenge is yet to come for many HR leaders, and preparation is absolutely everything.

For the directors of tomorrow, here are four ways to hit the ground running so you can make a true impact within your company.

1. Staying strategic

It’s a word used far and wide in the business world – especially within HR – but having a clear-cut plan which remains robust, pragmatic, relevant and focused on an entire organization’s success can be one of the most valuable competencies a commander-in-chief can bring to the table.

With strategy at the forefront of an HR leader’s mindset, they can focus purely on something greater than the day-to-day operational issues, and consider the bigger picture. Firstly, they must understand the firm’s goals before even considering how each team fits into the mission.

However, it’s a challenge for any manager to introduce a more strategic focus into a company – especially if something was not already in place. It’s up to HR to remain patient and authoritative in their approach so they remain focused on the task in hand.

If they get pulled into every single direction, fire-fighting a myriad of today’s operational issues – such as key, high-risk Employee Relations (ER) issues, existing recruitment concerns, Learning and Development matters and reward reviews – will demand time to rectify. The result will be something which can severely hamper a company’s crucial strategic position.

2. Understanding the culture

Even an existing employee who has been promoted to the role of HR Director should not expect their ideas to completely transform a ‘way we have always worked’ mentality overnight. It takes time, planning and crucial knowledge.

If someone in a leadership role has a poor grasp of the culture and goals that drive the company, the chief will not only compromise their own credibility, but risk making an unpopular decision which polarizes the office and causes in-house disruption.

In this instance, a collaborative, understanding attitude is required, in order to effect positive change. An HR leader has the power and authority to make things better for the company because they can align operations, improve cross-company communications and get the firm to become more fluid in how they adapt to internal and external changes.

But none of that can be achieved if the research into how the company operates is not done at the very first opportunity.

Instead, they should investigate the company’s history, structure, position in the growth cycle, future objectives and overall culture, so they can begin to understand the best ways of putting forward more agile ways of working.

Acknowledging this process takes time and – giving it the resource it duly requires – will help discover what makes the organization tick, and which outcomes to focus on first, in order to achieve success for the firm.

3. Forming long-lasting relationships

Whether clients, colleagues or the executive board – no person should be forgotten at any stage by the incoming HR leader. And, even if the manager has worked for the firm for a number of years, they should still be eager to continue to build a positive rapport with people throughout the entire organization.

Truly getting to know – and accept – how everyone operates can contribute to the ‘buy in’ from allies that an HR leader will crucially need in future. On the flip side, colleagues must be provided with the belief that their leader can affect welcoming change, feel they are being listened to, and their opinion is valued.

Therefore, HR leaders should be taking the time to oversee everything. They should be figuring out how to improve things for the better, and be able to underline the strengths each person possesses – because their key skills could prove to be vital in the near future.

If such necessary groundwork is not done within the early part of an HR leader’s career – and continued throughout their employment – a person can mis-strike the balance completely.

4. Communicating effectively

Without talking and leading from the front with authority and authenticity, an HR leader will simply fall at the first hurdle.

An open, honest and personable leader can bring everything together. They can be the ones to set out a strong, streamlined level of communication that everyone follows and where collaborations form successfully. As opposed to mis-informed employees whose actions can impact upon the entire business – especially operationally and strategically.

The best communicators should be agile and willing to embrace how to evolve their communications to suit each team – whether face-to-face, on the phone or via emails. Every group operates differently and understanding that can help a manager make the best impact.

Strong communication, coupled with strategy and operational support, are the gateways to success. It’s therefore up to the HR leader to show they are someone teams can approach and who has the company’s progression and overall interests at heart.

In conclusion

There are so many key skills needed for a director to hit the ground running in their new position. It not only takes a certain mindset to be able to step up into a world whereby one wrong decision can be critical, but they must also learn to be patient, authoritative and strategic throughout.

If they get it right, the next HR leader can push towards having a highly fulfilling career within the industry, and create a business culture with operational efficiencies that can withstand the test of time – no matter how unpredictable the economic climate may be.

Peter Byrne

Founder of ESPHR


Peter Byrne spotted a gap in the market to bring together an all-encompassing employment law firm and HR consulting organization, specializing in employee relations. Since establishing in 2003, Peter and his team have gone on to offer services to the likes of Ladbrokes Coral Group plc, Randstad and PVH Holdings (who own brands such as Speedo, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, to name a few). He remains actively involved in different things across the company, such as continuing to evolve ESPHR’s business focus and strategy and, above all else, making sure their services meet – and exceed – the expectations of its loyal customers. Peter is passionate about customer focus and service experience, and enjoys challenging the status-quo by being a ‘reassuring disruptor’ in the market – which is something ESPHR focuses on every day.


Join the conversation...