Two common reasons given by HR professionals for choosing a career are “I am a people-person” and “I enjoy helping others.” They’re good reasons to start, but they must be better to make it great.
After working in HR for over 30 years, I’ve reflected on what it takes to succeed. In the tradition of David Letterman, here are my top 10 HR professionals must do to be successful (in reverse, of course).
Vision is essential
What are you trying to achieve? Why? Be sure to define HR before your company. You can find many examples online. A little research will help you understand the possibilities. It’s your job to be aware of what is possible. You can become an expert by researching and networking with others. If you’re being interviewed, articulate your goals. When you are already in the workplace, outline your goals whenever you can. Talk to your team about your ideas and get their feedback.
I wanted to create a culture at Wynn Resorts where people would be happy to stay and work. We attracted over 3,000,000 job applications for 125,000 positions we filled in 20 years. There was an annualized turnover rate of 11 percent during this time.
Each top-tier organization requires HR leaders that align with their company’s objectives by understanding and supporting them. We wanted HR at Wynn to be more than a department. This meant that employees at all levels knew their role in supporting our HR philosophy and culture.
We designed tools for managers and employees to input and retrieve HR transactions and information. We showed them how to use the tools and tracked their effectiveness and usage. These self-service tools enabled the HR team to become strategic partners rather than transactional employees.
Become a great communicator
Steve Wynn taught that communication separates a good leader from a professional. Use the following strategies to become the voice of the culture in your organization.
Adapt a style you admire. Practice your speech aloud and then speak at all employee gatherings to tell everyone about the great work that your HR team does.
You can use your communication skills to help others communicate better in meetings, company events, community events, and orientations for new employees.
Attending Toastmasters or starting one yourself will help you become a more confident speaker.
I am a firm believer in the use of technology to enhance HR processes and increase effectiveness. It was a problem that I did not know enough about technology to be able to express my thoughts or take part in discussions. I took classes to help me understand terminology and methodologies (local community college courses are offered regularly, and now they’re supplemented with workshops and online training). I am not the brightest person in the room, but I have achieved various IT goals by educating myself. This includes implementing excellent human resource information systems, applicant tracking systems, and other IT systems with trusted vendors.
Be curious to learn what you do not know. You may be comfortable with what you do, but it’s essential to know about new things happening due to the rapid pace of change in your profession and industry. Spend time online and networking to discover new issues and learn the best ways to handle them. Sponsoring meetings of business and industry groups at your site will allow your employees to meet others.
Second, experiment with new things. It’s essential to update your policies as the world changes. How many of us still have policies that use the “at-will” phrase? This is outdated (really, when was the last time that you fired someone without cause)? Mandatory arbitration is another example. Have you ever wondered why there are so many lawsuits in the workplace? We tend to do things the same way as before, but sometimes a different approach is better. And who is better than HR to make these suggestions?
Be a master of change. Our HR roles provide us with the ideal platform to lead discussions and influence changes. A rigid adherence to the past prevents us from adopting excellent and new things in the future. An open-minded and flexible attitude is a great asset for HR professionals. It’s wise to plan for what we want to achieve or contingencies if things don’t go as planned.
Fourth, it would help if you managed these changes efficiently. Finding great ideas is one thing, but implementing them is another. Implementing great ideas takes time and effort, and someone must control them. You can lead these changes if you learn how to manage projects. Use all the tools available and play a key role in implementing your HR plans.
Understanding the numbers
Want something that costs cash? Budgets and savings are essential, and you’ll have to fight hard for what you want. Many HR leaders hesitate to suggest programs, fearing they will not be approved. I proposed once to create a new applicant tracker and have applicants enter their data directly on 100 computers at the recruiting center. It was expensive, but I could show that the investment would pay for itself in two years. This effort was only approved with understanding and applying the standard methodology for a return on investment analysis. Budgets are a reality for everyone, but it doesn’t mean you must give up on your ideas.
Be a partner in full
What do I hear often? You must earn it. This means that people will see you as someone who is a great leader, an intelligent businessperson, and has a clear mind. All of these qualities are needed for success in your career. Here’s how:
Work with each departmental head to understand their expectations and needs. Collaboration is critical to implementing HR practices and ideas in your company.
Start an advisory group that will provide input into your planning process. Focus groups are a great way to get feedback from your team.
Nominate department training managers. These line supervisors will be responsible for determining the type of training needed in their area when it should occur, and how. They will also monitor attendance, post-training behavior, and performance.
This collaboration gave our HR department excellent insight into all aspects of the organization and the context in which they operate. It also helped us to know if what we were doing was meeting the organization’s needs.