· Features

Making the leap from manager to HRD: A guide

Mike Williams, people director at Byron, offers his top five tips for aspiring HRDs

As the function driving, nurturing and supporting careers you’d think we’d have it down to a T when it comes to advancing our own. Sadly, that's not so. A recent study by Korn Ferry found that almost half of all businesses fail to offer leadership development to their HR employees. A similar number won’t even consider an HR professional for their high potential programme.

Based on this, aspiring HRDs need to take their careers into their own hands. Drawing on the people, experience and resources around them to help make the transition from HR assistant through to HR director.

While this journey doesn’t happen overnight, I’ve outlined some tips based on my own career from HR manager at Firmdale Hotels through to people director at Byron in the hope they give you the edge:

1. Get close to the chief operating officer and chief financial officer

To be heard at the ‘table’ we need to understand the business from different perspectives. We must have a rounded view of the organisation so that we can talk confidently about the impact of people strategy on different areas. Two of the most important functions are operations and finance, so make it your mission to get to know people there. Shadow them, sign up for cross-department projects, even go running with them (which is what I did incidentally). Do what it takes to really understand them and their role as it will benefit you in the long run.

2. Access knowledge through networks

Everyone knows networking is a really useful way of accessing knowledge that you need. Make sure you network with a purpose otherwise you’ll end up with a load of business cards and no result. For example, when a former employer was expanding to America I built networks of people who had done this already so I could draw upon their experiences and understand what would be needed in order to deliver the project successfully.

3. Be a great strategist

People leaders are great at strategy. However, with an ever-changing business environment we need to make sure we’re up-to-date on strategic leadership. There are many ways to do this; from formal qualifications, attending a programme like HR magazine’s HR in the Boardroom, or bedtime reading (though make sure you read publications outside of the HR space as well – like Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times).

4. Listen lots, push for criticism

Ask for feedback so you are constantly improving what you do and how you do it. Even if you believe you’ve done a great job ask people around you what you did well, what could have been better, and what you shouldn’t have done. Don’t underestimate the importance of 360º – too many people shy away from this opportunity, however it provides a wealth of valuable insight that can advance your career.

5. Have a specialism

Don’t try to be all things to all people. Work out what you are good at and be the best at it; take pride in being a specialist. And always push to know more about that area. Access further development, seminars, blogs and even a mentor to help you achieve your potential.

Mike Williams is people director at Byron