By Jessica Pryce-Jones, joint Founder and Partner, iOpener Institute for People & Performance
Starting any new role is stressful as the pressure to get it right and to be seen to get it right is so high. And that’s particularly true when you are moving into a new HRD position, even if you are a seasoned player. Because unfortunately too many other senior execs see your function as hire-and-fire cost center, rather than a strategic partner with a critical role to play in your organisation’s success.
So what key actions and projects should you kick off as a new HR director? To help you demonstrate that you are a strategic player looking to triangulate strategy, people and the profit, here are our top ten:
1. Engage with your CEO, CFO, CTO and COO and anyone else critical on the executive team so you get deep clarity on your organisation’s strategy. Doing that will enable you to work out what deliverables support it, what projects you need to get going as a result and what projects you might need to stop too.
2. Get right into the commercials of your organisation so you can talk knowledgeably about what really matters and start to align what you do with key areas of the business. Go forensic on the accounts and your function - fast.
3. Align the people strategy with the organisational strategy. This means getting the senior team together to thrash out the deliverables this involves. Running a workshop will ensure you have priorities that the senior team has bought into as they helped define them with you.
4. Analyse your function's spend to review your biggest costs. Investigate all major spending so you understand how each budget line supports the strategy, delivers value and impacts the business. Consider stopping anything which does not meet these criteria however popular they are.
5. Find out what senior execs liked about the last HRD, and what they thought could have been done better. That way you get a good steer about what to keep on doing and what to improve. Ask them about how the function was perceived and why, so you get rich insights about others’ perceptions. Create a stakeholder map with your team to understand who your key influencers and allies are. If you can, meet with the previous incumbent to get his or her views too.
6. Initiate a review of key HR processes to ensure they support the organisational direction. Do they do what they need to do from the perspective of both the employee and the organisation? Review your compensation and benefits processes and practice, your learning and development function, your performance management system, your engagement survey and all supporting architecture; check their alignment with the strategic and commercial goals and ask about the ROI they deliver.
7. Evaluate all parts of your function. Meet with project owners from inside the business to see if the function is working as a true business partner, working on ROI or simply doing what they have always done. You’ll have weaker team members and running an assessment center will allow you to take any action you need to. Using an external partner will help you be seen to be running a fair process and will show you mean business.
8. Examine the talent and succession pipeline. Make sure you know how is this being managed and find out who is responsible for what. You need to know what the talent pyramid looks like and what contingency plans are in place and for whom. That way you can identify the gaps and start to address them.
9. Review relationships with external strategic partners. Why were they selected? What contracts are in place? What commitments have been made? How robust or cozy are the processes governing these relationships? Quite often these need a total review.
10. Think about the tech that supports you, your team and your organisation. What does it do and what else should it do? That includes any people management or development systems you have or are contemplating buying. Don't alienate your CTO by going out on your own.
As you can see from these top ten tips, there’s a huge amount of assessment and analysis you need to do. But that’s critical so that you get your subsequent actions right. You’ll need to pull several project teams together to do all this work and it won’t be easily done. Chances are that lots of information will be missing. But that will reflect well on you: you’ll immediately show you are a strategic player who knows what to do to add real value to the top and bottom line.
Which is exactly the role of a great HRD.