Olivia Flattery, director of The HR Department in Twickenham and Richmond, answers a HR director’s career dilemma on taking the next step.
Question: While I am viewed by many in my current organisation as the head of HR, I don’t have the full remit that the role would entail. In recent job interviews for head of HR or HR director roles, I’ve fallen down on strategic implementation and influencing at board level – but my current job doesn’t offer me the opportunity to develop in these areas. What can I do to convince prospective employers that I have the experience and knowledge to take the next step?
Before you think about making a case to prospective employers, take the time to identify your goals, says Olivia Flattery, director of The HR Department in Twickenham and Richmond. When you reach the level of HR director, development can become about considering different specialisms, as opposed to simply being a generalist head of HR. It could be worth speaking to a business coach or mentor to help you work towards these goals, or taking a psychometric test to identify where the gaps in your skillset might lie.
Communicating your professional needs to your colleagues is also important. It may initially look like there isn’t much opportunity for strategic development within your organisation, but many roles include aspects of having to plan, influence and strategise. Someone must be doing it, so take steps to identify that person and offer to shadow, assist and help in any way possible. Look for projects that allow you to progress strategically – even if they are not HR-focused.
You could also think about taking on an external non-exec board role, which will give you an opportunity to operate strategically. It could be something as simple as a school governor or a sports club – anything that builds on your hobbies. There may not be too much strategy involved immediately, but there will be planning and the chance to exercise influence.
In summary, set out your goals, and decide what route you want to take. Then, analyse your organisation: how people work, and how you can engage with members of your board. Finally, look externally for opportunities to hone your skills. Remember, every bit of experience counts.
This article was first published in People Management magazine (February 2016 edition).