What does it take to succeed in HR?

Here’s what some of today’s HR Influencers  think you need to succeed in HR:

“My perspective is relatively simple. You need to have extensive experience on the ground working in the field of HR – any functional area of HR but the more experience you have, the better. Those that have never dug the trenches CAN’T possibly have the perspective to truly influence an industry. They’ve never lived in the shoes they are trying to influence so in my humble opinion, their credibility is absolutely nil. This may be harsh but it’s my own reality.” Jeff Waldman, Founder, Stratify & Social HRCamp

“Experience, knowledge and the ability to connect on a personal level.” China Gorman, CEO, Great Places to Work

“Having an authentic voice that people actually listen to. Though there are plenty that get by without it, that’s the hallmark of a true influencer.” Ben Eubanks, Analyst Brandon Hall Group

“Actual experience in the field. As in…they’ve actually done the job – HR stuff.” Teela Jackson, VP Talent Delivery at Talent Connections LLC

“Being able to move ideas/concepts forward. A couple of examples are applying Lean concepts to HR, or having an idea about creating a cheap HR conference and pulling it off.” Dave Ryan, Director of HR at Mel-O-Cream Donuts International Inc.

“An HR influencer is defined by other people, not themselves. It has nothing to do with experience or current job, and everything to do with what others think and do about you. If you impact others, you have influence.” Bill Boorman, Founder of #tru

Do you want to be an HR Influencer?

Someone said this to me recently, after I had been speaking about the value of HR in business, something I am very passionate about! To be honest, it wasn’t a term I had heard used before, so after googling it and posting on a number of HR forums to ask other people what they thought it meant, here’s a summary of what I think it takes to be an HR Influencer.


The majority of people that responded to me asking what an HR influencer was, said that in order to be an influencer you must have experience as an HR Practitioner. You’re not able to fully understand and support the business and its people unless you’ve been there, hiring, firing, filling out the paperwork, dealing with workplace issues, exiting employees and everything in between! That level of experience varied from person to person. I think that it’s really hard to set some type of guideline for the number of years experience someone needs because there are some practitioners out there who have done it all in two years at a smaller company versus someone who works for a bigger organisation who might take 10 years to gain the same level of experience/exposure to all elements of HR.

Authentic Voice or Point of View (POV)

In order to be an HR Influencer you must have an authentic voice and viewpoint that is different, thoughtful and offers a different perspective from others. Having a point of view that is unlike anyone else in the industry is an important factor when it comes to being an influencer, but just because you have a unique POV doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you’re talking about! I read lots of HR articles and blogs each month to ensure I’m keeping up with best practice trends in HR, and a lot of the time people are just throwing out the same old rubbish about what employment law changes there are. That doesn’t really take much thinking about now does it?  I want to read or hear about something that makes me think or challenges my viewpoint on the HR industry. People need to  think more creatively or bigger to be an influencer in HR.

Pushing ideas forward

I think the ability to take an idea and implement and embed it successfully in a business is an important concept in being an HR Influencer. There is already enough noise out there. Buzzwords seem to run rampant on every blog, website, or mission statement. There aren’t enough people pushing ideas forward. To me this is taking a topic like the candidate experience and going one step forward in how we think, invest, and develop what truly is the candidate experience. If you’re able to take a buzzword and go beyond the buzzy-ness of the word, you could be an influencer.

Commercial Acumen

One of the things that I have learnt from over 30 years spent in Sales and Operations before moving into HR is the need to know and understand the business and the ability to be able to present a solid business case to the business about those great ideas you want to push forward – see above! If you cant stack up a good business case as to why you need to do something and it ain’t going to cut the mustard at board level! Without a good understanding of the business and the skills or commercial acumen to write a business case you will struggle to either get a seat at the board room table or have a voice at that table. You have to be an HR influencer to “sell” your ideas and concepts to the Board and shoe them the benefits of what you are suggesting.

You need to like People and be able to build relationships

The first HRD that I worked for, really didn’t like people. Yes, that’s right, they didn’t like leaving the office, talking to people, listening to people and getting to understand what was really going on in the business. If this sounds like you, then I’m sorry, but maybe HR isn’t the right career for you! HR is about the people, and therefore you need to enjoy working with people, getting to know them, building relationships with them, and build trust with them, so that you become a true partner to the managers and leaders you support and a trusted confidante to the employees you support too. It’s a hard balance to support both and the argument I often hear is that you “are paid to do what’s right for the business!” Yes, we are, and that often means telling the business that they’ve got it wrong. How many other roles in the business get to do this, or have the courage to do this? HR is not a role for the fainthearted. It takes great relationship building skills, emotional intelligence and resilience to be in HR, and to be an HR influencer.

Your influencer is not my influencer

The HR people who influence me aren’t going to be the same HR people who influence you, you need to find your tribe! I’m influenced by some of the amazing people I have had the pleasure of working for and with in the past and I am now lucky enough to call them my friends or colleagues!

How can you become an HR Influencer?

We created the HR Influencers Program (HIP) for anyone who is serious about their career in HR. We’re a group of experienced HR Directors and MD’s who value HR, who know what benefits great HR can bring to the business. We want to help you to become an HR influencer with a group of other like minded HR professionals. Our team of facilitators for this program have over 100 years of HR experience at Director level and have managed, developed and coached HR teams to success. There is plenty of interaction and opportunities to discuss and debate issues and learn from each other as well as from our talented team, and we expect to have a bit of fun whilst doing it too!

So, whether you’re an experienced HR professional looking to join a trusted peer group and learn from your peers or new to HR, then we’ve got you covered.  You’ll become part of a small but select group of ambitious HR professionals who want to gain the knowledge confidence and experience to manage all the day to day HR issues as well as understand how to become a true business partner.

If you want to be an HR Influencer, and you’re looking to find your tribe then why not book a virtual cuppa with me to find out more about the program and whether it’s right for you? http://bit.ly/CallMerakiHR