Hiring an HR Leader

First, let me introduce myself!

I’m in HR. I love people. I’m an introvert. I am an idealist. I like thinking about how things could be done better. I like growth. I believe in people. I believe we can help businesses succeed and redefine the profession and workplace. Good lord, I’m pumped about what I do – even on the nights I can’t sleep because of the tough stuff this job regularly entails.

I’m excited to be a part of the profession now, when we are seen as valued strategic partners instead of strictly risk-mitigation, paper-pushers. It allows for innovation, thinking more holistically about solving problems and becoming a bigger resource for all employees, not just executives. After all, when you strip a business down to what really makes it tick, it’s the people. They service your customers, write your content, build and sell your product … they are the lifeblood of any organization. You need to attract and retain the best of the bunch.

To be competitive in the current climate, a CEO should look for an HR leader who is:

  • Inquisitive and curious. What can they learn from other companies? Other departments? What can be tweaked and improved? Is there anything that should be scrapped and rebuilt? Are they willing to listen and learn from others to find the best solution for your organization? A playbook of best practices is good to know, but it’s not going to help differentiate you in a hyper competitive talent market.
  • Approachable and empathetic. You want people across the organization to trust your HR team. You want employees to feel comfortable coming forward with issues that could leave you exposed or lead to retention issues down the line. You want managers to leverage the team to help them grow and navigate difficult situations. You want your executives to leverage the team in strategic decisions – nobody should know the ins and out of your employees and potential reactions better than your HR arm.
  • Excellent communicators with great EQ. There are a lot of tough messages that go out in an organization, and most filter through HR in some way. You can’t afford to have someone unable to “read the room”. You can’t have someone who delivers ambiguous messages. You need a person able to read the right tone, for the right audience, and communicate it in the most effective way possible.
  • Customer-oriented. Your employees are your customers. Put them in the right hands! Find someone who cares about service levels. You need someone who can listen as someone vents, and knows how to guide them through (even when that’s a tough message and not rainbows and unicorns). You want to be one of those companies where people talk positively about HR. That takes lots of good experiences and trust.
  • Smart. HR can help you run your company more effectively, if you pick the right person. Find someone that can learn and speak the language of your other leaders and have credibility. Confidence and the ability to dig in and believe in their principles are key, but you want someone also able to problem-solve and speak to the concerns of your other leaders.
  • A fit for your team. Get the right person for your leadership team. Look at your demographics. Look at your industry. Look at the personalities they will be dealing with and select accordingly. Fit is absolutely critical, but there’s no quick cheat for who the right person is because only you know what will fly in your organization.

There are so many other qualities to look for, but this where I’d start. Don’t be afraid to start your search over if you aren’t 100% excited about your options. This is a critical position. Make sure you get it right (no pressure!).



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