Your questions answered

Following the CIPD London Student Conference, we asked two of our speakers, Perry Timms, PTHR CEO and Vilma Nikolaidou, Head of OD-Leadership and Culture, Tate, to answer some of your burning questions we couldn't get round to during our panel discussion on the day. 

Should you ever take the risk of moving to a junior HR role to get into a company when you already have experience?

Perry: if you can see there’s prospects to build on that role, I’d say a move to any role where you believe your spirit, skills and beliefs system belong is a good move. If you can grow the role whilst helping grow the company then it’s an appealing proposition. I’d ask questions about growth to date and projected/intended growth and assure yourself you can grow in that role with the company.

Vilma: you should…with some caveats. Perry is right, I would look at prospects and if the company is aligned with my values and plans. We see very interesting people at work who make lateral career moves or a-typical ones and they have good stories to tell.

It's been said that transitioning from a HR assistant to an advisor is one of the hardest moves across HR discipline what advice would you give to enable this transition?

Perry: If you can build trusted, strong relationships; if you can deliver on needs and if you can design solutions that are both creative and robust you can make that change. I’ve mentored and coached HR Assistants into more senior roles and their exposure to the next level was a critical factor in them believing they could make the step and then taking on projects and assignments to prove they could do that. I’ve only ever seen success in my experiences in this kind of move. So get a mentor who can operate in that world and apply yourself to relationships; design and delivery would be my advice.

Vilma: To help our HR Assistants move to advisor/officer roles we do a skills gap analysis with them. Start with identifying what experience/skills you are missing. Then speak to your line manager and agree a personal development plan that addresses some or all of these gaps. We often come up with things like ‘handling a more complex ER case’ or moving from advising on policies to influencing decision making.

We've heard it's important to sell one’s self. How have you sold the role of HR to sceptics within your respective organisations?

Perry: Selling isn’t for me - positively influencing is. So I positively influence people with clear-cut examples of where HR makes a difference. And for me this isn’t about the validity of an HR function, this is about the impact of HR principles. Most people would subscribe to the theory that good leaders and great people make successful organisations what they are. That’s where enabling, robust and creative HR helps. Laszlo Bock helped make Google great. Joris Luijke and now Kellie Egan are making and keeping Atlassian being great. David Fairhurst turned around the McJobs joke of working for McDonalds, to it being considered one of the most useful places to learn.

Vilma: I am not big on selling either. The last thing sceptics like or need is selling. I have found that the best strategy is to be a very, very good HR professional. One that listens, creates solutions for the clients and not for the policy book, cares for service and results and builds trust and rapport easily. But I did work for a very sceptical group of directors once trying to influence them on future structures. I contacted the CIPD at the time and they suggested that one of their experts came and talked to our board of directors about what good HR looks like. It opened doors that I could not open myself and I was seen as a professional with the right connections and the right instincts

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