People & Leadership

9 habits of highly successful HR and People leaders

We take a look at the habits the most highly effective HR and People leaders practice day-to-day, with valuable nuggets from Virgin to Facebook.

We’re all creatures of habit – it’s human nature. However, how do we know we have the right habits that can help us to thrive as HR and People leaders?

With valuable nuggets from Virgin to Facebook, we take a look at the habits the most highly effective HR and People leaders practice day-to-day.

1. They don’t shy away from taking risks

When Facebook’s Head of HR Lori Goler was initially offered the role, she turned it down. “I didn’t think I had enough experience,” she says.

“Sheryl Sandberg then called me and said: ‘No man would ever turn down more responsibility because they don’t have the experience.’

“It just struck me that is the ‘lean-in moment’. That’s the moment when you go for something you don’t think you can otherwise do.

“If you have the ambition, don’t hold yourself back. Lean in to it—look for ways you can learn and grow.

“Take those opportunities and risks in your career.”

2. They always put their people first

Progressive HR and People leaders who put their people first and ‘walk the walk’ build true People Companies.

People Companies have woken up to the fact that HR is changing.

The global skills crisis has led to the war for talent. Employee engagement levels have plummeted and, as a result, productivity is at an all-time low.

People Companies know that to win in the war for talent, they need to not just be prepared, but get ahead.

Rather than just saying people are important, they truly believe it.

The most highly effective HR leaders put the success of their people at the top of the list for company success – and prioritise it over everything else.

3. They embrace change

Like a pilot making slight adjustments to the course of an aeroplane in order to stay on track, HR and People leaders need to continually assess how their strategy can be revised and updated—and then push for that change.

“HR leaders need to be continually assessing information to determine whether to continue or alter the course of a project,” says Holly Burkett, Innovation and Performance Consultant at Evaluation Works.

“We also have a responsibility to step up and embrace our role as change agents.”

4. They keep up with technology

Successful HR and People leaders know that technology and innovation will accelerate exponentially.

Seth Kahan, Founder and CEO of Visionary Leadership, says this will happen in three different areas: smart objects, artificial intelligence, and new HR tools and applications.

Successful HR leaders know they need to stay up to date with these changes to be effective in both today’s and tomorrow’s business worlds.

5. They’re always listening

Too often leaders rise to the top and lose touch with what’s happening on the shop floor, so to speak. They build a great team and then let things run themselves.

Angela Nguyen, Vice President, HR and Talent Management at Ad Exchange Group, says: “Listening is our biggest advantage.

“Effective HR leaders never rest on their laurels because they understand that business operations and innovation don’t wait around for the complacent.”

6. They stay grounded

“It’s easy in the midst of policies, procedures and initiatives to forget the ‘human’ element,” says Rohit Paul from Academy for Urban School Leadership.

“Early on in my career, I was surprised to find out that our director made every member of our team, regardless of title, log into the HR hotline and assist.

“Her agenda was simple: you learn the impact of the work you do when you connect with the people who are affected by it.”

7. They treat their staff well

As Richard Branson famously said: “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.” Gone are the days when companies view employee engagement and wellbeing programmes as ‘nice to have’.

Companies with high engagement scores perform better than their counterparts in areas such as productivity, absenteeism, turnover, safety and quality incidents, shrinkage, customer metrics and profitability, according to Gallup.

Branson says: “Success in business is all about people, people, people.

“Your team is your biggest competitive advantage, no matter what industry you’re in, which is why it’s so important that business leaders look after their people.”

8. They use data to inform decision making

Truly data-driven HR focuses analytics on the goal of adding value and driving performance across the organisation—all the time, not just every now and then, or on specific projects.

As HR and People leaders scale and build their teams to meet the demands of the business, they’ll increasingly need data insights at their fingertips to drive decision making.

9. They have fun

“The work of today is dynamic and challenging—and it’s accelerating,” says Mark Blankenship, Executive Vice President and Chief People, Culture, and Corporate Strategy Officer for Jack in the Box.

“Walk the talk by loving what you do and how you do it. Arrive at work each day excited, knowing that you are responsible for the success of each employee and the organisation.

“Celebrate all wins, small and big. Enjoy the journey, for we trade one day of our lives at a time for it.”

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