HR Essentials Every New Director Needs to Know

When people are your business, it’s a challenge to step into a new office and handle your workplace with ease. For most HR directors, the first 90 days on the job are the toughest. That’s when you’re still getting to know your personnel and feeling out what your new responsibilities will be. While there is no magic to let you skip past the first three months and awaken like Sleeping Beauty with everything in place, these tips will smooth the transition and set you up well for long-term success.

Make the Most of Introductions

While other managers and executives can introduce themselves and retreat to an office, your role is front and center. When you’re introduced, make note of the people you meet. People respond well to someone who recalls their names; even if you get a pronunciation wrong, they’ll appreciate your effort. Listen more than you talk as you’re shown around the office. It’s an excellent opportunity to see how the organization runs before you roll up your sleeves and set to work.

Get the Lay of the Land

Your next step when taking over a new HR position is understanding where your organization stands today. Take stock of the talented personnel you have on hand, including contractors and part-time workers. Learn your way around the HR database, if there is one – or the filing cabinet if there isn’t – so you can access all the information you need. Look over payroll, insurance, and other compensation; payroll is a priority, and if it doesn’t work properly, your new organization is at risk of losing some of its top-tier talent. Get a bead on these practices too while performing your initial assessment:

  • How are new openings filled?
  • Where do job candidates come from?
  • How are interviews handled?
  • What’s your organization’s current onboarding process?
  • Who handles training for each department?
  • How are performance review records created and maintained?
  • How often do employees undergo performance reviews?

Define Your Priorities

After you have a detailed view of how the organization functions as a whole, you’re ready to tinker with some of its moving parts. Go over your notes and see where your company’s strengths are, where it’s plateaued, and where its current HR programs could use your expertise. Set up meetings with department heads and C-level executives to discuss their needs and goals. Then, move on to meetings with staff members. These can be short – a few minutes of conversation about what they love about working here, what changes they hope to see, and how they see themselves in a year – but they’re essential to giving you a more nuanced view of the company culture.

With the information you’ve gathered, put it in perspective and prioritize. Is employee compensation a stumbling block to attracting and keeping talent? Are employees wholly invested in the company culture and philosophy? Is morale low, high, or somewhere in between? The answers to these questions will steer you toward a workable to-do list.

Get Technical

The technology that drives HR has gotten vastly more sophisticated today than it was just ten years ago. From software that vets resumes for you to relational databases that give you a wealth of knowledge at a glance, technology is an incredibly valuable tool. Here are the basics you need:

  • A fully functional employee database that employees can also access for their own records. Being able to see their own files helps employees see their relationship to HR as a cooperative one rather than an adversarial one.
  • Payroll software. If your company doesn’t yet have payroll software that’s integrated with the rest of your HR software, consider upgrading or adding modules to your existing system. You’ll cut down on data entry, reduce errors, and simplify data security for IT.
  • Collaborative virtual spaces. Increasingly, work doesn’t just take place in the office, and your remote staff, telecommuters, and independent contractors also need to communicate with you.
  • Updated employee handbooks. Digital versions of employee handbooks are not only easier to access, but they also make it easy for you to bring them up to date as policies change.

Implement Your Strategy

All the homework, data hygiene, and data entry you and your team have done leads to this point. Here’s where you introduce your strategy, outlining what you plan to do and how it affects your personnel. Let them know your office door is open, and then stick to it; as people get used to having an open, responsive HR department, they’ll trust you with more knowledge. In turn, you’ll gain new insight into how you can make your organization a dream job for everyone – including you.

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