This website is part of the Nicholas Associates Group. Click on the group logo to find out more.

Dear HR professional: 10 things I wish I’d known – Guest Article by Nicola Forbes-Taylor

Dear HR professional,

I know. It’s not easy. It feels isolating at times. Elating at others. Mind-bendingly frustrating at oh-so-many points in between. There are so many things I wish I’d known. You know? No. Well, I thought I’d share 10 things I wish I’d known…

1. HR is about being tough, not soft

It’s not for people who are simply a “people-person”. Nope. You. Will. Drown. There’s ALWAYS dirt amongst the pristine appearance and complex amongst the apparent straightforward. Take it from me. Look for it. Ask for it. Or it WILL come out and bite you on the butt. I promise.

2. HR comes in different flavours

Police flavour: Stand in between employees and managers with a focus on policy (note the wording there) OR

Partner flavour: Bringing employees and managers together and facilitating partnership with a focus on trust.

Policing was the remit of the Personnel Manager. So was tea and tissues. Now I like tea. He-man skin colour, if you’re asking. And a biccie? Yes please! But I have so much more to offer. Time has moved on and our insight into behaviour, motivation and engagement has so much more to give organisations.

To be a partner does not mean we no longer talk about what is fair and reasonable, but we coach and act as a sounding board, rather than the “white hat” who is the bastion of all that is good (an unattainable and precarious position). We stand alongside as fellow humans, not judge and jury.

3. HR is messy

You see people at their worst and most raw. It could just as easily be any of us. Give people dignity. The shoe could be on the other foot oh so quickly and the world is OH SO SMALL. Above all, we’re all human, who make mistakes as much if not more than we get it right…

4. HR people don’t need to be the negative voice

Reframing what could be instead of criticising what is helps people see you as a positive voice in the room i.e.

From: This is a complete disorganised chaos!

To: What would be great is to start from the goal and work backwards. How could we do that?

5. HR is no longer about “resources” but holisitic people-focussed ways of working

As Daniel Pink outlines, carrot and stick thinking is no longer working. I would add to that that work is no longer simply about turning up and doing your hours, neither are people merely the bodies that inhabit those hours. They are the minds, the emotions, the ideas and problem-solving ability, the culture, the warmth, the inter-connectivity and the focus that enables innovation and seismic success. Our lives are a blend of work and personal, with our friends as likely to be colleagues as people outside our employer. Our life events are therefore shared- the successes as much as the failures, with our mental health interwoven throughout our own life tapestries. We are whole people interacting and contributing as such. A welcome evolution, I say.

6. HR isn’t black and white, the future is grey

It’s so much more grey. Show me a clearly defined process. I’ll show you oodles of employees that (unsurprisingly) challenge those very definitions. People (we) are complex and contradictory and rebellious to definition.

Our profession is championing the insight into behaviour and motivations that drive employees. That insight or Emotional Intelligence (EQ) will enable us to navigate the relationships our companies have with their employees. EQ and not a policy will define how well HR professionals can influence, create trust and culture. Starting with us.

7. HR is about facilitating the employee experience

We map and support the journey from hearing about an employer through to being the alumni voice of an employer. Don’t take the basics for granted. First impressions are crucial, as much for a candidate as for the interviewer. You know they say your interviewer makes a decision about you within the first 2 minutes of meeting you? Well HELLO! I’ve been on the other side! Who doesn’t make a split decision of HELL NO! after spending hours prepping and researching and compiling my notes and presenting myself appropriately dressed and smiley for interview to have the interviewer arrive unprepared and late to say, “So… Do you have any questions for me?”

Equally, throughout every stage of the employee’s employment, we get to support an experience that facilitates people feeling great about belonging in an organisation and being part of the journey. Let’s consider that. How long do people wait for contract changes? How accurate is payroll? Do managers get support in their development? We can give people a sense of being valued and connected to a wider sense of purpose. It’s all in our interaction: pure transaction or relationship?

8. HR is nothing if it is not outcome-focussed

If an HR team does not have a strategy, what is it doing? As you shape your career, if you cannot influence creating a team strategy, create one for yourself: work to defined goals. Outline how your goals impact the company. Measure it in metrics and £ savings. To be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously; create plans, deliver against them, and use metrics. If you want fluffy, go to Hamley’s.

9.  HR needs to know (and voice) its value

We need to be the champions of the future of our profession. Our credibility comes from knowing and broadcasting our value. Make metrics your best friend. As you explore and consider an organisation, find out their turnover or share value; hiring rate and cost per hire, their employee churn and cost of absence; employee satisfaction levels; number of internal promotions; hours spent on learning per employee; gender ratios and pay gap. Then measure it as you work with the business. And tell people about the progress. The cost-saving, the impact you have made. IN HARD, COLD £CASH! Boom!

10. HR can be the secret sauce

I have a secret belief. Not so secret any more, you say. Well, here we go. HR is a key ingredient in the secret sauce for a unicorn business; a successful business. We support great, connected, purposeful employee experiences through leadership. We partner to create amazing leaders. To support leaders to be the best they can be and role model it ourselves. Where businesses fail to grow, or secure investment or fall from grace, I see a common theme: inauthentic and inhumane leadership: how people are engaged and led. See Barclays, Lehman Brothers, Arcadia Group and Sports Direct.

So, fellow key ingredient secret saucers- let’s get out there and make unbelievably successful, purpose-driven, engaged organisations. It’s time.

Nicola is a people aficionado; a student of human interactions and dynamics, executive leader and coach. She brings her insight to championing HR/ People Professionals through the development programme, The A List and sometimes shares her observations in stand-up comedy. She brings perspective from her work with leaders in London start-ups, scale-ups along with her experience with leaders across sectors and corporates throughout her 20 year career. She is passionate about the female agenda and is known for leading panels sharing the female experience and nurturing the future environment for women in work. She is a speaker in the London scene, having spoken at Women of Silicon Roundabout and in numerous business and HR networks. She takes a coaching approach to enabling you to develop your self-awareness, understanding of those who are not you, your conscious impact and your toolkit of techniques. You can expect psychological insight, humour and a supportive voice.



Our News Centre - Latest Posts

Short Articles

World Environment Day 2024: Our Commitment


Today marks World Environment Day, encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year's theme focuses on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. Did you know that over 2 billion hectares of the world's land are

World Environment Day 2024: Our Commitment


Paul Smith, CEO, Celebrates 1 Year with NA Group


Paul Smith, CEO, Celebrates 1 Year with NA Group

Short Articles

'March on in March' Challenge Raises over £2600 for Local Food Banks


'March on in March' Challenge Raises over £2600 for Local Food Banks

Short Articles

Walking initiative raises £800 for local food banks


Walking initiative raises £800 for local food banks

Hints & Tips

Supporting Your Colleagues Throughout Ramadan


Supporting Your Colleagues Throughout Ramadan

This site uses cookies. You can see our full cookie policy below, as well as agree to our use of cookies, or manage your individual settings.



NA Group

The UK’s market leading partner of choice for talent management solutions, from Apprentice to Boardroom.

Our teams are specialists in their field, supporting apprentice and graduate placements, flexible workers, quality permanent recruitment, executive search and innovative L&D and software consultancy. Click below to visit our company websites.