4 Habits of Effective Leaders in HR

HR doesn’t always have the best reputation. From laughable caricatures to flippant memes, human resources departments can be the target of often undeserved workplace lampooning. Fast Company’s 2005 article, “Why We Hate HR,” went viral, summing up the department’s negative stereotype as “a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change.”

However, companies with excellent HR departments are defying—and changing—this outdated reputation. They are making their departments known as the company’s most trusted advocates and dynamic culture shapers. Here are the habits these successful leaders have in common.

1. They Trust Their Employees

The best companies hire a team that wants to work hard toward their own success and in turn, the company’s benefit. When these kinds of employees are in place, enforcing restrictive rules and policies becomes less tedious, and professional behavior comes more naturally.

Implementing flexible work policies, for example, is a positive way to give your employees autonomy and show them that they are trusted. At Dell, employees are encouraged to work from home, and by 2020 the company plans to have 50% of its global staff working on flexible schedules. According to Steve Price, senior vice president of human resources at Dell, “93% of employees said in a company wide survey that flexibility helps them to be successful.”

Following up with surveys and establishing evaluation programs are great ways to evaluate and improve these policies, while furthering a culture of trust. This makes it possible to act less as an enforcer and more as a leader.

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2. They Use Data to Make Decisions

How many of your company’s hiring decisions were based on a “gut feeling”? This approach to decision-making can unintentionally hinder women and minorities from being hired.

Google is consistently ranked as the best company in the world to work for. One of the most revolutionary things Google has done is use algorithms in their recruitment process. They call it “people analytics.” Google uses data to measure the qualifications of prospective candidates.

This process continues after the hire is made and continues for as long as they work at Google. Their “HR Technology and Operations” team engineers programs to manage employee data and other aspects of HR. This ensures that the best people are fairly hired and are always in the right position.

Equal Opportunity Hiring: The Most Important HR Move You Can Make

3. They Offer Opportunities for Professional Development

According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say they want jobs to be development opportunities. This means that the newest generation of hires entering your HR office are looking for more than a paycheck and a retirement plan. HR departments can nurture this growing segment of the workforce by providing training opportunities for specialized skills, such as language training. In addition to developing their employees, this will also build the company’s international cachet and global credibility.

With over 30,000 employees in 62 countries, effective international communication is an essential part of Rentokil Initial’s operations. Richard Gregory, Global Director of HR Operations, showed his trust in those employees by allowing them to choose their own language training program. After a trial of Rosetta Stone, Go Fluent and Speexx, “the overwhelming majority of the users said that Speexx was the best solution,” says Gregory. “So ultimately, it was an easy choice—we just went with what the learners wanted.”

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4. They Make Great First Impressions

The first interaction an applicant has with an organization is usually with a member of the HR department. From the first email correspondence to the voice on the other side of the phone to the initial handshake, the HR department speaks volumes about the organization. Successful HR leaders ace the first impression with sincerity and warmth, and make candidates feel welcomed and at home.

Multilingualism is a huge benefit for HR professionals. Multilingual HR leaders are able to offer assistance to employees in their native language, which communicates to recruits that an organization is globally minded.

Understanding overall impressions is just the first step. Follow this with professional development opportunities, trust and strategies that foster inclusion and be well positioned for growth and success. HR leaders must remember that a focus on continuous improvement is one of the most important habits of effective leaders in any field.

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