5 top challenges for HR managers moving roles

By Anthony Wolny | 19th June 2019 | 14 min read

In today’s fast-moving competitive environment, the age-old concept of a ‘job for life’ is now nothing but a distant memory for many. Indeed, research carried out by insurance giant LV concluded that the average UK worker will now change job every five years, with those aged 25 – 34 likely to move employer even more frequently, at an average of 2.8 years.

Increasingly, employees in 2019 tend to move roles for two main reasons: career progression and pay growth. The independent think-tank The Resolution Foundation has recently published research that suggested that those who move employer more frequently can increase their income more substantially than those who choose to stay loyal. Whilst pay growth remains somewhat weak across the UK, those who change job roles are often in receipt of what is known as a ‘disloyalty’ bonus.

So, with employees across all industries and professions open to new business pathways and challenges, the particular trials and tribulations of moving to a new role is an area increasingly being faced by HR professionals. In a role that naturally demands a delicate balance between stringent business analysis and empathetic people management, the undertaking of a new HR management role can be daunting, with managers required to gauge company mood, culture and future strategy prior to implementing any of their own ideas or changes.

With all this in mind, we thought we would put together our view of the top challenges facing HR managers in new roles, and how to confidently overcome them:

  1. Aligning your top-level business and HR objectives

It’s always important to understand that your business’s wider strategic goals are an essential component of your very own HR strategy. In order to operate in alignment, as an HR professional, you must consider your business’s internal capability to deliver on any proposed business goals.

Without a good understanding of this, you may find that yourself and your wider HR team could come in for some criticism – if you are unsure of your company’s short and long term goals, the steps that need to be taken to achieve them, the rationale behind your business model, and how you deliver to customers, then you will be unable to build a strong strategy and vision for your own HR team or department.

If you do identify any weaknesses, they could be attributed to various areas, such as core systems or processes, but more significantly for HR teams, weaknesses can often be down to the overall quality of the wider workforce, motivation and engagement levels, and the ability to fully deliver on organisational performance.

By taking the time to truly understand the new business you are entering into, you can begin working on positive steps towards determining what key HR inventions may be needed, and what information is required to form the basis of your own HR strategy.

  1. Understanding a new business culture

Workplace ‘culture’ can be hard to define, and, as an HR professional, you will find that it can differ wildly from business to business. However, what does stay consistently the same is the level of impact that HR managers and their wider teams can have on both company engagement and culture. It is also important to remember that corporate culture is fluid, and that it can evolve in line with worker demographics, workplace processes and wider industry forces.

As business culture can have a positive or negative influence on everything from productivity to morale to reputation, it is important that you gain a strong handle on the dynamics of your new business’s makeup quickly. A negative or unproductive company culture could seriously impact your overall bottom line, and deploying an effective and appropriate measuring tool to gain information could be a great way to make a positive and early impact.

The key things to remember as an HR manager in a new environment is the great extent to which you can have a direct, positive impact on your business’s culture, and whether technology can also be held accountable. If you feel that your company is lagging behind, carrying out a thorough analysis of your entire IT infrastructure could be a great way to see where you could improve, and whether system updates or changes might be necessary.

  1. Developing an appropriate communication style

Good communication is often held up as the benchmark of a positive and productive organisation, yet despite the advancement of strong communication strategies and the development of various messaging channels, it can still be a tricky area for businesses to get right.

The reality is that effective communication is key to any organisation’s success – so it’s something to really be aware of, whether you find yourself working in a small operation or for a multinational corporation. As an HR leader, it is crucial for you to be in sync with your business’s leadership team and the wider workforce, supporting internal and external customer service, managing business change, and starting to really build up the profile and integrity of your new HR department.

As part of your new communication strategy, it is crucial that you assess the type and scale of your business when considering the best way forward. For example, if you work for a large business, consider whether you have many employees scattered across multiple locations or working remotely. Even when working for an SME, you could find an increased percentage of people who work part time, in a job share or in multiple roles – what is the best way to effectively communicate to employees at all levels?

Alongside helping to develop a successful communication strategy across your business, you may also find that you are tasked in improving inter-team communication amongst your HR function. The wider employee perception of HR can often be somewhat negative in many businesses, with some viewing HR as a secretive and closed department that puts the needs of the company before those of its employee.

However, many employees don’t understand the functionality of HR and, even less, the purpose that an HR department serves. However, if you can find a positive way to communicate effectively with your HR team, you will find that you can generate a positive perception of your HR function.

  1. Assessing current compensation and benefits at top level

Otherwise known as a reward strategy, the general purpose of a business compensation and benefits system aims to improve the performance of the organisation by radically changing the way it rewards its people, providing the necessary incentives and motivation required for a business to deliver its goals.

The main components are often made up of a combination of base pay, bonuses, profit sharing, share options, and other ‘softer benefits,’ such as childcare vouchers, discounted gym membership or restaurant vouchers, away days, discretionary bonuses etc.

Whatever scheme or strategy you find that your new business currently employs, it seems that typically, your company’s reward strategy will tend to mirror the particular performance culture that you tend to favour. Many businesses now tend to see employee benefit compensation as a strategic management incentive, and are often keen to experiment with new practices and reward schemes. For example, bonuses can now be allocated at team level, rather than assigned to an individual, with the aim of improving wider team performance, or else allocated for particular positive skills or behaviour that your business may be wanting to promote or reinforce.

You should also consider the culture strategy that you are keen to build within your new business – what do you feel are the most widely-appreciated benefits that you currently offer? Are your staff more financially motivated, appreciating bonuses or other financial incentives, or perhaps they value wellbeing initiatives, such as time off in lieu, flexible working or discounted gym membership.

Ultimately, you may well find that your business’s reward policy in particular can really benefit from positive clarity around which other elements of the HR strategy it aims to support. Ensuring that the strands of rewards and benefits policy successfully tie in to the aims of your wider HR strategy is crucial to the future success of your entire HR operation.

  1. Implementing a new learning and development programme

When joining a new business, you may find that you already have a stellar learning and development programme in place, but this can be rare, and wanting to put your own stamp on a current process, no matter how positive or successful, is not a negative option.

The twin subjects of training and development have always been important to employees, but arguably, it has never been more so than it is today. In today’s fast-paced, and arguably stressful working environment, a compelling L&D offering can take on near essential status for employers looking to attract, engage and retain the best people.

Whilst it can be daunting to analyse and review a current learning and development function, by splitting it down into manageable areas for analysis, you will find it can become a much more manageable and achievable task. For example, if you proactively begin to foster a learning culture within the wider company, you may find that L&D is viewed much more enthusiastically, and that employees may suggest their own ideas for future training programmes.

By identifying employee needs and enabling self-led learning, you also work on steering your wider workforce towards taking control of their own development. This can have dual benefits, in that it can encourage greater self-reflection and advancement in individual employees, whilst simultaneously reducing the workload of mid-level managers.

Alongside establishing a traditional L&D programme of training courses, it can also be a good idea to encourage collaborative working, if you feel that your workplace will be receptive. Whether you encourage employees to share online or face to face, by routinely encouraging all those undertaking training to share their insights, experiences and feedback with peers, you can amplify the learning and share knowledge within your wider business much more widely.

Simple three step analysis for new HR managers – How can you confidently implement your own HR strategy?

  1. START – What is your business not doing yet? What would your business benefit from?
  2. STOP – What is your business currently doing that isn’t working? What needs to be stopped as it adds no value?
  3. CONTINUE – What is your business already doing that works well? Is it supporting your current strategic plan and wider vision?