This is an extract from our full guide ‘The Six Secrets of Effective HR Professionals.

The CIPD’s 2011 ‘HR Outlook’ survey reported that HR professionals are fully aware that they need to develop a business savvy capability. But the real question that needs to be considered is “How can this be achieved?”

Luckily, Recruitment Genius have identified six actionable areas HR professionals must strive to address in order to succeed.

1. Understand the business model

As a HR profession you need to know what your business does, how it works and what makes it a success. Ask yourself what’s keeping your managing director awake at night in order to really find out what your business needs.

When it comes to recruiting staff, ask yourself these three questions:

1. “What return on investment will the new members of staff bring?”
2. “What will the chosen candidates’ role be in shaping and developing the business?”
3. “How can I ensure that I find candidates who offer the best fit and best value for money?”

Only when you can successfully assess your HR activities in the context of the business as a whole, can you truly say that you’re contributing to your business’s commercial objectives.

2. Keep an eye on all areas of your business

HR professionals have the important task of solving problems once they have escalated. But if you keep an eye on all of the areas of your business, you will see that there is plenty of scope for improving processes before they turn into problems.

If you see something that could be improved – conduct your own research. Ensure that you have a robust collection of evidence such as detailed figures, richer stories and experiences to support any suggestions of change.

A HR practitioner who succeeds in this area will have the ability to identify and prioritise what really matters to the business. In turn you won’t be afraid to make the decisions to accommodate business needs.

3. Foster effective relationships

For HR to be a strategic and value-adding function it needs to be immersed in the business that it serves. This means that an effective HR practitioner will be able to develop professional relationships across other business functions.

Actively develop and build effective relationships yourself. Don’t wait for others to approach you for advice. This will improve your credibility and dedication to driving the business forward. You will also gain a real insight into the role and what is needed for success.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak out

Your personal leadership style is something you should pay careful attention to. If there is one thing that HR professionals can learn from the recession, it’s that HR still has a rightful role as the conscience of the organisation. A champion of ethical and integrity issues is needed for businesses to succeed.

Not only is this a foundation of effective leadership, the development of HR as a function helps your own career and credibility as a HR professional.

If you witness unsustainable or unethical practices, speak up and question them. Acknowledge that policies are procedures that are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to change them if they are not working.

5. Make yourself accountable

To ensure you strive to add value to your business you should look at your personal development plans before your next performance appraisal. Are any of these explicitly linked to adding value to your business, rather than transactional or traditional HR activities?

Refocus your objectives and ensure that they are embedded in the overall development of the business ensuring they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound).

6. Ensure your skills are relevant for the future, today

The pace of change within HR is so fast these days you need to be aware of seismic shifts in talent acquisition and management.

For example, within the past decade recruiting via print material has vastly declined and tight budgets have made recruitment agencies less affordable. Hybrid online recruitment services have transformed the market, offering greater value for money without the inefficiencies. The last thing you want is your finance director being aware of them and challenging your budgets.


Aligning your work with your company’s commercial objectives should be a fundamental part of your role. By addressing these key areas, you will be in a good position to truly add value to your organisation. This being essential for your personal development as a HR professional.

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