What Successful HR Executives Do In Their
First 30 Days In A New Job!
by Alan L. Collins
Successful new HR executives don't waste
any time getting up to speed when they move into new jobs. They recognize
that this is the best time to lay the foundation for impacting and influencing
their organizations and building important relationships in the months ahead. If you find yourself in this
position, here's what you should do:
Success Tip #1: Hold meetings
on the business/culture with your manager, direct reports, and your HR clients.
- Discuss the mission, goals, and
objectives of the Company or division or client group you are joining as a
new HR Executive. Establish how you and your new HR team fit into the
- Get feedback about the unit you are
inheriting. Discuss operating issues, resources, people strengths,
weaknesses, expectations of clients and team members, history of the group.
Objectivity is important -- be careful not to be biased by untested
- Broaden your perspective of the job by
getting a description of the other locations and functions you will work
with. Review organization charts where possible. Discuss:
- What the locations/functions do
- How they do it
- How your responsibilities fit in with
those of the other locations/functions
- Discuss how the formal and informal
systems work. Also, have your manager pair you with a peer or colleague who
can "show you the ropes" and answer questions. Build a solid
support system you can draw on.
- Learn the informal expectations people
have about the style of how things are done. Identify behaviors and actions
that will cause friction between you and other individuals/groups.
- Invest as much time learning the
climate and culture of the company and your team as you do developing
functional knowledge. Knowing what to do is not enough to succeed. You must
also know how to work within the personality of the company or your team.
Success Tip #2:
Discuss expectations about performance and management practices with your
- Discuss areas where you should initiate
reforms or make changes. Also, identify places where itís more important
to conform to the style of the company than to make changes.
of clarifying needs and expectations begins between you and your new manager
during your initial interview about the job. And, it should continue with
your boss, direct reports, and your clients throughout your career.
- Re-clarify specifically what
your new manager expects from you. Make sure your charter is explicit around
problems, people, and products/services you and your team will be providing.
- Discuss again expectations
both of you have about the working relationship. (e.g., What do you need
from your manager to feel comfortable? What support and guidance do you
need?) Periodically renegotiate your expectations.
- Reconfirm with your boss what,
in his or her opinion is, good practice (e.g., tight control, loose control,
style of decision-making group vs. individual, etc.). Style issues that come
from differing personal belief and perceptions account for a large portion
of the problems new managersí experience.
- Assess the appropriateness of
your managerial style against the needs of the situation and the needs and
expectations of those you manage. Also, assess the fit of your practice with
the management practices of your predecessor.
- Recognize there are different
ways to get thing done. Your new managerís style may differ from yours.
Negotiate the latitude you need to act using your own best judgment.
- Be patient-recognize taking
charge of a new unit takes time. You may not reach full maturing and
productivity for some time.
Success Tip #3
Agree on how youíll establish yourself within the organization.
- Soothe any "ruffled
feathers" that may exist if you were brought into your new HR role
above someone who thought they should have had your job.
Position yourself with your staff and the people you will manage. Ask your
boss to position you before your arrival to minimize rumors and speculation
and upon arrival as a "getting to know you."
- Jointly identify something you
can bring to the party that adds value in the eyes of
- Introduce yourself to key
players/clients whose support and sponsorship is needed. Describe the value
you think you add to the operation. (e.g., Answer the question Ė
"What do you have to offer you clients?)
- Find out from you new manager
which colleagues/peer are good resources to draw on. Donít hesitate to use
their skills and abilities.
- Meet informally with your
staff and others youíll need for support to get to know them. The earlier
in the orientation period you meet. The better. People personally support
those they see as "friendís and allies." People distrust the
motives of those they donít know.
- Establish credibility with key
people who can support what you need to do. Identify a knowledgeable person
who can act as your coach and sponsor.
- Hold a staff meeting on your
first day to:
- Express your enthusiasm and
optimism about the new HR assignment.
- Share background information
- Discuss your style of
- Share initial expectations
you have of your staff.
- Make beginning work
assignments (e.g., collect background information you need).
- Take time to
learn about the new organization before making decisions and
acting-learn, about the products, the people, and the problems. Ask
experienced subordinates and colleagues their opinions about
problems/opportunities. The greater the difference between the old and new
company, the longer the learning curve.
- Provide credit and recognition
to the group for what they did well in the past. No one likes
to think everything theyíve done up to the point of your
taking charge has been in vain.
Success Tip #4:
If possible, arrange a meeting with your predecessor.
- Review and discuss individual
performance objectives with. Each staff member. Where needed, renegotiate
your staffís performance objectives so everyone knows what you expect and
how their performance ties to what youíre trying to achieve
- Take advantage of any overlap
in time that exists between when you start and the previous person leaves.
Meet to discuss the operation and share thoughts.
- Ask the departing HR Leader to
provide an overview of the job and schedule a "get acquainted"
meeting to discuss the operation. Review:
- List of operating issues
- Strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities of the unit
- Key Human Resource
- Important contacts
- History of the group
- Jointly review the operating
issues of the unit around people, products/services, and resources. Prepare
a list of the short-term, mid-term and long-term issues you need to address.
Ask the departing employee for beginning recommendations on how to address
the issues. Record actions already taken that set precedent for future
- (Where appropriate) Walk
through the unit with the exiting employee and learn the important parts of
the operation. Stop periodically for introductions and short informal chats
with members of the staff.
- Discuss the performance
objectives the departing employee has been working on. Review where things
stand against each objective and what remains to be done.
- Ask the outgoing employee to
transmit his/her view of what the group can become or can do.
- Donít feel obligated to
use all of what is offered.
- Ask the departing HR Leader to
review the Human Resources issues with you
- Discuss the Human Resource
decisions you need to make in the first six months. (e.g. performance
evaluations due, probationary action pending, required Management Planning
Reviews, pay decisions, etc.)
- Review the past performance
and strengths/developmental needs of each member of your new group. Be
careful not to be biased by the departing manager-"consider just the
- Study the files the
departing employee has kept on Human Resource issues (e.g., critical
incident files, salary histories, past performance appraisals, management
planning worksheets, job descriptions.)
- Acquaint yourself with the
help your Human Resources representative can provide.
- Develop a Support System
- Together develop a list of
key clients/peers you should get to know within the first month. Identify
and list the resources and support each can provide.
- Find out who is a knowledge
person you can use as a sounding board when questions arise.
Success Tip #5:
Jointly develop written performance objectives.
- Use the, exiting employee as
an on-going support system. Stay in touch after he/she leaves. Donít
hesitate to ask if there are questions. (If possible) arrange informal
get-togethers (e.g. coffees/lunches) after the current employee leaves to
talk about how itís
- Clarify with your new boss
expectations he/she has about what is effective performance. Set goals and
objectives to describe in specific and measurable terms what you are to
accomplish. Without common understanding, each side in the relationship
inevitably will stop trusting the other.
- Test your assumption about
how things should operate. Look at the operation with a fresh perspective.
Offer new ideas about what to do to bolster performance.
- Jointly develop a list of
initial work assignments to guide your efforts during the first several
weeks in the job.
Success Tip #6:
Negotiate the support and expectations you need.
- Involve yourself in a high
profile project you can succeed at quickly to build personal confidence
- Get your new bossís help
in buffering anything that takes you away from the task of getting
settled-in and taking charge of the operation.
Success Tip #7: Jointly
prepare an individual development plan.
- Negotiate exceptions that
allow you time to build momentum within the group. However, be sensitive
about how intense to negotiate and when to withdraw.
- Jointly author a plan that
describes the knowledge, skills, and development experiences you need
during the first year.
Success Tip #8:
Establish an accountability to talk with clients.
- Agree with your manager on
the time you need to learn about the new job. Take every opportunity to
learn more about the new operation. In the initial take charge period,
learn from your mistakes. Keep your boss informed to avoid second-guessing
or premature judgement of your actions.
- Talk with your clients to
find out how the group is perceived and how well it's servicing the
- Whenever possible, work on
needed changes by using a task force of those the change affects. This
increases the chances everyone knows what to do. It also increases
ownership of the changes you decide to make.
- Obtain feedback on planned
changes, even if you're unable to involve others in the decision-making
Success Tip #9:
Develop an initial "map" and list of priorities.
- Sell your new
ideas/proposals by first determining the needs of clients and those whose
commitment you want. Show clearly, how your ideas/proposals meet those
needs. Pre-sell the key decision-makers. Sell new ideas in small
manageable chunks to allow people time to get use to them.
- Develop energy and
enthusiasm within the group as early as possible.
Develop a rallying cry,
theme, or challenge to unite the group.
- Sponsor a group
- Champion a cause team
members are excited about.
- Build in lots of involvement
for members of your new staff (more than usual). For instance include them
- New Decisions
- Discussions on how to
- Develop initial priorities
and a "map" to guide you. Remain flexible and change direction as you
learn more about the organization.
- Avoid going for the home-run
hit on early decisions. Recognize youíll have to redo later some of the
changes you make in the early stages of taking charge.
- Recognize complex problems
require some immediate, stop-gap action, but may also take several
attempts to find the underlying causes. In short, experiment ("do it,
try it, fix it") when handling complex problems.
- Initially, act to correct
near-term problems where there's good support or where there's some clear
need to act. Avoid making premature decisions on long-term issues before
you know all the facts. Itís more important to establish a track record
on smaller issues than to make your mark on major issues before you have
the important facts. Managers brought in to "turn around the
operation" sometimes fall victim of this need to act.
- As an insider taking charge
of a new operation, test your assumptions about key people and the
problems of the unit. It is especially important to question perceptions
and beliefs about individuals youíve worked with. Change in structure
and reporting relationships change personal relationships. Be willing to
renegotiate old relationships as well as form new ones.
- As an insider, look at the
job as an outsider might. Be innovative-be willing to abandon the status
quo. Adapt goals and strategies to the new challenges of a growing
- Figure out the pressure
points in the new unit. Focus the groupís energy on 1-2 carefully chosen
projects that improve performance and provide an early success. Choose
projects based on importance and the readiness of the group (e.g.
creativity, energy, and determination to succeed). Take care of the rest
of the unitís responsibilities on a business-as-usual basis. Resist the
temptation to do everything at once.
- Exercise the latitude the
organization gives you as a new manager. Be willing to take a few risks.
Determine if others will give you the benefit of the doubt if things donít
- Develop written plans for
the hi-impact, hi-visibility projects. Let people know what part they play
so they can commit themselves to the task. With the group's help, spell
out who's to do what, when. and the authority and responsibility of those
accountable. Describe the desired results and how you'll measure progress
and results. Get feedback from your team. Be
clear on who has
sponsored past practices and policies and why before making changes.
- Take initial action where
you have the most functional knowledge.
- Allow time between the
changes you make to be sure they accomplish what you intended. Those
affected by the changes may also need time to get used to the new ways of
doing things. Remember: "The more radical the change and the less
people know of your motives, the longer it takes for them to
- Establish check-points for
feedback on how well the changes are working.
Success Tip #10:
Hold a meeting with Human Resources on key systems (Note: HR needs HR too!!)
- Share credit for success on
important projects with subordinates and peers who "help make
- After the settling in
period, find out more about the Human Resource systems you need to use in
the first year. (e.g., Performance Planning and Review, Management
Planning, Pay Systems, Management Development Opportunities/Programs,
etc.) Identify the Human Resources people who can provide
additional information, guidance, and support.
- Work with the Human
Resources group in managing personnel issues. Take time to get
acquainted with the Human Resources person assigned to your group Ė if
there is one. Learn how the various Human Resources systems work.
Success Tip #11:
Hold discussions/meetings to establish your group's now direction.
- In the early stages of
taking charge, involve the members of your team in defining the groupís
direction. The direction describes where the unit needs to get and how the
team needs to work together to get there. Frequently hold discussions with
the team to redefine the direction. Check what else you need to do to
bring the team together. (Bringing the team together includes things youíll
do more of/less of as well as things theyíll do to promote better
- Give credit and respect to
the old-timers and experienced people in the group. Seek their opinions
and listen to their recommendations. Develop your staff as a group of
allies. Let them guide you through the initial period of taking charge,
until you can learn the important facts about the new operation. Some
practical strategies include:
- Ask lots of questionsÖbe
sure you understand the answers.
- Let people know you
understand and appreciate their viewpoint.
- Build upon otherís ideas
versus killing them.
- Implement the ideas you get
from people within your group.
- Provide public recognition
for good ideas from the group.
Success Tip #12:
Make the staffing/structure changes necessary to execute your new direction.
- Avoid quick changes in staffing
and structure just for the sake of saying you've taken action. Explore
uncertainties and concerns you have about staff members and the structure of
the organization with your boss and others. Assess the staffing and structure
of your organization against the yardstick of its ability to carry out the new
Success Tip #13:
Re-immerse yourself in learning more about the operation.
- Take time to reassess the
initial assumptions you made when you inherited the job. Periodically
immerse yourself in learning more about the operation. Frequently reassess
how it's going and identify needed fine-tuning.
Success Tip 14:
Schedule periodic sessions for feedback and coaching.
- Establish frequent
opportunities to discuss with your manager the details of changes you are
proposing. Augment your limitations in experience or skills with coaching.
(Donít confuse coaching with "Here's how you should do it.")
- Anticipate potential
problems you will have because you lack company experience. Develop
adequate back-up support.
- Solicit frequent, frank,
informal, timely feedback on how things are going during break-in period
as natural opportunities occur.
- Informally talk to your
peers, colleagues, and clients about how it's going during the take-charge
phase. Learn from the positive feedback you hear.
- Ask your new boss to
provide early-warning to you when problems exist or as issues arise.
Following these guidelines will
put you well on the path towards realizing your goal of getting off to a fast
start as a new HR executive in a new role.
About the Author: Alan L. Collins is
Vice President - Human Resources for a global, well-known consumer products
company. His accountabilities include developing strategies for attracting
and retaining talent, building organization capability and leading large-scale
change and transformation.