At times, HR executives can encounter a difficult path on their journey to the C-suite. The following strategies can be useful for HR executives who are interested in becoming a key part of their companies’ strategic organization.
1. Start with the Basics. Most executives know that the best way to move up in their career is to excel at their current position. By mastering the basics, such as contract negotiation strategies, an HR executive can quickly get noticed and move up the corporate ladder.

2. Make Yourself Visible. Some of the ways in which an HR executive can stay visible is by continuously communicating with coworkers to stay aware of and solve current issues, utilizing social media and making a point to discuss industry-related topics with the CEO and other C-level coworkers.

3. Learn How to Crunch Numbers. Like most departments, the HR department has not eluded big data. This means that HR executives with an analytical background have the advantage. If you are not already doing so, start monitoring key data points in your department and apply them to your organization’s overall business goals. Some suggested reports you can generate include “employee benefit benchmarking,” “leave and absence analysis” and “employee satisfaction and needs.

4. Further Your Education. Gaining further education, such as certifications and an MBA, can give HR executives the necessary business knowledge and skills to be a valuable contributor to their organization. It is especially important to be prepared for P&L responsibility and be able to understand financial metrics.

5. Know Your Organization Inside and Out. “HR is so much into theory. They’re unwilling to get down to the details of running the company.” HR executives need to develop knowledge outside of the HR department to learn more about how the organization works from the perspective of other departments and outside of the company. Once an HR professional has this wide range of knowledge about the company and its products, they will be able to find ways to turn the HR department into a more integral part of the organization.

6. Develop Key Relationships. HR professionals are bombarded with daily interaction, but many are still unable to build on the key relationships that could help them advance in their careers. Building these relationships is an important part to any executive’s career management strategy. A couple of ways an HR executive can develop these relationships is by taking the time to provide thoughtful, informative advice to coworkers seeking help and/or by finding a good mentor.

7. Position Yourself as a Leader. As a leader in the HR department, HR executives need to find ways to contribute to their organizations’ business goals. “80 percent of CEOs report that HR does not provide them with what they need to achieve their business goals.” By proactively improving processes in the HR department, you will show proven leadership skills and become a viable candidate for a C-level position.

8. Know When to Walk Away. “HR professionals tend not to be promoted…They hit a ceiling and they don’t get hired into other parts of the company.” If you find that your new leadership and strategy efforts are not landing you a seat at the C-suite table, then you may want to explore new opportunities. In your future executive job search, be sure to highlight the strategic value you contributed to your organization as a key message in your personal brand strategy.

This post was adapted by Julia Salem, of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), from a post Alan S. Horowitz originally contributed to Software Advice, an organization that provides reviews of software for HR professionals. 


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