30 Powerful Tips To Be An Outstanding HR Professional

Alan Collins, former VP of Human Resources of PepsiCo has written a ground-breaking book for HR professionals. His work has helped me tremendously as an aspiring HR leader with his proven, no B.S wisdom that practically no one else in HR will sit down and tell  you about. I hope to share the top 30 short tips, best practices, and ideas that relate to the success of your HR career. You can learn more about Alan’s book where he shares his top 400 tips on how to be an outstanding HR professional here.

Get this copy on Amazon HERE.

1. You need an HR specialty.

Even if you’re a generalist and jack of all trades, you need to be  a MASTER OF ONE. It makes you unique, special and sets you apart from the rest of the pack.

2. HR results matter a lot, but relationships matter more.

Performing and delivering results matter. They help you attract attention, recognition, rewards and promotions. But only up to a point. When you reach the Human Resources leadership ranks, this perspective shifts radically. Results continue to be just as important, but relationships you build within the organization carry even greater weight.

3. If you’re an HR leader, nothing will make you look better than a talented HR team2.

Hire people who are at least your equal or preferable a little bit better. Too many B and C players will ruin your department and your leadership reptuation.

4. Stay current and on top of your HR. Just when you think you’re winning the rat race, along come faster rats .

5. What others say about your HR reputation is 10 times more convincing than what you say — even if you’re 10 times more articulate.

6. Most super-successful HR folks have LOTS of projects in the pipeline — any one of which could change the course of their career overnight. Check and add to your pipeline often.

7. Embrace & use the F-word often. (Relax, F stands for feedback.)

Set up regular face-to-face meeting to clarify, dig deeper and decode any vague and confusing feedback you receive about your performance, your style or your approach in handling difficult situations. While it’s okay to clarify it, don’t debate it, argue about it or shut it off. Consider feedback a gift and when receiving it, the MOST appropriate response is: “Thank you!”

8. Your HR experience doesn’t matter NEARLY as much as it used to.

The old rules were: Tell me what have you done? The new rules are: Tell me what can you do? This may seem unfair or even ridiculous. But the reality is hiring managers don’t wan to hear everything you did way back when. They want to hear about everything you can do, to help them TODAY. Right here. Right now. Employers want HR people that are problem solvers. If you cannot clearly articulate how you can contribute (directly or indirectly) to enhancing retention, reducing costs, improving revenues, and helping them become more competitive, you might as well stay at home.

9. A formula for managing your time worth $25,000.

True story. In the 1920s, a man approached JP Morgon, the founder of the investment firm that bears his name, and help up an envelope. He said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a GUARANTEED formula for success, which I will gladly sell you for $25,000.” “Sir,” JP Morgon replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope. However, if you show me, and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.” The man agreed to those terms, and handed over the envelope. JP Morgan opened it, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look, a mere glance, and then handed the piece of paper back. And, then paid him the agreed-upon $25,000. The paper said.

(1) Every morning, write out a list of the 6 MOST IMPORTANT things that need to be that day.

(2) Do them…in the EXACT order of their importance.

 10. A simple HR time management memory aid in 12 words:

Do one thing at a time; most important thing first; Start now.

11. Set aside “ONE career hour” a week. If you’re busy doing your job, it’s easy to forget to spend some time managing your career. You might spend that hour…

  • Revising your resume to make sure it’s up-to-date
  • Enhancing your LInkedIn profile or requesting more endorsements to support that profile
  • Giving a presentation on your HR specialty at a lunch-and-learn training session to build your skills
  • Networking over coffee or dinner with someone who may someday offer or refer you to your next job.
  • Returning all those headhunter calls you’ve gotten to provide them with a referral – to keep that relationship going.

12. When complimented, watch the size of your head.

Talent is God given. Be humble. 
Fame is man-given. Be grateful.
Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
– Coach John Wooden7

 13. To really differentiate yourself from the rest of the HR pack, start a blog.

14. The Awesome Power of Mentors

A University of Virginia and Harvard study found that people with three mentors are more likely to get promoted than someone with fewer than three. They also perform better on the job, earn higher salaries and report more job and career satisfaction. This is true in HR as well. I’ve never found an exceptionally successful HR leader who cannot name a cadre of influential mentors who helped their careers along the way.

15. Leave the words “human capital” in the textbooks conference rooms and with the HR consultants.

In real life, you can’t treat people like they’re numbers in a powerpoint presentation or as “human capital” that can be sold off like a stock. That’s in free fall. They’re people, like you and me, with families and fears and aspirations for the future. And for most of their day, they choose to invest their time and energy in our organizations.

16. The HR leader’s job is CHANGE. If you’re not spearheading and guiding change, you’re managing – not leading.

17. Steal.

Never invent mediocrity when you can copy genius. Swipe best practiecs from any place and anywhere you can if it helps move your HR department, your HR career or your business forward. Steal from other departments. Swipe from other divisions. Take from other firms. BE sure you give them credit then add your unique twist. If it’s proven and it works, why not? Bury your ego. Creating new stuff from scratch always take more time than you think and is highly overrated.

18. A truly great HR leader searches for eagles, not turkeys, and then teaches them to fly in formation.

19. The 3 most important key in managing your poor performing employees:

  • Clear expectations
  • Documentation
  • Feedback

20. In recruiting and hiring, don’t use cost per hire as you only success metric. It matters, but QUALITY OF HIRE IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT. After a period of time, the only thing people remember is how great you hire was, not how much he or she cost.

Nobody remember how much Michael Jordon cost to sign. And those that do don’t care, because he created billions and championships. Nobody cares that John Gruden was paid $8 million to coach when he won the Super Bowl.

21. When planning your HR strategy, dig deep into your turnover numbers. Losing the top performing 20% of your people is 5 times more hurtful in your organization than any other group. It’s not HOW MANY you’re losing, it’s WHO you’re losing.

22. One year after you leave college, if you’re knocking it out of the park, no one will care what your GPA was.

23. BIG goals to tackle that will easily place you among the top 5% of all HR professionals:

  • Getting 20 recommendations on LinkedIn.
  • Publishing an article once a year on your specialty.
  • Developing a free white paper on your specialty downloaded 500 HR people
  • Writing an HR book.
  • Speaking at local or national SHRM conference.
  • Conducting a webinar, workshop, talk or speech on your specialty
  • Starting your own HR blog
  • Starting a group on LinkedIn
  • Giving a lecture or teaching an HR class at a local university
  • Creating a brown-bag lecture series
  • Become an officer in a network or trade association
  • Getting a twitter account and attracting 500 meaningful followers
  • Attaining HR certification
  • Clearly defining how you are different than every other HR professional
  • Producing a YouTube video on your specialty

24. David Ogilvy, the well-known advertising wizard who founded the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, never spent a day in HR, but had an orientation practice that all HR leaders would appreciate. He established a wonderful tradition of welcoming new leaders in his organization with a gift of five wooden dolls, each smaller than the other, one inside the other. When the recipient finally gets to the fifth little doll, the smallest doll, and opens it, he finds the message: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”

 25. To influence, persuade and really connect with people at a deep and emotional level, speak to them in their language — using their words, not yours.

26. How to avoid being irrelevant in Human Resources

  • Credible Activist: The HR professional is both credible (respected, admired, listened to) and active (offers a point of view, takes a position, challenges assumptions). Some have called this HR with an attitude.
  • Culture and Change Steward: The HR professional recognizes, articulates, and helps shape a company’s culture. Culture is a pattern of activities more than a single event. Ideally this culture starts with clarity around external customer expectations (firm identity or brand), and then translates these expectations into internal employee and organization behaviour. As stewards of culture, HR professionals respect the past culture and also can help to shape a new culture. They coach managers in how their actions reflect and drive culture; they weave the cultural standards into HR practices and processes; and they make culture real to employees.
  • Talent Manager / Organizational Designer: The HR professional masters theory, research, and practice in both talent management and organization design. Talent management focuses on how individuals enter, move up, across, or out of the organization. Organization design focuses on the capabilities an organization has that are embedded in the structure, processes, and policies that shape how an organization works.
  • Strategy Architect: The HR professional has a vision for how the organization can win in the future and plays an active part in the establishment of the overall strategy to deliver on this vision. This incorporates recognizing business trends and their impact on the business, being able to forecast potential obstacles to success, and facilitating the process of gaining strategic clarity. The HR professional also contributes to the building of the overall strategy by linking the internal organization to external customer expectations. This linkage helps make customer-driven business strategies real to the employees of the company.
  • Operational Executor: The HR professional executes the operational aspects of managing people and organizations. Policies need to be drafted, adapted, and implemented. Employees also have many administrative needs (e.g., to be paid, relocated, hired, trained, etc.) HR professionals ensure that these basic needs are efficiently dealt with through technology, shared services, and/or outsourcing. This operational work of HR ensures credibility if executed flawlessly and grounded in the consistent application of policies.
  • Business Ally: The HR professional contributes to the success of the business. Businesses succeed by setting goals and objectives that allow them to respond to external conditions. HR professionals contribute to the success of a business by knowing the social context or setting in which their business operates. They also know how the business makes money, which we call the value chain of the business (who customers are, why they buy the company’s products or services). And, they have a base understanding of the parts of the business (finance, marketing, R&D, engineering) so that they can help the business organize to make money

27. C players don’t hire A players. So don’t hire C players.

28. Great HR leaders are servants. They help their do well, look good, and allow them to receive the recognition. Poor HR leaders lord over their people, take over often and then blame them for mistakes.

29. A dozen things every HR person should know about their business:

  • The company’s current share price (if its is publicly traded)
  • Profit (bottom line) over the last two years
  • Revenue growth (top line) over the last two years
  • Key productivity (cost management) strategies
  • Primary product brands or services offered
  • How the company makes money
  • How customers are being satisfied
  • How the product is manufactured or service is delivered
  • How products/services are developed, marketed, and sold
  • Customer retention and attraction strategies
  • Key suppliers and customers
  • What gives your company a competitive advantage

30. Rapid talent development occurs when people are promoted SLIGHTLY before they are ready and are stretched SLIGHTLY out of their comfort zone. However, they also need safety nets so they don’t drown completely.


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