How to develop a career in HR

As an experienced HR professional, I am often asked for advice by those just starting their HR career.

Top Tip

The key piece of advice I would give is to make sure you focus on your professional development (notwithstanding there is both a need and an expectation as HR professionals to maintain our knowledge and skills during whichever point in our career we are at).

Next steps:

  • Identify your professional development needs based on what your business needs from you. This way you will close the gap between what you already know and what you need to know to do your job well. A progressive career will then naturally follow as you build up a proven track record of performance.
  • The starting point should be clarity about the role you are required to play in your organisation. Job descriptions are great for this, but some organisations don’t have them so if this is the case for you have a conversation with your line manager so that you are clear on ‘what’ you need to do and how success will be measured.
  • The ‘What’ you need to do will become the ‘People’ part of the business plan. It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan, but it gives you something to work to, and to monitor progress against. (Remember at this stage we are talking business-based plans, not your personal development plan).
  • Once you have your ‘People’ plan you are then able to do a gap analysis on what you already know and can do, and what you need to know and/or learn to do to be able to deliver your people plan. This becomes your professional development plan and is personal to you. This will contain technical development (knowledge) and behavioural development (Skills).
  • Remember, technical knowledge alone won’t make us great HR professionals, we need great behaviours too, so make sure you have a balance on your development plan. The way you work will be key to managing your increasing responsibility as your career progresses and should include processes and approaches you put in place to help you.


  • Review the CIPD Development Tool to make sure you understand the behaviours HR professionals need to add value in the business
  • If your organisation has a competency framework, make sure you assess yourself against this too
  • Attend your local CIPD branch meetings to gain insight into HR subjects and to get different perspectives
  • Sign up to receive email alerts from professional bodies to stay up to date. I’d recommend at least:
    People Management and ACAS
  • Use LinkedIn to gain knowledge and insight. Link with or follow key people who are active and share information. You don’t have to comment if you don’t want to, but if you see something that’s been shared you can then follow that too and build your reference sources
  • Keep up to date with the news for things that are happening that are relevant to HR and business. This will help you help others to see the link between HR practices and real life.
  • If you like reading, there are some great books out there. The CIPD has its own bookstore, and there’s some good stuff on Amazon. These can be a particularly good when focusing on behavioural development
  • Build your network of like-minded people.
  • Consider a HR coach if you don’t have someone in your organisation who has the time to support you on your journey. You won’t need a coach forever, but they can be great at certain points in your career. I have had coaches in the past and their roles have varied depending on the stage I have been in my career and what I have needed. My first one was a HR expert; subsequent ones provided coaching in leadership. If you want/need your organisation to pay, then suggest a personal development bond agreement

Best of luck!

I hope you liked this post. If you would like to know more email me at:

Why you might not be as inclusive as you think you are (and what to do about it)


This week I have either seen or heard several examples of people being disadvantaged, or even discriminated against. This is because of the characteristics that make them who they are.

Examples of people being disadvantaged, or even discriminated against:

  • The business owner unable to attend a network event of their choice because of a lack of wheelchair access
  • A special education needs (SEN) student who’s challenges were exposed for all to see because of their teacher’s (poor) teaching style
  • A mother wanting to return to work on different hours, so that she can care for the child she brought in to the world AND do a job she loves (which btw is good at) have her request for part time working turned down.

And we only have to read the papers to know about examples such as Ryanair and Phillip Green (ok so no one is surprised by Mr Green’s alleged behaviour, but even so!!!)

So, who are we really kidding when we claim we are inclusive, and that we value diversity and treat people fairly???

Not those who directly experience this treatment that’s for sure. Not their friends and family who have had to see their loved-ones suffer because of their treatment; and not those who get to hear about these incidents.

Yet more and more organisations are claiming they are ‘fair and inclusive’.

They publish their list of policies on equality, diversity and inclusion. They state organisational values claiming they ‘value and promote fair-treatment and inclusion’.

They put posters up everywhere, and they say they have trained their people in both the legal and moral reasons for treating people fairly.

But if policies and value statements and training are the answer, why do we still see and hear examples such as the ones I have listed? I think there are several reasons.

Barriers to being fair and inclusive:

  1. Leaders of said organisations think a policy, a few written statements, and a training session are all that is needed to help their people do the right thing. They don’t look at the wider approaches that support a culture of inclusion
  2. People don’t have time to think (we live in a very busy world)
  3. People don’t think – they can’t or don’t want to
  4. People are actually biased – it’s a fact! Us humans are biased (OMG – shock horror!).

People may choose to be biased. This is something known as ‘conscious’ bias (otherwise known as rude, prejudice, bigoted, narrow-minded, intolerant and/or just-not-very-nice-people).

Or they may be blissfully unaware (not that ‘blissful’ is probably the right description, so let’s use ‘unconscious’).

Unconscious bias

This is a recognised human trait that occurs when people favour others who are like them and/or share their values (not that being unconscious makes it ok though – just for the record!).

What is ok though, is to accept that we are biased, even if we don’t at first recognise how. Let’s stop kidding ourselves that we are perfect and that we have created the perfect environment.

Let’s challenge ourselves as to what our unconscious bias is, so that we can be conscious to it, and therefore be mindful of it.

Do a test if that’s what floats your boat. Try the Harvard test (link below) – go on – I dare you ;-).

For me it’s easy though – if we ask ourselves how we would want our loved ones to be treated we may just stop and think.

Would the person in charge of the network event have wanted a friend isolated that way? I doubt it, and so they would probably choose a venue that provides access as standard.

Would the teacher of the student with SEN have wanted their child exposed like that? You bet they wouldn’t, they would want teaching methods that are adaptive, supportive, nurturing. Not ones that disadvantage individuals because of what makes them them.

And would the manager who said ‘No’ to the flexible working request have wanted their partner’s career cut short or their child to miss out on the benefits of having a working parent? Nope – I suspect they’d be expecting someone to be more accommodating if it were their partner and their child.

Be brave – take a stand

Be that event organiser who says no to the venue because they are not disability-friendly.

Be that teacher that treats their students as if they were their own.

Be that manager who can be flexible in the way they organise their team to work so that they can attract and retain the best people.

Be Google, who have sacked 48 people (including 13 senior managers) over sexual harassment claims since 2016.

Be human!

More importantly, be human!

Recognise that a policy and some statements about values are not enough, recognise that being inclusive requires a mindset that starts with challenging ourselves and our bias.

To take the test to see how unconsciously biased you are click here

Click here for my blog on diversity and inclusion

What is Diversity & Inclusion (and why is it important)?

What is Diversity?

This is the degree of both visible and invisible differences in the makeup of the workforce.

It includes the characteristics protected by law. These are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • gender
  • sexual orientation

It also includes differences in socio-economic status, education, communication styles and fashion choices to name just a few examples.

What is Inclusion?

This refers to a state where people are made to feel included, valued and respected within a group or structure.

The Business Case for a diverse and inclusive work place

We know that the best workplaces are those that are diverse and inclusive.

This is not just because it is morally right and, in some cases, a legal requirement. It’s also the case that organisations that are diverse and inclusive are better equipped to face existing as well as emerging business challenges.

They will, for example, have access to a wider pool of applicants, and a more-motivated and engaged team of employees, leading to greater productivity. All of which are key enablers of delivering great customer service.

The increasing deficit between supply and demand for labour across the UK means being a diverse and inclusive employer is critical to the ability to attract and retain the employees required to meet customers’ needs.

Older People

By 2022, there will be a million more older workers in the workplace, and by 2030 half of all adults will be over 50.

However, if organisations are not attracting or retaining people from this group they are losing out on a significant amount of experience available to them.


In the UK, 1 in 8 workers are currently combining paid work with unpaid care responsibilities. Among these, two thirds are employed full time but are highly likely to feel they need to leave if they can’t work part time.

This is a turnover issue waiting to happen unless organisations re-think how they engage with, support and accommodate this group of people.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)

There are also persistent unemployment rate gaps amongst those of ethnic minority background, with some ethnic minority groups experiencing employment rates which are twice as high as their white counterparts.

New research suggests that 6% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) workers don’t feel they can be open about their sexual orientation at work.

This means employers are not getting the ‘whole’ person at work. It is also highly likely a person in this group eventually feels like leaving or suffers from workplace stress because of the pressure on them to not be themselves.

Over-qualified workers

The number of UK workers who are overqualified for their job has recently increased to around 2.5 million (or 8.7 per cent of the workforce).

These employees are being under-utilised and could probably give much more, so understanding why they are not in the right roles can overcome this waste.

Not in employment, education or training (NEETs)

At the end of 2017, approximately 11% of 16-24-year olds were not in employment, education or training. Quite often these people are finding they can’t get a job because employers are asking for experience they haven’t yet had the chance to gain.

By being more inclusive and less bias there is yet another pool of potential employees to draw upon.


People with autism have some very valuable skills which can be applied in the workplace.

For example, they might have very good attention to detail or be really good at sticking to routines and timetables, therefore likely to be very punctual and reliable. Despite this just 16% of the 700,000 autistic adults in the UK are in full time work (and that figure is only those who have a diagnosis).


Women are generally unrepresented in many of our organisations, and not just at a senior level, yet research indicates that many women tend to have higher qualifications than their male counterparts.

Exploring what it is about certain sectors or organisations that puts women off creates an opportunity to attract and retain from this pool of potential resource.

Improving diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are key strategic challenges for many organisations.

Addressing these could improve employer reputation. It could increase access to a wider pool of applicants, drive productivity and reduce employee turnover.

To do this, organisations first need to understand how diverse and inclusive they really are.

I recently created a Diversity and Inclusion Health Check for Alex Warner, CEO of Flash Forward (a company that supports transport and logistics businesses nationwide).

As far as we’re aware this is the first sector-specific service of its kind.

The health check will help Alex’s clients understand how diverse and inclusive they are. It also helps to identify actions to create a workplace where everyone feels truly valued and included.

If you’d like to know more about how I can help you, contact me at  for a chat.

Click here for more blogs.

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