By: Lauren Shreve on May 15th, 2023

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What Type of HR Leader Is Right For Your Business?

Business Management & Strategy | Talent Acquisition

Human resources leaders play a crucial role in every organization.

HR executives are responsible for taking high-level strategy—like business goals, growth targets, and market pressures—and creating human capital initiatives to support that strategy. In essence, the HR leader is a link between employees and the C-Suite.

And that’s why it’s so important to find the right kind of HR leader for your team. In this guide, we’re going to look at the characteristics and competencies required for outstanding human resource management in four different environments:

  • Start-ups and small businesses
  • Established companies
  • Organizations in mergers & acquisition mode
  • Organizations facing uncertainty

HR Leaders for start-ups and small businesses

For new businesses and start-ups, Human Resources will initially fall to the leadership team. In time, if the start-up is successful, leadership will eventually find it necessary to bring in an HR professional to lead the function. There are many skills they will lean on, but what follows are what we feel will be most important in making the transition from ‘no-HR’ to HR.

Start-up HR Skills

  • Compliance: Your HR manager needs to have a solid understanding of compliance. The first thing they will need to do is audit your employment practices to ensure that you are in compliance – and if you are not, to take steps to get you there.

  • Policy Development: Start-ups may have a handbook that was created by an attorney, or payroll and benefits administrator, or lifted from the internet. You need your HR professional to go through and make sure everything is outlined clearly and concisely for your employees and to avoid confusion that many lawsuits are built upon. They will also have to build new policies, such as DEI initiatives.

  • Influencing: HR will need to explain the importance of many things that are taken for granted at larger organizations, like why we need a mission statement, vision and values. And they’ll need to explain it in a meaningful way enough to get buy-in from leadership and relatively inexperienced managers.

  • Teambuilding: The new leader will have to build their HR team from the ground up. This means finding and training people who can handle day-to-day tasks, while also working on big-picture initiatives like improving employee engagement. Your HR team is tasked with building an amazing employee experience—your first task is to find a leader who will create a great experience for your HR team.

  • Embrace the quirk! HR will not change what you have, the right person will sand-off the rough spots, and create a safe, diverse environment that will keep and attract the best people to your organization.

Download the guide: 20 Question to Ask Your HR Leader

HR Leaders for established companies

Established companies value stability in their teams and in their corporate policies, including HR. They have a lot to be proud of, yet they run the risk of stagnation which would cause them to lose their best people. Your HR Leader or CHRO can help you put together a plan to continue to grow and retain top performers.

Established Company HR Skills

  • Performance Management: Performance management is a rapidly evolving area, especially in the age of remote work. Technology allows us to get a much deeper insight into employee productivity, which can help identify and reward the best performers. A great HR leader can help develop a fair system that rewards performance in alignment with strategic goals.

  • Talent acquisition: Your HR professional needs will come up with procedures to attract a diverse talent pool to keep fresh ideas flowing and keep people engaged. They’ll also work on your employer brand that celebrates your company as a great place to work.

  • Training and Development: In addition to new people, your HR Leader will come up with a plan to ensure current employees are moving along their desired career paths. They will also implement a succession planning scheme to nurture employees with leadership skills.

  • Innovation: An HR leader who knows how to try new things, new vendors, receive ideas on how to make things better and act on them is what your organization needs to make things fresh and keep improving.

HR Leaders for companies in Merger & Acquisition mode

Firms that grow by acquiring others face special challenges and need HR professionals who can rise to the occasion to meet them. Successful HR leaders at these firms know that culture is king and show their commitment by living these values. They understand that the people being acquired are not numbers, but people and valued employees.

Merger-Acquisition (M&A) HR Skills

  • Adaptability: Great leaders needs to be comfortable with change and helps others to manage change. They need a background in change management projects, plus the ability to stay cool when things don’t go according to plan.

  • Culture: The M&A HR professional knows that putting your company mission and values statements front and center will ensure a smooth transition for the acquired company. They also know how to ensure that current employees who interact with that group will provide those individuals with the time they need to get up to speed with new procedures and tools.

  • Process-Knowledge: The HR Leader you need is one that understands current process and procedures and what can be done to modify them to accommodate a new group of employees.

  • Compensation-Benefits: The HR leader needs to have a team who is skilled in company benefits and is able to run quick comparisons to explain acquired employees the differences in a meaningful way.

  • Employment Law: The M&A HR Leader must be comfortable with the variables in Employment law when companies go into new states and countries and can come up with solid plans to ensure compliance for employees wherever they are based.

HR Leaders for companies facing uncertainty

The latest earnings report is not looking good. The Executive at your company knows that they have no choice but to let some people go. We hope that you have an HR leader who is prepared to help you make those difficult decisions, put a plan together and see it through in a way that everyone involved feels respected – despite the difficult news.

Reduction-in-Force (RIF) HR Skills

  • Employment Law: Your HR professional will need to know if the RIF needs to be reported to the Department of Labor. They will also know what additional paperwork will be required for your workers over 40. They will put together the appropriate letters for the RIF and explain them to managers and the impacted employees.

  • Communication: Your HR leader can help the leadership get the word out to employees about the RIF, why it’s happening and what it means for those impacted and those who are asked to remain on with the company.

  • Benefits: They will prepare documents to explain what happens to benefits when you are laid off and are able to explain them to those impacted.

  • Empathy: The best HR professionals know that showing empathy as you go through such processes is critical. Emotional intelligence is of vital importance to demonstrate caring and ensure that all whose positions are eliminated retain their dignity throughout the process.

  • Coaching: As the decisions are made and managers are assigned to deliver the news, your HR leader will coach managers on the best way to handle the termination discussion with the employee.

In conclusion, it may be time to evaluate whether your organization’s HR Leadership has the right capabilities in their toolkit to help your people reach the company objectives for the coming year.

Evaluate the company goals and objectives you’ve outlined for the next few years and consider what achieving those goals will require of your people. Ensure that the leadership team knows that HR function is not just a department of people, but when properly leverage may have all the skills and abilities that you need to help your company achieve and exceed the vision you’ve defined.

Need to hire an interim HR leader? Book a call with Helios HR to talk with a leadership expert. 

Download the guide: 20 Question to Ask Your HR Leader