how to stand out to your HR leader

An HR Advisor candidate of mine keen to develop their career asked me, “What should I do to stand out to my HR Leader?” This question got me thinking, what would be good advice for enthusiastic people who want to stand out? Is there a magic formula for recognition and reward?

I started asking questions to HR Leaders of multiple organisations and had some great conversations. In HR, expected attributes include attention to detail, punctuality, reliability and a solid understanding of the HR subject matter.  It seems more is anticipated of you to stand out.  What are those expectations, and what do leaders look for in terms of additional elements? 

Queensland XRay’s HR Lead Kerrie McDonald did not even have to think about it; the answer came to her mind so quickly that it surprised me how I could not see it myself. “When you have a problem, think about a couple of solutions before talking to your leader”. When you reflect on it, it makes sense; when we advertise vacancies, we always ask for proactive, solution-orientated professionals.  A fantastic start; from now on, we can think of possibilities to solve issues and discussing how to fix something together.  This approach shows that you are capable of critical reasoning and judgement, essential attributes for ambitious employees.
What also stands out to Kerrie is proactive communication. As a leader, don’t you want to be able to see the crisis coming? I am sure Kerrie is not alone when she likes to be kept in the loop and find the ability to stay on the front foot if the phone rings. 

Ben Bolt from Relationships Australia, who has led teams for several years, also pointed out an interesting fact,  that some managers may be unaware that their staff are looking for extra work or have additional capacity.  Ben suggested that it is conducive for him as a manager, with a busy schedule, to understand when his staff members are available and keen to take on more.  Reflecting on the new way of working, with increasing staff working from home or remotely, leaders sometimes don’t see someone overworked or insufficiently challenged. Being specific when mentioning it is the key here! So why don’t we forget “I can’t handle this” or “I am so bored” and replace it with “can I take on a new project for 4 hours every Monday?” or “5 roles are too many on my plate this week”. 

A leader’s perspective is so different from that of an employee who has no staff management responsibilities. If we take the time to stop and reflect from the perspective of our managers, we will be able to get a better gauge on what they would appreciate going forward. It would place us in a better position to work to make our efforts more apparent to them.  

Rebecca Pollock, the HR Manager at Australian Digital Health Agency, likes team members returning to her with completed tasks earlier than expected, with already completed organised documentation. Hence, there is no follow up needed. “This makes life easier”, - Rebecca says,  and that’s what we want to achieve! 

My conclusion to this topic is that we can simply improve on little things like excellent communication to keep our Manager in the loop if something goes wrong. Solution-finding when tackling an issue and being more precise and proactive with our time management. But at the end of the day, we are Human Resources, and we should not forget the “Human”.

That is what Leaders value, the genuine will to help people. If the passion for that comes through, it is almost impossible to not stand out to your leader. Leonie Purnell, the HR Manager at the Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, puts it this way: “Treat people with care. We are not robots”. The positive feedback that your stakeholders give to your Leader for good HR support will make you stand out either way. 


about the author

lilia doering - consultant

Lilia has the ability to partner with her clients, truly understand their requirements and match candidates from a wide range of areas. She prides herself with efficiency and meaningful work.

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