As the title says, this is a practical guide for HR professionals.  It provides some general principles that you can apply to your company and your experiences.  It makes straightforward and practical recommendations derived from the authors’ own trial and error along the way.

excellent-staff Great HR and great HR practitioners have some common features wherever they are:

Great HR…

  • involves balancing the complex and sometimes competing needs of organisation, line manager and employee
  • is simple and bureaucracy-free wherever possible
  • empowers managers to make their own decisions – and doesn’t tell people what to do.
  • helps to create the conditions in which people can thrive and grow.
  • addresses the cause of people issues, it doesn’t just treat the symptoms.

Great HR professionals…

  • understand the context in which they operate and understand it well – the industry, the market, the value drivers, the products and the services.
  • have a deep understanding of human behaviour.
  • have a commitment to their own personal development.
  • know their stuff, whether that means keeping up with employment law or regulatory matters
  • think, so that they can speak from a position of authority.
  • role model the heck out of all of the stuff that they launch and speak for at their place.
  • can clearly articulate how HR adds value.
  • are easy to do business with.
  • are pragmatic and practical in the advice that they give.
  • never lose sight of the way that the people stuff makes people feel.
  • challenge appropriately and aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right when it is necessary.
  • understand the link between the people stu and everything else that happens, like, customer experience.
  • take measured risks.
  • are trusted advisors.
  • have guts.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Great HR also has a plan.  It is how you get focus for yourself and your team. It is how you communicate to the organisation the work that you will be undertaking. It is how you will measure and demonstrate your success.


A good plan will have some key elements. It will be very clear how it aligns with and supports the wider organisational aims. It will have overall aims and objectives, supported by clear operational supporting activities – a clear ‘how’ this will be achieved. It will include the resources required to deliver it, and the costs too. It will have desired outcomes and measures for success.

Employee Lifecycle

You have now heard our thoughts on what makes great HR.  We will now turn our attention to the practical stuff, those activities that typically sit in most HR departments.

These are the areas, routine or not, that have an impact, positive or negative, upon your employees from the moment they first connect with your organisation through to the day that they leave. It is most commonly referred to as the employee lifecycle.  This runs the gamut from Recruitment and Induction to Employee Policies, Support, Rewards to finally Exit or Termination.


We think of it more like a journey. Some employee journeys are long and some are short, but what happens throughout them determine how engaged employees are, the extent to which they want to continue working for you and what they say about your company to other people.

These activities have the power to create a great employee experience, or, if done badly, have the power to disengage, to make someone decide to leave or simply to only give part of their attention and discretionary effort to their job.

One important consideration is this: how effective is each of these lifecycle activities right now? An audit may be required to help you understand that – including the views of those that work within them but outside of the HR function.

In HR, we don’t own and can’t influence all aspects of the employee experience. It is influenced by the line manager, the team, the culture, even the physical environment in which employees work every day. But there is much that HR can influence, control and lead.

Your Best Practice

The key thing to remember is that your company is unique.  Despite what they tell you at all of the HR conferences and in the articles and books from thought leaders, we will say one thing (repeatedly):

In HR and in people management, there is no such thing as best practice


Management thinking comes and goes; society shifts its priorities and beliefs; academics research and publish new thinking. However, particularly as HR people, we are often urged to implement this or that approach because it’s considered to be “best practice”. We strongly believe that there is no single “best” for your company or any company. There are many ways to deal with most management situations and only you will know all of the variables that need to be taken into consideration in your circumstances.

It’s absolutely right that you should pay attention to what others are doing – there may be things you can learn and tweak to suit you. Be curious and read as widely as you can to understand new ideas that are developing. Listen to advice from consultants, management gurus and wise people. Spend time on Twitter reading what other people are up to and what the latest thinking is. But please, never believe there is only one “best practice” way to do your HR stuff.  What is most important is what is right for you and your organization.