10 things I'd do if I were an HR director - Archipelo
August 9th 2022 | Welcome, growing your people, building your business

10 things I’d do if I were an HR director

10 things I’d do if I were an HR director

I’ve been a client and internal key learning and development stakeholder for years prior to becoming a coach. When I asked myself the question: “What would I do if I were an HR director?”, I came up with this list.

1. Be clear on your personal BHAG

The definition: big hairy audacious goal. This is typically defined as:

  • What drives your economic engine
  • What you can be the best at in the world
  • What you’re deeply passionate about.

This might seem grand, but I would encourage you to scope out your personal BHAG for your current role. How do you want to be remembered, how do you want people to talk about your delivery and legacy when you leave? What are the associated benefits to the business if you achieved this? And most importantly of all, what are the associated benefits of you committing to such a grand goal? This is how the best leaders I have worked with operate and this spirit can be adopted and applied by HR professionals.

2. Embrace a performance management culture

The business world is sharper, leaner and arguably in better shape post-recession. This is key to maintaining a competitive edge.

So why do so many organisations tolerate under-performance and unacceptable professional attitudes from a group of individuals? It’s important to identify who they are by using a simple performance vs. potential graph. Then critically decide who can be saved and who must go. Move responsibly and ethically, but move fast. These poor performers are a seriously corrosive influence on your organisation and soak up time and cost along the way.

3. Think and operate like a true business professional

A good acid test for this one is to rhetorically ask yourself what kind of response your initiatives would receive in the dragon’s den. It’s very commonplace to see HR processes and procedures which are clunky, overly bureaucratic and serve only as an annoyance to the teams and users who must adhere to them. In order to pass the dragon den’s ‘so what?’ test, the end result must drive the business and support performance at all times. If they’re simple, quick and easy for users, even better.

If your initiatives don’t drive and support the business, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board. Ask for regular feedback from your internal stakeholders too; they are your internal customers after all.

4. Integrate coaching with training at all times

Integrating business coaching within training delivery, followed by a review/preview session within 6 weeks of a skills-based training program can have profoundly positive effects. What’s more, we’ve seen many clients also phase in training-related ‘express coaching sessions’ for trainees. This has been a big driver of sustainable change and post-program application. In fact, one study in the FT Guide to Business Coaching revealed that this approach could generate up to 80% post-training retention and application. This was contrasted with an eye-watering 5% post-training retention and application of the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ style of training.

5. Adopt a test and learn process to increase ROI 

In the advertising industry, marketing professionals live their lives by an approach called test and learn. This rigour essentially focuses on the activities that drive optimum results. Many ‘old school’ training and coaching suppliers will shudder when they read this, but we would strongly advocate an initial pilot period when dealing with a new partner, or even a continuation of a legacy one.

A pilot is a period of time with clear and defined success measures. If the program passes this gateway then it continues. The subtle difference with a pilot approach is that you can phase in multiple test and learn windows, which provide the perfect antidote to failure and procrastination. It might also be worth considering amending your trainee feedback mechanism to include an indicative financial evaluation of the training program. This can also be performance managed and verified by their line managers to help you justify the ROI.

6. Treat suppliers as partners

Avoid seeing training and coaching providers as suppliers and see them as long-term partners. A good dose of mutual transparency can go a long way to greasing the wheels of an amazing project. Don’t forget that in doing this, you should be prepared to treat your supplier with the equal (and sometimes pro-active) TLC that your business commits to its best customers. Anything they ask for, give it to them. They’re ultimately doing what they do for your benefit – so regularly involve your partners in your internal stakeholder meetings wherever possible, to form a ‘virtual team’. This supports trust and open communication, providing the foundation for success.

7. Replace annual appraisals with quarterly appraisals

Am I alone in viewing the annual performance review process as a turgid, irrelevant and uninspiring waste of time? To be clear, the function and purpose of the appraisal is potentially the lifeblood of any business – it’s the lengthy frequency I have a big problem with. I would argue that quarterly performance reviews, underpinned by scheduling weekly or bi-monthly one-on-ones for all employees will drive outstanding performance and employee engagement. Amazing goals only get realised in bite-sized chunks; it’s really that simple.

For an added curveball, I would be intrigued to see at least one personal objective challenging the individual to achieve something special. Give up smoking, run that 10km run or learn a language. The fact is that living in one’s stretch zone becomes a very infectious habit and it has a direct impact on positive attitudes in the workplace.

8. Establish and maintain a feedback culture

One of the biggest blockers to motivation and performance is the absence of periodic positive praise and well executed constructive/developmental criticism. Training and developing your middle management tier to be consistently excellent in these skills is vital – a good line manager can generate a 25% swing in an individual’s performance.

9. Initiate regular ‘honesty purges’

How often have you attended a fantastic one-off company away day or team brainstorm and felt truly invigorated by it? It’s amazing how cleansing and productive it can be to harness the ‘real’ views, opinions and feelings of teams and individuals. Contrast this to the way most of us operate; myopically and blindly focused on the day-to-day, nursing latent demotivating frustrations about numerous things. By providing a regular, safe environment to have constructive brainstorms, you can really ease the pressure cooker and increase staff engagement. This all helps business performance by the way.

10. Embrace Google’s recruitment policy for top talent

Google’s view is that top talent tends to embrace change and enjoys the challenge of working in a dynamic environment where everything isn’t predictable. They tend to be more innovative and flexible in their approach to solving problems and have an entrepreneurial spirit. Essentially, they seek to recruit people with an ability and eagerness to learn, which is underpinned by these five core values:

  • Adaptable
  • Collaborative
  • Adept problem-solver
  • Humility
  • Leadership

Essentially, your top talent will never say: “It’s not my job.” As the global number one market leader in media and technology, they must be doing something right behind that simple white home screen veneer.


Gary enjoyed a 20-year career predominantly in commercial management/leadership roles in the digital media industry before retraining as an ICF Coach in 2012, when he set up his business, Archipelo.

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