5 top tips to make a lasting first impression as a HR Director

Are you a HR Director starting afresh? Impress your new team with our 5 tips for success.

5 top tips to make a lasting first impression as a HR Director


Like any job, starting your new role as a HR Director or senior HR professional can be pretty daunting and you want to make the right first impression.

First impressions count and the early interactions you have with your new colleagues will be crucial for shaping your reputation. Going in with a plan of action is vital to avoid slipping up and sometimes it's the simple things that get forgotten.

Jeanette Wheeler, who has recently taken the role of HR Director at MHR, shares her five tips to start your new job on the right foot and make an immediate impact:

1. Get to know your team

When starting any new role your people are your greatest allies. During your first few weeks in the job your team’s knowledge and experience will be invaluable to shaping your initial decisions. A good leader will always respect that their team knows their stuff, so don’t assume you know best.

It’s not easy when you haven’t worked with them before, but it sets a good precedence to trust their abilities until proven otherwise. Taking the time out to get to know your people will help you identify each individual’s strengths and experience, as well as internal procedures.

2. Set the tone for your leadership

People may be worried about having a new boss, so ease their concerns by sharing a bit about yourself. Discuss your leadership style, the reason you’ve been hired and your expectations for the department/team(s). How you set the tone during your early days will be important going forward. You may want to think about the following points when communicating your leadership style to your new colleagues:

  • How will you show yourself as an authentic leader?
  • What are the principles you work to?
  • What are your preferred methods of communication?
  • How regularly do you want to host meetings and check-ins with your team?
  • Ask the team how regularly they want to have a check in.

3. Tour your place of work and meet as many people as possible

When you are new, especially in a senior role, people can form opinions without even knowing you. Helping others to put a face to your name will help build trust and establish open communication.
Take the time to get to know key stakeholders, the board, your boss and the CEO. What are their key concerns and priorities? How can you support them?

With a clear understanding of every stakeholder’s needs and expectations, you will gain a clearer understanding of the business and the task at hand.

4. Avoid the typical stereotypes. Ask the difficult questions

Don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s technology, infrastructure and finances. Too often people assume HR can only talk about numbers when discussing remuneration and know nothing about technology and systems. Prove them wrong and set yourself up as an all-rounder when it comes to your expertise. After all, when you step into that boardroom you can be held accountable for how decisions affect the bottom line.

Find out what systems are in place, and don’t be afraid to make new recommendations or request an increase in your budget to improve absenteeism or other crucial employee engagement areas.

5. Don’t dwell on the past – look ahead

When someone leaves, it’s easy for the colleagues who are left behind to speak negatively about this ex-employee. After all, if they’ve moved on to bigger and better things it is easy for resentment to build. If your new team, or peers, want to gossip about past employees, try not to pass comment on previous HR Directors who you don’t know personally and in whose footsteps you now follow.

Remember, you have been hired for a reason; be positive and re-enforce the fact that you’re bringing ‘fresh eyes’ and new ideas to build on and improve existing processes further.
In the early days you may not like what you see, but don’t jump to conclusions about your immediate observations. Instead keep a log and agree a date to provide feedback to the board after three months.

Showing your potential on day one ensures that you have plenty to offer your new colleagues, as well as showcasing the type of leader you are. Do these things well and you are likely to inspire and engage your new team and colleagues resulting in an immediate kick-start to your department’s productivity.

What's next? Find out more about how you can improve your recruitment and onboarding processes and download our free guide on how to 'nail your onboarding strategy'.

How to Nail your onboarding strategy
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