Align your priorities
As an interim HRdirector, it has been essential for me to make an impact in a new role as quickly as possible. Companies generally only call in an interim when things have become pretty desperate and you are only as good as your last assignment. However, the points below are still valid for someone going into a permanent role.
The most important thing is to set priorities to meet the needs of the business. Ask to see the business strategy (if there is one), then make a time to meet the Chief Executive and question him or her about how ready the people side of the business is to meet the strategic needs of the business. For instance, if the main drive for the year is organic growth, question how effective the business development/sales function is; do they have the right people with the right skills; are they properly targeted and incentivised? If there isn’t a written strategy, spend time teasing out from the CEO the key business development areas.
From this discussion, draw up a list of the urgent and important areas for improvement for people matters. Present this back to the board and get their agreement to move the business forward. Then, make sure that you and the team spend a good proportion of your time on these strategic areas - in HR there's always more than enough day to day ‘stuff’ to fill your time; make sure that you rise above that to move things forward.