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Why HR shouldn’t neglect its own professional development

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Professional development is a big part of HR’s role. As the employee’s champion, you help them set new objectives, meet their goals and ensure they progress throughout their career year on year – says Lucy Whitehall. But how do you do this consistently?

The importance of your personal development

However, with the demands of a busy HR function, it’s all too easy to gradually place less emphasis on your own development.

Even as an expert, there’s always scope and opportunity to learn and develop a broad range of skills both personally and professionally. These skills will not only elevate you (and the HR function) in the eyes of business stakeholders, but will provide you with personal development opportunities which remain portable throughout your people management career.

Personal branding

Developing your personal brand allows you to influence how you’ll be perceived by your peers and business partners. Creating a personal brand gives you the opportunity to boost both your confidence and your performance in the workplace. By establishing credibility and niche areas of expertise, it allows you to demonstrate your value to your wider team.

Identify your values and strengths – perhaps working with a coach, mentor or other trusted confidante.  Research demonstrates that when we are working at our best it reflects where our values are being met and our strengths are being maximised. Think about the opportunities you currently have available to demonstrate your core strengths and/or values. Where and how can you cultivate more opportunities? Who can help you with this? What will be your next step?

Be more effective

As you’ve become more senior, you’ve probably noticed you spend proportionally more of your time in meetings. This can be a huge time drain and puts pressure on what you can achieve by when. Managing your personal effectiveness encompasses time management, dealing with distractions and improving assertiveness skills.

Time management skills are well worth refreshing, particularly as recent advances in neuroscience can tell us so much more about the best way to get the best from our brains. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has recently debunked the notion of multi-tasking for example. He advises focused attention on specific tasks for short periods to ensure success. Peter Bregman, a renowned leadership specialist, recommends 18 minutes a day to refocus and reflect which generates positive outcomes in productivity.

Another important aspect of time management is knowing when to take a break. Experts know that taking time out boosts your performance and concentration. Taking at least 30 minutes off at lunchtime could help you to concentrate more effectively in the afternoon.

Manage your distractions

If you work in an open plan office, distractions can be plentiful. An effective way to cope with distractions is to schedule a specific time to deal with tasks, for instance, aim to check your emails at certain times during the day, rather than on an ad hoc basis. You may also want to set aside some time when you're not disturbed. If so, make sure your colleagues know that you’re temporarily unavailable and switch your phone off.

Just say no

However senior you become, it can still be a struggle to say no. When you do need to push back, show understanding and reassure the person you’re talking to. Being open, honest and direct often leads to shared understanding and improves negotiation. This may not only create a longer lead time for tasks but may cultivate better working relationships with stakeholders. 

Onwards and upwards

Professional development, whether internally or externally focused is a way to set you apart. We develop skill sets that help us progress throughout our careers, and these evolve as we become more senior due to necessity. Going back to personal development basics, even at a senior level, can be intellectually stimulating and highly motivating. It might just be the inspiration you need to drive the next stages of your HR career. 

Lucy Whitehall

By Lucy Whitehall

Wellbeing Consultant at CABA

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