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Jane & Harriet 
Some of you may already know that my first career was as an HR generalist working in the hospitality sector before moving into the world of investment banking, followed by consulting to SME businesses. A large proportion of my human resources experience has revolved around recruitment & talent acquisition and so, it was a very natural transition for me to move across into a permanent recruitment role in recent years and utilise my professional knowledge of HR to support businesses in securing top HR talent. 
It was a friend of mine from my Cazenove days when talking about our work at the bank, who flippantly commented that in his company in 2020, HR stood for ‘Hardly Relevant’. I started to think about why that opinion might be held. Having moved through these challenging last few months, the answer is clear; there are many superb HR practitioners out there (who have tirelessly worked their socks off through incredibly gruelling situations), but there are also a fair few ‘old school’ practitioners, doing decidedly average work. So, what is the difference between average and exceptional HR? 
Exceptional HR people have courage, they’ll make a bold call – offering a range of options/solutions to stakeholders, confidently nailing these to the mast. Not the risk-averse ones or even the politically correct ones – but the best decision for the business – even if this sometimes means a settlement agreement or redundancies. 
Exceptional HR people understand the entire business ecosystem, not just their part within it. They appreciate how everything fits together, the risks, the history, the personalities & the technical issues. They understand the implications of events today and the likely impact on the future. They stay agile, anticipating change. 
Exceptional HR people don’t need to be asked to deliver. They come armed with suggestions & ideas backed up with the theory. They push their opinions forward and argue cases with colleagues & senior stakeholders. They consider the wider picture. They have a healthy dose of realism & don’t take offence if their suggestions take time to get approved or are challenged. 
Exceptional HR people will ensure data outputs are reported on, that they are analysed and translated into relatable language. They’ll assess risk, plan courses of action. They’ll also re-evaluate reporting – statistics for the sake of it, creating ‘busy’ work are what “average” HR people do. 
Exceptional HR people appreciate reality. They understand that people make jokes they shouldn’t and that the use of the word ‘stress’ can be genuine or mischievous. They are realistic that scoring 100% on employee engagement is a target to aspire towards. There will always be some employees that just want to do a day’s work and go home. 
Exceptional HR people will always find a way to quantify what they do commercially, demonstrating how their work affects the bottom line, communicating without jargon & with a passion that inspires! 
The average HR folk – well, they run the risk of being hardly relevant. 
About The Author 
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