How can I progress in my career? A question many, if not all of us have asked ourselves at some point regardless of our role. But for HR professionals there are two distinctly different ways in which to progress, to make your voice heard in the C-suite and to influence company strategy with a HR perspective. Upskilling in one area of HR to become a specialist in OD or Strategic Direction, gaining more and more expertise has always been the traditional route to success – but a new path in HR career development is emerging; rotation. So what is it? And how is it useful?

With HR feeling the impact of greater globalisation, more demanding workforces and the onset of digital technology more than any other department; influencing the way it needs to workboth transactionally and strategically, maybe it’s time to branch out into other areas of the business world. Taking the opportunity to rotate around various functions of the company you’re in at worst, can’t hurt. At best, it can develop a uniquely experienced, highly skilled professional skillset, rather than forging a career where you simply collect more of the same experience each time you pass ‘Go’. Manoeuvring your skills, discovering new sides and directions to the business – playing twister throughout your career – could just make you a whole lot better at understanding how HR can benefit the company, as well as how being business minded can benefit HR practices.

But it’s not just for the company’s benefit. Having experience of rotation into other areas of the business can be hugely beneficial for your own career progression. Rotation can’t help but broaden your commercial ability – and your network. Not only can HR professionals learn new strategic, operational and commercial skills from other functions, but other functions can profit hugely from a HR professional’s slightly different take on how to lead, organise and develop the right behaviours and capabilities within employees. Being able to provide a new edge to HR strategy goes down well with a board who know you can justify your ideas by having experience not only as an HR specialist but also operationally within the company.

Rotation is also an ideal opportunity to prove that HR is the lifeblood of the organisation and its input is essential when it comes to business strategy and forward planning. Getting to know multiple areas of a company’s functional operations certainly boosts your capability and skillset. This could encourage board level executives and CEOs to think of HR as an area that really understands all aspects of the business and thus worthy of a place at the planning table.

Still not convinced rotation is the best path to develop your future? A varied career within the same organisation has proved successful for Tony George, Group HR & Business Development Director at Inchcape, Helen Tindle, People Director at Iceland and Simon Lloyds, HR Director of UK Business at Santander – all of whom work in top level HR roles after experiencing several professions within different sectors of the same company, from sales to legal departments.

Role rotation within HR is an up and coming trend that’s set only to rise as success stories at all HR levels become more and more frequent. Whilst traditional HR career paths through upskilling and specialising clearly have their merits, it’s hard to deny the benefits that career rotation can bring to the boardroom – not least an experienced yet fresh approach to business transformation and culture change that even the most traditional of company boards will find hard to resist.

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This blog was written as a result of a dinner debate hosted by The HR World, guests contributed to the topic of HR's role within business as a driver of transformational change. To find out more about The HR World, or to join a future debate contact Caroline Beer at caroline.beer@thehrworld.co.uk


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