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Eight Essential Ingredients for a World Class HR Career

Eight Essential Ingredients for a World Class HR Career

Over the years that I have covered HR as a journalist, I noticed that HR professionals need to be reminded of what a truly world-class calling they have chosen for themselves. So, I thought I’d list the eight essential ingredients for a world-class HR career as a reminder that no matter where you are in your HR career, all these things are within your reach. However, it’s up to you to be discerning and to make sure that these elements are in place in your day-to-day experience of the HR profession.

  1. A Culture Match

Are you in the right environment where your contributions are appreciated? Do the people (especially the leadership) accept you for who you are and what you can contribute to the company’s short-term and long-term objectives? Can you relax and focus on your work? Or do you constantly have to sell and re-sell yourself and what you’re doing?

2. A Passion Match

Do you care about the company’s product or service? Can you get excited about what your people are doing to make the world a better place? Do the people inside the company know that you’re a partner in their mission?

3. A Values Match

Do you believe in those behaviors and values that the company espouses and actually manifests? Do you trust all your people throughout the entire organizational chart to stand up to what’s right rather than what’s expedient? Can you look at yourself in the mirror when you think about how you’re helping the company change the world?

4. People Match

Do you like and respect the people in your company?  Do you get excited when you consider how you’re attracting and keeping the very best talent possible? Can you trust that they are mature and motivated enough to be driven by their own intrinsic sense of personal purpose and passion? Do they work well together and trust each other to contribute their best?

5. A Purpose Match

Do you have the trust and respect your CEO? This requires an especially discerning ear. CEOs didn’t get where they are by being stupid, and almost everyone has been known to utter the famous line, “People are our greatest assets.”  Is it lip service where you are? Or is it genuine? Do you see eye-to-eye with your CEO as to what HR’s core mission is at your company? Does that core mission match with your personal sense of purpose?

6. Community With Your HR Colleagues

You can’t go it alone. Are you friendly withy our peers in other companies, especially the local ones? How about the ones in your city or geographical region? Do you have a rung on the mentor ladder – which is to say, can you easily pick up the phone and call your HR colleagues who are more advanced than you to get the best possible advice on a thorny matter in your company? Also, can HR newbies do the same with you?

7. Nerve

Do you have what it takes to speak truth to power? Can you stand your ground with leadership throughout the entire company and draw courage from faith in your own expert opinion? Can you make exceptions to rules when it means doing the right thing and building an exuberant workplace of passion-driven employees?

8. Creativity

Are you coming up with fresh ideas and extraordinary approaches to ordinary problems? Innovation is the single most essential ingredient for business success today. And innovation must be as much at home within your HR function as it is in your engineering or product development departments. If you find yourself doing the same old thing year after year, it’s time to shake it up.

What the heck.  Here’s ninth ingredient:

9. An Elevated World View

Yes, HR has its critics. Yes, HR sometimes deserves it. However, it’s been said that the Wright Brothers didn’t discover the secret of flight by studying the falling down of things. We learn what makes HR fly by focusing on and celebrating examples of truly inspired, ingenious, brilliant, dedicated, passion- and mission-driven HR.


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Martha I. Finney is the author of The Truth About Getting the Best From People, and a consultant specializing in employee engagement. For a free consultation on how you can build a vacation-friendly workplace culture, email Martha at

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