Starting any new role is stressful as the pressure to get it right and to be seen to get it right is so high. And that’s particularly true when you are moving into a new HRD position, whether you are a seasoned player or if it is your first time in an HRD role.

Unfortunately, it’s likely that too many other senior executives see your function as hire-and-fire cost center, rather than a strategic partner with a critical role to play in your organization’s success.

So what key actions and projects should be your priorities as a new HR director? What will help other key figures form the right opinions of you and your department? Where’s the best place to start? To help you demonstrate that you are a strategic player looking to triangulate strategy, people and the profit, here are top ten suggestions for making an impact in the first 100 days:

  1. Engage with your CEO, CFO, CTO and COO and the other members of the executive team so you get deep clarity on your organisation’s strategy. This will enable you to work out what deliverables support the strategy and the projects you need to implement as a result. You’ll also be able to identify what projects you might need to stop too.
  2. Find out what senior executives liked about the last HRD, and what they thought could have been done better. That way you get a good steer about what to keep on doing and what to improve. Ask them about how the function was perceived and why, so you get detailed insights into others’ perceptions. Create a stakeholder map with your team to understand who your key influencers and allies are. If you can, meet with the previous incumbent to get his or her views too.
  3. Align the people strategy with the organizational strategy and the commercial context. To achieve this you’ll need to get the senior team together to thrash out the deliverables the organizational strategy involves. Running a workshop will ensure the senior team support your priorities because they will have helped define them with you. Once you’ve identified your priorities you’ll need to map your current situation and develop the strategies you need to make the necessary changes.
  4. Study the commercials of your organization so you can talk knowledgeably about what really matters and start to align what you do with key areas of the business. Too often HR is perceived as an admin function rather than a key driver of the business.  Demonstrating a detailed understanding of your organization’s finances will help to combat this. Carefully study the accounts and your function – fast.
  5. Evaluate all parts of your function and your team. Meet with project owners from inside the business to see if the function is working as a true business partner, working on ROI or simply doing what has always been done. You’ll inevitably have weaker team members and running an assessment center will allow you to take any action you need to. Using an external partner will help you be seen to be running a fair process and will show you mean business.
  6. Review the key HR processes to ensure they support the organizational direction. Do they do what they need to do from the perspective of both the employee and the organization? Or are they simply in place because that’s the way things have always been done? The organization’s compensation and benefits processes and practice, learning and development function, performance management system, engagement survey and all supporting architecture should all be reviewed. Check their alignment with the strategic and commercial goals and ask about the ROI they deliver.
  7. Analyze your function’s spend to review your biggest costs. Investigate all major spending so you understand how each budget line supports the strategy, delivers value and impacts the business. Consider stopping anything which does not meet these criteria however popular they are.
  8. Examine the talent and succession pipeline. Make sure you know how this is being managed and find out who is responsible for what. You need to know what the talent pyramid looks like and what contingency plans are in place and for whom. This will enable you to identify the gaps and start to address them. Your plans for talent development and the succession pipeline need to be supported by the senior management team to ensure momentum. Make sure you effectively communicate the impact in terms of business continuity and impact on ROI.
  9. Review relationships with external strategic partners. What’s their function? Why were they selected? What contracts are in place? What commitments have been made? How robust or cozy are the processes governing these relationships? Quite often these need a total review.
  10. Think about the tech that supports you, your team and your organization. What does it do and what else should it do? That includes any people management or development systems you have or are contemplating buying. But don’t alienate your CTO by going out on your own, instead engage his/her expertise.

Clearly, there’s a huge amount of assessment and analysis you need to do. But it’s important not to get discouraged by the size of the task ahead. Remember – it’s critical to go through this process because it’s the only way to get your subsequent actions right. You’ll need to pull several project teams together to do all this work and it won’t be easily completed, and it’s likely that lots of information will be missing. But that will reflect well on you because you’ll immediately show you are a strategic player who knows what to do to add real value to the top and bottom line.

Which is exactly the role of a great HRD.

Jessica Pryce- Jones is joint founder and partner of the iOpener institute for People & Performance which examines the factors that contribute to resilience and how it can be maintained.