You may be transitioning into your first ever HR Business Partner role, moving to a new organization or changing teams within the same. Either ways, the basic starting plan stays the same. The first 90 days are always critical. I say ‘90’ because it is the most popular number; however, as I wrote years ago, 90 is a luxury. Hence, feel free to cut the 90-day plan into 45, the new 90.
I would recommend starting your journey by reading the previous pieces in this series. Once you have done that, here are six things that need to ace in your first few months in the new role.
- Know the business: There is no way to avoid this. Many HR Business Partners do not have in-depth knowledge of what their business teams do. It is possible to get by or even be good at the job without that knowledge. However, if you want to make a swift jump to being a great HRBP, earn trust of the leaders and create hard-hitting impact, this is unavoidable. Your first few days is a great time to start. Spend time with leaders and individual contributors on the floor to understand what they do and why. Study documents, business plans, competitor landscape – anything you can get your hands on. This is the only time where you can get away by asking absolute basic questions. As months pass by, this will only get harder. So update your knowledge base and your leaders will be impressed.
- Know the leaders & other partners: No two are alike. To be a successful partner, you need to understand which influencing skills to use with who. Some like to experiment some do not; some prefer direct feedback, with some you need to veil it carefully. Spend time with them to understand what works best. The worst move you can make is ruffling feathers very early on in the game. Believe me I have made this mistake. You need to earn their trust before they listen to contradictory views. Also, make a detailed note of their strengths and areas of opportunities. The better you know them, the better partner you will be – both to the business and everyone else you need to work with.
- Figure your style: Once you know the business and the leaders, it is time to introspect and look into your own operating model and natural style. Also, find your own unique value proposition and visualize how it will translate into your new role. Here are some questions you may want to answer:
- How often will you interact with key stakeholders?
- How much time will you devote to key priorities?
- Will you sit through all staff meetings?
- What is your operating style?
- Which of your strengths will be best leveraged in this role?
- How can you make those a clear distinguisher?
- Which traits/habits/preferences might dull you shine?
- Quick wins: Now that you know all that you need and have spent time introspecting, find the low hanging fruits that will help deliver early wins. This is key to earning trust and I cannot emphasize enough how much attention this deserves. There may be a myriad of issues that leaders want you to solve. Find the ones that have high impact, are easy to solve and are important to your leader. If it fits into all of these three buckets, you are on your way to glory. Do not delusion yourself into believing that picking an unsolvable problem close to the leader’s heart and delivering it 6 months later will get you into good books. It will, only if you have delivered other wins along the way.
- Set clear goals: Make a list of achievements that will seal your place among the best. Take 5 non-negotiable deliverables that need to be checked in the next 90-days come what may. Discuss this with a few veterans to verify if they are the right pieces to focus on. Mark timelines, input and output measures against all of them. With that in place, you are truly set to conquer your first few months. A good time to do this is 30 days post start. This gives you time to understand the landscape and history of why things are done the way they are done. Too often, people come in and want to change everything without spending adequate time in analysis. Do not be that person.
- Get quick feedback: Have no shame. Ask. Ask after key meetings on how you did and what you could have done differently. Ask in 1:1 discussions what you should be paying attention to. Make your business partners responsible for your growth in the role. The sooner you receive actionable feedback, the quicker you can modify your operating style. Asking for feedback regularly also shows that you are open to feedback (provided you course correct) and focused on delivering value. Never underestimate the power of, “What should I do differently?” It is also the best indicator of how realistic your goals are.
- Track the days: Where did you want to be in 5 years? I wanted to be a CHRO. A little ambitious but not impossible. Yet along the way, the years kept slipping and so did the timelines. Your first 90 days are very much like the first 5 years ambition. You will hit Day-90 soon enough and wonder where time went. You will likely look at your 90-day goals and move them to the next 90 blaming aggressive timelines. Do not do it. Keep a track of what you wanted to achieve and where you are at regular intervals. Pin it up at your desk, next to your mirror and check items off the list. Do a 15, 30, 45 day review. Whatever you need to ensure they don’t slip.
The first 90 days are crucial to your career. Those who ace it live an easier life that those who are left making up for time lost. Start strong.