An Insanely Powerful Way to Distinguish Yourself in HR

By Alan Collins

Microwave ovens.
Fast food joints.
Amazon overnight delivery.
Buying tickets online.
Mobile phones.

What do these six things have in common?

If you think about it, it's obvious.

They're all SHORTCUTS.

They help us get what we want faster, better or cheaper.

We love shortcuts like these because we're super-busy HR pros and we don't have the time to deal with all the crap that comes at us every day.

Consider all the things that provide shortcuts in your life.

For example, let's take that microwave you have in your kitchen. When you need to warm up a meal in a rush, it's right there conveniently waiting for you. Today, it's indispensable. It provides you with a shortcut that enables you to nourish yourself quickly and easily when the need arises.

Now, let's twist this around and think about what would happen if YOU became a shortcut.

Think about it.

What if you gained a reputation as an HR pro that made your client's lives faster, better or cheaper?

What if you were known as the person that enabled them to achieve their own objectives quicker and easier?

Again, what if you became known as their SHORTCUT?

What would happen?

Just like that microwave in your kitchen, I predict that would make you absolutely indispensable too.

I was reminded of this truth recently in the case of Kevin.

Kevin is a former HR colleague of mine. If you went to the dictionary and looked up the definition of "shortcut," you'd find his picture there. Kevin is known as the HR go-to person when things need to get done.

People who work with him regard him as bright, selfless, positive, results-focused and someone who doesn't hesitate to put the needs of his clients and colleagues ahead his own.

Just about everyone raves about working with Kevin.

However, awhile back, he found out that his HR job was going to be eliminated because of the sale of the business he supported. While initially worried about his position, he didn't criticize, condemn or complain to his organization (or others) about the decision.

He decided he was not going to let this devastating news distract him.

He did something that was emotionally very difficult for most people, but not for him. He decided to temporarily put his own feelings on hold and...

Just hunker down, step up and simply get the things done needed to make this business divestiture a success.

Consequently, over the next few weeks he did the following:

He went to his business leaders and helped them lay out a detailed transition plan that would meet the needs of the business and the employees.

He spent hours helping to train the managers on how to best discuss this stunning news to their employees.

He worked with senior HR leadership to develop retention programs to keep needed employees...and arranged outplacement, severance and counseling programs to support those who would lose their jobs.

He worked overtime and on weekends doing one-on-one coaching with many leaders and employees helping them deal with the trauma of the sale of their business - many of whom had never gone through this type of change.

Kevin didn't wait to be asked to do these things. He knew his HR expertise was needed in this situation to minimize a potential massive disruption to the business. And so he jumped in feet first and became proactive and took charge.

And his handling of the situation from an HR standpoint was just about textbook perfect!

But that's not the end of this story.

Because after six weeks passed, an amazing thing happened.

Rumors began to leak out about the sale of the business and that Kevin would soon be "available." Not surprisingly (at least to me), within days of the news spreading, he got interview offers from three other divisions of his company - two of them promotional opportunities.

And, he also got an offer to interview for a newly created HR position from outside of his organization from a former boss who was thrilled about the possibility of having Kevin join her team and working with him again.

Needless to say, when the time came for Kevin to move on, he landed nicely - thank you very much. He transitioned to a brand-new HR job with a bigger title, more desirable location, and a fantastic pay bump to boot.

All because...

He had built a reputation as the "ultimate HR shortcut."

Obviously, every situation doesn't have Kevin's kind of happy ending. But his story reminded me of one of the most powerful truths in HR, which is that...

If you want to gain a reputation for becoming indispensable in HR, become known as a SHORTCUT.

Embracing this ONE word as your personal brand in HR is one of the most important steps you can take in separating yourself from the pack and advancing our HR career.

Here's why.

Many HR pros spend lots of their time saying "no" to managers, developing policies and guidelines and playing the role of "HR cop." While these activities are important, being viewed ONLY in this way is the kiss of death. You risk building an image of being just another HR "bureaucratic speed bump" that slows down the success of the business and your clients.

As an alternative, trying looking for MORE opportunities to be a Shortcut and deliver more value to your employer, customers, clients, boss or colleagues. When you build a reputation for doing this successfully, I predict with absolute confidence that ONE of the following will happen:

  1. Your present employer will respond with raises, bonuses and advancement opportunities well beyond your expectations.
  2. A new employer (or one of your company's competitors) will find you, grab you, immediately recognize how you can help them and hike up your pay by a minimum of 10%, but probably more...but only if you are prepared to go where your value will be recognized.
  3. You'll discover a lucrative entrepreneurial opportunity that allows you to develop and package your HR skills (or the value you add that companies care about) in such a way that lots of organizations will beat a path to your door - hiring you as their consultant, their coach, or their trainer teaching their staffs - and you'll move on to writing your own paycheck and being your own boss.

It happened to Kevin and I've seen this happen over and over again.

But it takes time. And while it's not a magic bullet, it works more often than not.

Your HR clients judge your abilities based primarily not on what you know...but on what you can do for them. And a close second is how you make them feel when you demonstrate these abilities.

HR pros who are known as Shortcuts don't wait to be asked to offer suggestions to their clients, colleagues and managers. They anticipate their needs and consistently ask themselves:

  • How can I deliver my HR services to my clients faster or more efficiently?
  • How can I make my clients' life or job easier?
  • How can I make my clients' life or job better.
  • How can I proactively remove barriers that enable my client to run their business cheaper?

If you employ these four questions on a regular basis when presenting at meetings, developing new HR programs or consulting one-on-one with your clients, you will dramatically increase your value to your business.

And you'll be known as an indispensable shortcut.

Just like that microwave in your kitchen.

Try it.