Published in


Your First 90 Days as Head of HR

It’s important to quickly integrate with, impress, and make a meaningful impact on a company when we take on a new position. It is even more crucial when the job to be occupied is strategic and complex like that of the Director of Human Resources. The first days are essential in becoming one of the critical contributors to the company success, who is difficult to ignore or let go. This period, known as the integration period, usually covers 90 days.

Here is a handy guide that helps you, as a new human resources director, complete your first 90 days in business.

Firstly, we will summarize what a human resources director does; secondly, we’ll show the practical tips to succeed in the first quarter, and finally, we’ll list some critical mistakes to avoid.

I- A brief overview of the human resources director job

A good HR director should be able to administer, mobilize, and develop the human resources involved in an organization for greater efficiency and effectiveness. It does not mean that people are resources but rather that people have resources (talent, skills, gifts) that need to be managed.

As a human resources director, it is up to you to manage the resources of the people so that they are best invested in achieving the objectives defined by the company. This responsibility involves:

  • Flexibility in the planning of jobs and resources
  • A demanding recruitment procedure
  • A powerful internal management system
  • Consultation and permanent negotiation.

HR directors intervene in several essential areas in the company to the extent that confusion sometimes arises between their function and that of managers. If in small firms, the two roles seem similar, in larger firms, the difference is more noticeable. Here are the most critical initiatives HR directors usually lead:

  • recruiting and staffing;
  • organizational and space planning;
  • performance management and improvement systems;
  • organizational development;
  • employment and compliance to regulatory concerns;
  • employee orientation, development, and training;
  • policy development and documentation;
  • employee relations;
  • company-wide committee facilitation;
  • the company, employee and community communication;
  • compensation and benefits administration;
  • employee safety, welfare, wellness, and health;
  • charitable giving; and
  • employee services and counseling.

The human resources director role is quite complicated since it embraces several domains at the same time. However, with some tips that we offer next, you can spend your integration period in a company with less pressure and worry.

II- Practical tips for a successful first quarter

Your first 90 days in a new company is the integration period. It is therefore vital for you and the company that it goes well. However, why is the integration period so important?

Your first 90 days as the HR director will determine your future influence within the company. They can be a moment of pressure because you must meet expectations, and make the right actions to earn respect and acceptance. It’s the period when you show your colleagues, your employer, and your subordinates that you are the right person for the job. However, you must be humble. Trying to do too much will make everyone feel uncomfortable.

These 90 days are crucial for you. They must run smoothly.

During this period:

  • You need to learn as much as possible about the company and organization, its processes, the role that you have there,
  • You need to set up a strategic plan for the future of the company.
  • You need to discover what is expected of you: have frequent conversations with the CEO and other executives to determine what they expect of you.

Your first three months are an opportunity to show what you could do in the future as an HR director. You must contribute to the growth and productivity of the company.

There are seven practical tips for you to help you get through the first 90 days.

It is the first impression that counts. Very early, show yourself worthy of respect and trust. If you want to be respected, respect others — same about confidence. You need to establish your style and image. Your clothing, behavior, speaking out should be neat and show your degree of responsibility.

To be good at your job, you must align your objectives with the company goals that you must strive to know fully at first. That allows you to participate very actively in the future growth of the company. Learning about the business requires knowledge of the company business strategy, the company strategic and tactical goals, how it earns money, how it works, who are the company’s competitors and the sector in which they exercise, the organizational culture, the ways of doing, the language.

a- Know how the company makes money

Every business has its way of making money. It is essential to understand who the customers are and why they prefer your services/products, what is the process of designing, developing, and distributing your products, services. You should know how the company creates value. You can get this information from discussions with colleagues, by looking at presentations to the board of directors, at senior management meetings.

b- Know how the company operates (from various points of view)

During your first three months, people will understand if you ask naive questions. “You need to have a battery of questions that you’ll probably get bored of asking,” says Tony Jackson, founder of Chelsham Coaching and Consulting and a former in-house HR director. “What do I need to know? What needs to change? What shouldn’t change? Come up with that list and ask them of the right people.” It is an opportunity for you to ask any possible critical questions. Get the point of view of all the stakeholders of the company to know how to support their work and better manage the human resources to achieve their goals.

You need to have a battery of questions that you’ll probably get bored of asking. What do I need to know? What needs to change? What shouldn’t change? Come up with that list and ask them of the right people.

Tony Jackson

c- Have direct experience with the product

It is important that you have direct experience with the product. If you are new to the business, likely, you do not have a mastery of the product or service of the company you are working for, which is not cool. Experience the product like a customer who is interested in using it.

d- Be in contact with key persons

It is essential to familiarize yourself with key colleagues from other departments as well. Discuss often with them. In these informal discussions, you may discover what might be missing from your research in the company documentation.

You could ask them questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the company, and their team; the pitfalls to avoid in the company; how you can be useful.

e- Learn to know your direct reports

There was probably a human resources team in place before you joined that you must now lead. Spend time with the team or members separately. Find out their weaknesses, their strengths, their opinion on the company, the mistakes to avoid in the company as a member of the Human Resources team.

f- Review any employee surveys, if any

You need to examine the old employee’s surveys before you arrived. It will help you to know better how employees handled things around the company. You will also be able to initiate new ideas to areas that need improvement without going out of the company’s set rules. Yes, you’re new, you ought to have new relevant ideas.

When you combine all this information, you are sure to have understood the company enough. You can then review the objectives of your department and your job description.

In short, to best deliver in your new job, as Cris Nevins — HR manager at GlobalLogic affirms the first important thing to do is to understand the business, the culture, build relationships, know employees and how the company works, how it is organized, its relationship with the outside world and especially how it makes money.

In my opinion, an HR Director shoud absorb as much as they can and; Understatnd the business, the culture, build relationships, know your employees, understand the alignment of policies and procedures to the company’s goals and culture, identify strength and opportunities in the organization and the department, review any employee surveys, if any, and identity key focus areas to add value.

Cris Nevins

To contribute to the company growth, you must research and list the ongoing human resources work. It can be a great collaborative exercise, a time to work together, and an opportunity to build your team. Indeed, it helps everyone to summarize what is happening and look at the priorities together.

  • Think, prioritize, and list the areas of your department that you thought could be improved.
  • Focus your time and investments on achievable initiatives (deadlines and realistic budget) and high impact (making a visible difference in business).
  • Check out previous wins, and look to improve.

You cannot solve everybody’s problems at the same time. You must know how to define your priorities. Being new in the organization, you have undoubtedly discovered some small improvements you can make to what is already there. Put them first.

Then you could make a list of 2 to 4 priorities to help the company strategy get better results. Your work and priorities must focus on delivering results. So;

  • Discover the victories or practices used before you and improve them.
  • Cut out your priorities in short, medium, and long term actions.

Having an excellent team makes your work easier. Here are a few things you can do to get the best out of your team.

  • You must be exemplary and set the pace of work: your team members are the first people who have a strong opinion about you due to the time you will be spending together.
  • Avoid the envious team members, also the incompetent ones: they will slow you down if you follow them. Know how to make them more cooperative, or get rid of them as soon as possible, but do not fall into the trap of becoming proud.
  • Work frankly with those you trust and who want to do the work: without confidence, the work will not be done well enough, but you will be responsible for it. Build a strong team that makes you want to excel.
  • Establish a training plan to make everyone perform better.
  • Learn to know each other through formal interviews or informal conversations.

It is essential, as soon as you join, that you build strong relationships with people who can help you. As a director of human resources, you know that people like it when you’re interested in them, right? Build relationships that will be useful for your job and even outside of work.

A mentor? Why not? It would be great if you had a mentor during the integration period. It will not be about coaching you on how to manage your team, but someone who knows the company culture and processes, who will listen to your concerns and serve as a valuable advisor. They must be trustworthy and part of your managerial line of command or superior to you.

It’s up to you to convince the company that you are the right person. That’s one of the 90-days goals. So, define a clear plan of what you will do, what will show that you are competent.

At the end of the first three months, present an action plan to develop. This action plan must result from the diagnostic you have made of the company and the actions that you recommend. All the information you would have collected from stakeholders should contribute actively to your plan. You will also need to consider your areas of expertise.

The action plan is all of the priorities and activities you will develop. It presents a schedule, the resources required, goals, and a vision. It involves stakeholders from across the organization. The success of its development and implementation reflects your competence. This plan must be aligned with the goals of the company.

After these tips, here some mistakes that should be avoided.

III- Some mistakes to avoid

To succeed in your first 90 days, you have to avoid certain practices. These are some common mistakes that new leaders are likely to make:

The culture of a company is the norms and values that are developed, including behavior, language used by the staff, the daily business processes. Culture is, therefore, a set of practices already anchored in the habits of the organization. So, as a newcomer in the company, not thinking, acting, adapting to this culture can lead to a disconnect with the other staff. This disconnect can result in misguided decision-making that can frustrate more than one and create a disagreement.

It is misadvised to content yourself with knowing just the organization and relegating the knowledge of the people to the background. Your isolation can be fatal. It can reduce your chances of establishing strong relationships with others, and of getting valuable information about the operation of the business.

To prove your worth and to impress everyone else, you could become presumptuous and pretentious. You may think you can solve the crucial problems of the organization by yourself. This is not true and others can ressent it.

As a new director, you will probably inherit an old team that does not suit you. It would be a shame to keep such a team that won’t make you succeed. Most of the time, some new leaders are intimidated by the seniority or opinion that team members may have of them. If a team seems unsuitable, avoid keeping it. As a new leader, adjust things.


As the new Director of Human Resources, the first 90 days are an integration period when you have to prove your competence and show everyone that you are the right person for the job. Avoid mistakes, and take the right initiatives. You need to focus your actions and activities on productivity and growth through your management.

This article was originally published at https://www.happierco.com/blog/first-90-days-head-of-hr/



We help you build fast-moving, high-performing teams while keeping your sanity

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Tony Cletus

Helping growing companies reach their target while creating a productive environment employees love.