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How to Become a HR Director

Are you a born leader? Do you have sound judgment, a good feel for people, and the ability to make tough decisions? As an HR director, these traits will be imperative.

HR directors oversee the operation of an organization’s human resources department. Typically, they supervise management on strategic staffing plans, compensation, benefits, training and development, budget, and labor relations. An HR director designs, develops, and evaluates HR initiatives that support organizational strategic goals. They also ensure employees perform in accordance with company objectives. 

In this position, the person typically analyzes data, prepares reports on HR metrics, and reports to the chief executive officer on all HR-related issues. They ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws and industry regulations. They advise department managers on legal implications of HR issues related to discipline and employee grievances.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is looking for an experienced human resources director to ensure that all human resources operations are carried on smoothly and effectively. You will be responsible for developing HR strategies and providing advice to senior management or executive positions on all related subjects. An HR director must be an experienced professional with deep knowledge of all matters concerning HR departments. You should be able to manage programs and lead staff while also possessing a strong strategic mindset. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in a leadership role, excellent communication skills, and strong knowledge of labor regulations and HR practices.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Develop and implement HR policies and programs for an organization
  • Ensure that all policies comply with legal regulations
  • Develop and manage departmental budget
  • Report on the performance and progress of the HR department to senior stakeholders
  • Direct change management and organizational development
  • Collaborate with senior leadership on staffing, recruiting, and retention strategies
  • Oversee the administration of HR functions, including compensation, benefits, leave, disciplinary matters, disputes, recognition, occupational health and safety, and training
  • Identify staffing and recruiting needs and develop best practices for hiring
  • Review metrics from the human resource information system (HRIS) or talent management system

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, or related field
  • Masters degree preferred
  • 5+ years of human resource management

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Thorough knowledge of labor laws and HR practices
  • Strong leadership qualities
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Exceptional interpersonal and negotiation skills
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to prioritize and delegate tasks
  • Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite or related software

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree
  • Experience developing effective training programs
  • Experience utilizing technology to enhance and measure the results of human resources programs
  • Hands-on experience with an HRIS or HRMS 

Typical work environment

HR directors work in offices during typical office hours, which might include some overtime. HR directors might have to travel for meetings, presentations, etc. if they work for organizations that have multiple branches or offices.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an HR director are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Some travel might be required to attend meetings, give presentations, or recruit employees. 

Available certifications

HR directors work in many different industries, and many institutions offer certifications for HR professionals. Here are three of the top HR certifications for advanced HR professionals:

  • Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). The (SPHR) is designed for professionals who are working in a senior HR position. Offered by the HR Certification Institute, this credential can help advance you to the next level. To be eligible,  you must have a minimum of four, five, or seven years of professional-level HR work experience. The amount of experience depends on your educational background. The course covers leadership and strategy, talent planning and acquisition, learning and development, total rewards, and employee relations and engagement. You must pursue continuing education to maintain the credential.
  • Senior SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). The SHRM-SCP is designed for HR professionals with advanced knowledge of HR strategic planning and how those strategies meet company goals. Topics covered are behavioral competencies, technical knowledge, people, organization, workplace, and strategy. An SHRM-SCP certified individual is well equipped to deal with employee performance or efficiency metrics and to successfully execute, deploy, and install HR projects. The requirements to sit for the exam include five or six years of working experience or less if you have a bachelor’s degree. 
  • Global Professional in Human Resources® (GPHR). To be eligible for the GPHR, you must have global HR experience, such as having direct, cross-border HR responsibilities for two or more countries or regions. Eligibility for the GPHR depends on your level of education and your current experience in an HR role. The exam covers a number of topics, including strategic global human resources, global talent management, global mobility, and risk management and compliance. 

Career path

To become an HR director, you need years of education and work experience. You’ll first need a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business administration, management, or a related field. Then, you can get experience through an internship in an HR department, or by getting an entry-level HR job as an HR specialist, recruiter, associate, or administrative assistant in an HR department. You can also gain experience through HR conferences or by enrolling in online or in-person courses, such as public speaking, HR technology, and leadership skills. Getting a master’s degree can advance your career, providing a focus on a specific area, such as employment law or international human resources. With at least five years of experience in an HR role, including experience in a leadership role, you can move into an HR director’s position. 

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-3121

2020 Employment161,700
Projected Employment in 2030176,500
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift14,800 increase

Companies are emphasizing more than ever the human aspect of the business as opposed to a more technology-based approach to HR. Balancing employee productivity with employee contentment is a key trend. HR directors are keenly aware that a happy workforce will be more engaged and more productive. 

With a major shift in 2020 to virtual workplaces, companies were able to see the benefits of remote work. Now that remote work isn’t going anywhere, HR directors will need to focus their teams on creating more permanent remote work options that give employees the flexibility to work from home full time, from the office full time, or a combination of both. 

Employee wellness is another key trend. HR directors realize that employee wellness is vital to success in a crisis, such as the one in 2020. Ensuring employees are healthy and happy is vital to the success of the organization. HR directors will have to look at enhanced wellness benefits as an incentive to maintain employee health.