HR Administration

3 non-obvious ways to advance your HR career

By William Taylor

Sep. 25, 2023


  • Work in human resources on a small team at a small company. – More

  • Focus on strategy by automating administrative work. – More

  • Understand how HR impacts your company’s bottom line. – More

When it comes to most HR career advice, the conversation is often dominated by talks of SHRM vs. HRCI accreditation, postgraduate study opportunities, or job hopping to get ahead.

While these are all legitimate pathways to career growth, you’re probably already aware of them. They also lean further towards how to get a pay raise rather than how to become better at HR. So here are three ways you may not have thought about that can boost your HR expertise and advance your career.

1. Do HR at a smaller company

Running HR at a small company gives you the ability to take more ownership, see how every part of HR operates, and take part in more strategic initiatives.

This is often discouraged because many processes aren’t built out at smaller companies, but this is precisely why it’s a great opportunity. You get to be the one that builds out HR from the ground up.

What constitutes a small company is hard to define, but an excellent place to start is somewhere smaller than where you currently are. Other good rules of thumb are fewer than five people in the HR department or less than 1,000 total employees.


2. Give yourself time to work on strategic HR

Probably the biggest complaint about career advancement is that there isn’t time to work on strategic HR initiatives because HR is bogged down in busy work. This is a fair assessment. Some of the biggest culprits are collecting onboarding documentation, updating employee details, and fielding payroll queries.

Don’t accept this reactive approach to HR. 

Get rid of the paper onboarding, let staff add their own availability and PTO, and allow them to access payroll details like their direct deposit information and electronic pay stubs.

By automating these processes, HR is no longer the middleman between front-line staff and an outdated HRIS. Instead, HR actually has time to pursue valuable strategic initiatives like employee retention and talent development.

3. Understand the commercials of your company

For most people, advancing their careers often involves promotions to more senior positions. While your technical HR skills help you on this journey, a firm understanding of how your company operates financially becomes probably the most essential tool in your toolbox as you develop seniority. 

The most crucial part for HR is understanding budgets. Both overall and team budgets, as well as HR budget metrics, like labor spend, cost of employee turnover, etc. This will help you justify the value of HR initiatives and show their impact on the bottom line.

Secondly, you need to understand the business you’re in. Learn who your customers are, how your service or product solves their problems, and what role each team plays in that process. Doing so will help you make better decisions in HR, but it will also help to make other teams respect you. 

Both of these are essential if you ever want to become a CHRO.

Next steps

You’re probably not going to be able to do everything listed. Moving to a smaller company is a big step, but eliminating busy work to free up time for strategic HR and understanding your company’s commercials are two steps you can begin immediately

William Taylor is a VP at with 7 years of experience helping major companies develop better workforce management and HR practices. He majored in HR and completed a postgraduate law degree.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with