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How to Progress Your Career from Junior to Senior Roles in HR (Human Resources) in the UK?

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

I often get asked how to progress your career from junior to senior roles in HR (Human Resources) in the UK. It never gets old as it is very difficult for many to give you a right answer. I believe I can simplify this for you in a few easy steps as an HR professional who currently lives and works in England, the UK and how I personally went about it and progressed to an HR Business Partner level with some practical examples included.

Already working in HR but not sure how to progress your career further?

You may be an HR assistant, HR administrator or even HR adviser and thinking about progressing further in your HR career, maybe as an HR manager or HR Business Partner. All these roles do operate at different levels and what you do in each will also depend on what kind of organisation you work for, industry, what HR operating model etc.


So if you are an HR assistant or administrator and looking to progress into HR advisory roles, you do need to think about following:

  1. How to move from transactional and operational activities and work more directly with line managers and proactively help them manage their teams?

I have a few examples. Let's say you are assisting with recruitment activities but rather than just to simply follow someone's instructions I suggest that you discuss with a hiring manager a potential strategy as to where to advertise, how to attract more candidates and assessment process unless already established and working well (even so it is always good practice to review any process on a regular basis, you could be a lead on it!).

Another example, let's say you are processing HR admin letters and follow not so great templates that you personally believe are not fit for purpose and may not leave a good impression on anyone who reads them. I suggest that you discuss with your manager/wider team as to what you have observed or experienced and ask that you review all templates in line with appropriate tone and messaging that you would like to get across as a team/organisation and leaves a good impression.

I could go on but I hope you get a gist as to how you can be more creative and innovative if you just think about it in some detail. It is all about adding value and your motivation and drive to make a positive difference in progressing your career. If you work in a difficult team, why not accept it as a challenge and see what you can change or improve in your current working practices. I am sure it will be noticed and that you will feel rewarded.


If you are an HR advisor but would like to move to HR manager jobs, I suggest that you think about following:

In most organisation, HR advisers tend to manage various case work and advise managers on how to manage it, they also make sure that managers operate within a relevant policy and procedure making sure it is not breached. This case work could be grievances, disciplinaries (conduct), performance management (capability) and similar. It is often reactive and operational/transactional work.

HR managers tend work a bit more closely with local management and support a specific department/departments. They would normally keep an eye on any local emerging patterns that would need to reviewed and actioned in more detail (for example, a high number of sickness, attendance issues) and also local management capability. Some HR managers could also deliver various up skilling/personal development workshops for line managers and assist with their capability and leadership development. HR managers could also assist with redundancy processes and ensure that managers consult as per the relevant policy and process. It is often proactive work in combination with operational and transactional work.


How do you progress in your career from being an HR manager to HR Business Partner? Now this is the question I get asked pretty much on a weekly basis. This step up is all about being strategic and providing relevant examples that demonstrate you have either done strategic work or how you would go about being strategic.

For example, as an HR Business Partner you will normally:

  1. work with senior leadership teams and/or executive/board leads for a particular portfolio

  2. you will be allocated one or a few departments to support and you will need to understand their business area, work along side their leadership teams to understand people challenges, team structures, opportunities etc in order to help them achieve their business plans

  3. you will also normally attend their senior leadership meetings and understand inside out their challenges

  4. you may also have a team of HR advisers or HR managers working for you as they will be picking up case work and operational/transactional work for your business area. HR Business Partner role is truly supposed to be looking ahead, making sure their departments have strategic people plans in place, internal and external challenges that may have an impact on their workforce, talent management and investment in people in general, succession planning to make sure critical roles and critical people can be filled and replaced with easy and employee engagement surveys and action planning and so on.

If you are currently an HR manager and not sure as to how to step up, I suggest that you try and spot opportunities as to where you could add value, lead on a piece of work or initiative etc.


You also may be working in a model where there are no HR Business Partner roles in place. If this is the case, you should be easily raising the bar and most certainly should be given or ask for work that adds value so you start to build your portfolio of evidence when you do go for HR Business Partner roles. It all starts with a conversation, speak to your line manager or a stakeholder, have a coffee with them and get their views and share your ideas. You will show drive and commitment which is always refreshing to see and most likely you will get the support you need. Please see below some examples that may give you some ideas as to where to start from.


If you do work in a model where there are HR Business Partner roles, I suggest that you reach out to them and ask them to mentor you. You could also prepare a list of ideas and initiatives that you believe teams need to focus on, especially as you will be working a lot more closely to 'the front line' and know all issues that can have a huge impact on any strategic work that gets rolled out from time to time. You should also gather some people data and see if this can give you some ideas as to what senior leadership teams need to focus on. If you approach it with some strategy in place, anyone should value your insights, ideas and good intentions.

Therefore, HR Business Partner roles are supposed to be strategic, looking ahead 1-3 years at least and making sure their departments have good people plans in place with a relevant focus that should have positive impact on their plans.

I hope this blog helps you understand in a clear and practical way as to how you can progress your career from junior to senior HR roles in the UK.

You can book a video call with me below.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes


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