Why do some people in HR assume that promotion is a given after x years...

Not at all trying to play devil's advocate or being unnecessarily harsh here, but does serving some 5 years + as an HR Administrator really automatically qualify or entitle someone to become an HR Advisor?

After all, you are an HR Administrator. That is your role, job, HR career, HR experience, track record and most importantly, your HR grade, band and level.   

We are ultimately all what we are in terms of our job description. You can't call yourself the CEO of Tesco if you are on the Saturday night replenishment shift.   

Should not an HR Administrator just focus instead on being and continue to be the very best HR Administrator that they can be? Is that unreasonable in any way but the most sensible course of action to keep the eyes on the current and existing 9-5?

In addition, an HR Advisor is a completely different and more advanced level role to that of an HR Administrator. It also requires a completely different type of skill set and experience. You advise, you don't do the administration, so in a sense, it would be logically impossible to get experience advising when you are meant to and paid to be administering. It is simply not in the boundaries, responsibility and authority of the parameters of your job description.

Very few trainee or junior HR Advisor roles exist and they are also notoriously difficult to get. Often you either somehow (by hook or crook) go in immediately on that level or then you never do. 

To use an analogy here, in the grand scheme of things, most Police Officers join the force, serve some 40 years on the force and retire on the PC level rank. They may do some sideway lateral moves or go into certain specialisms such as firearms, river, air or dog handling, but they are still PC's, not Detectives, Sergeants, Inspectors, Superintendents or Commanders. A very clear distinction, structural boundary and hierarchical dividing line does exist. However, have they all failed either as every force only needs one Chief Constable and one Assistant Chief Constable at any given moment in time? The higher you climb, it becomes a pyramid that thins out with fewer jobs at the top. You also need bobbies on the beat and not just strategic policy makers at force HQ.       

Similarly, in the Civil Service and NHS the main grade is Administrative Officer and Band 3. Why should that be any different in HR? Most people are and will always be on or in the main clerical grade. That's their lifetime career. 

Professional qualifications help but they are still no substitute for relevant experience which will always win the day.

There exists no specific or pre planned formula to move from being an HR Administrator to that of an HR Advisor, but being a strong believer in fate or destiny, I will leave with the following conclusion:

There always exists a certain element of circumstantial luck, good fortune and timing involved in the wider equation here. Right time, right place and no one else in the current mix is better than yourself. However, 'you either get it or you don't.' Some people do quickly and easily and some people never, even if they try for years. 

But thats life and the adult world. If you can, you can and if you can't, you can't.    

Be however grateful that you have a job than no job at all and make the most of what it is. The grass is not always greener in the other side and some people often fall into the trap of always thinking that something else is better.

In short, there is no shame in like in the Police, also being an HR Administrator for 40 years, making and turning that into your lifetime career. Overtime and with 10 years + experience one can even perhaps become a Senior HR Administrator. Is that not a step up?       


  • If it doesn't open, it's not your door.
  • To focus on your analogy Andre - where do the Sergeants, Inspectors, Detectives, etc. come from? Yes, they were once PCs. They learned their craft and progressed.

    I think that an experienced HR Administrator is perfectly placed to progress from that role to Advisor, Manager, Business Partner or whatever HR role they wish to pursue. They will have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of HR and still want to do it. They may even have begun studying for their CIPD qualifications.

    If HR Administrators don't step up and develop their skills where do the next generation of HR Advisors come from?

    As an HR professional I cannot imagine an occasion when I would try to deny somebody the right to seek progression. Even if I believe that the person is aiming too high - I would never stop them from having a go.
  • Steve Bridger

    | 0 Posts

    Community Manager

    12 Apr, 2019 07:13

    I've shortened the discussion title, Andre. You like long titles ;)

  • In reply to Deborah:

    70% of PC’s never make Detective. They join the force and retire on the same rank, although can get pay increments within their band.

    An HR Administrator still does not have experience of HR Advising as it’s not in their JD + PS and qualifications are never the same as experience.

    It’s that chicken and egg scenario that in order to be an HRBP, you already need to be an HRBP. Most organisations don’t offer trainee or junior level HRBP roles. They presume you have already been one.

    For the next generation, many organisations don’t promote from within and just take direct mid career experienced external hires who have already done that type of work before and have some current years experience as an HR Advisor.

    That’s been my personal and professional experience of it.
  • In reply to Deborah:

    I like your police analogy, Deborah. Another comes to mind from engineering: some but not all that many engineering craftspeople - fitters or electricians or machinists etc - progress into technician and professional engineer roles but it’s invaluable ( some traditionalists would even say essential) prior learning for such roles to have been trained to work ‘on the tools’ and to have actually done it.
  • Hi Andre

    I'm not sure I "get" where you are coming from. I have known some people spend their entire careers, very happily, as HR administrators. I also know some excellent Advisors and BPs who originally joined as administrators, recruitment assistants, apprentices etc and have grown and developed, gaining workplace experience alongside qualifications. We also have HRBPs who have joined at advisor level as part of a graduate scheme or moved from other sectors.

    It probably depends where you work, but I see part of my responsibility as a senior HR professional as being supporting people to develop (when they want to)

  • In reply to Emily:

    I agree with you Emily when I first started out 20 odd years ago there were HR Administrators/Assistants working in a large local office who had been there years and even had completed what was the Professional Qualification Scheme and gained Graduate membership, and most, not all were unlikely to advance very far if at all! It probably happens more at HR Advisor level these days where people get stuck doing nothing but ER
  • Like you, I don't believe that serving X number of years in a specific role automatically entitles someone for a promotion.  With that being said, I don't necessarily agree that if someone's role is an HR administrator, that they should focus on that and only that and that a Company has the right to limit someone's career aspirations.  You are referring a lot to the JD and PS, in contrast with the career potential of an individual who is contributing to a business and HR function.

    How are you measuring their technical and behavioural competence? What does your succession plan look like? In our Company, employees are added to a talent pool pending outcomes of the performance management system over the course of a three year period, then we work with line management to determine an individuals estimated potential and map them to an appropriate role in the business to be considered as a successor in the event of a vacancy.  Of course the outcome of determining an individuals estimated potential is that they are best suited to a current role, or we work with the line to create an appropriate development plan.

    If you fail to see the potential for the development and progression of an employee inside your business, chances are that another organization will.