At Work: Human resources - My top tips - Peter McCollin, director of HR, Sense

Dress to influence In my first HR role, I was still a bit of a hippy student type - long hair, earring, beard.

The HR director made the point that, in HR, we have little direct power, only influence, and this is directly affected by people's perceptions.

People were seeing me and not listening to what I had to say. The voluntary sector tends to be more easy-going, and I'd hate to impose dress codes on people, but the fundamental message is this: know your audience, meet their expectations and remember that you have to get their emotional and intellectual commitment to ensure that a policy is implemented effectively or advice is welcomed.

Allow people the freedom to make mistakes And support them after they have made them. Most people will thrive on the opportunity to develop in their roles, and this means occasionally moving out of their comfort zones, as well as of yours. The skill is in giving them the confidence to take risks while ensuring the consequences for the organisation are manageable.

Get the bones right HR is the cultural skeleton on which the rest of the organisation hangs. How we recruit, reward, train, involve and manage the performance of staff is crucial to the delivery of our goals. However, if all you are interested in is the nice things, don't follow a career in HR. Your managers will respect you most for sorting out difficult employee relations problems, and others will often want you to say "yes" when policy demands that you have to say "no".

Analyse key roles and performance This is the most important HR initiative at Sense. In a similar way to the concept of competencies and capabilities, we aim to identify those skills necessary to deliver a job. This will then provide the underpinning framework for assessment at the point of recruitment, individual development reviews at appraisal and the operation of our capability procedure.

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