How to Become a Director of People

Looking to advance your career as a director of people? We’ve got a step-by-step guide that you can follow to target your goal to become a director of people.

A director of people is responsible to plan, develop, directing, leading, and implementing the work policies, and carrying out activities in human resources or any other department inside an organization.

Becoming a director of people demands at least a bachelor’s degree in management, human resources, or any other relevant field. Having a specialization in an associated field compliments your job application, after all the priority should be to beat the competition of highly experienced candidates.

To learn more about how to become a director of people, watch the video below or skip ahead to continue reading.

Step 1: Get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources

Fulfilling the qualification criteria does not mean just earning a degree certification, but acquiring the basic knowledge required for the director of people’s role.

In general, the director of people has a minimum of a 4 years bachelor’s degree in business management and human resource management. But as the competition is pretty challenging, you must work hard to gain more qualifications to draft a competitive application.

Responsibilities of Director of PeopleFor this purpose, you can go with the option of having multiple certifications in the relevant field like HR subjects to add to your resume and gain valuable experience. Apart from certifications, you can seek higher education like a master’s degree or Ph.D. in employee relations and performance management.

A master/Ph.D is recommended for those candidates who are new to the field and have one or less than a year’s experience.

While, for candidates with one to two years of formal/informal experience with a bachelor’s degree, certifications are a great choice.

As mentioned earlier, you must not pursue your degree for just a piece of paper but should aim to learn the basics of people management and directorship. The right degree will help you learn through HR policies like:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Core management communication skills
  • Team-building and leadership skills
  • Conflict resolution strategies
  • Understanding employee psychologies

A simple college degree is not enough to pursue this career path. At least a graduate degree is crucial for this human resources director of people role. The learning outcomes are broad, and much more diverse than the ones mentioned. You must choose the right institute with the latest program learning outcomes.

Step 2: Master the Fundamentals of People Management and Directorship

Mastering the fundamentals of people management is the most crucial requirement to passing your technical interview as a director of people.

As the role involves managing communities of managers and employees collectively referred to as “people”, thus strong employee management skills are required.

In addition to that, you must learn the managerial side of this role to manage the employees seamlessly like an expert to become a director of people.

Here are mandatory fundamentals for a human resources director of people’s role:

  • Employee satisfaction throughout the organization
  • Understanding of basic hiring process
  • Proven skills in establishing a productive environment in the organization
  • Assisting the employees with their retirement plans
  • Employee benefits and planning
  • Helping employees with their career path
  • Coaching and training the fresh employees on the company’s rules and workplace dynamics
  • Assisting employees with their career progression
  • Informing the employees with updates on the company’s human resources policies and staff schedules
  • Actively dealing with external vendors like employee specialists, talent acquisition agencies
  • Mentoring the employees in peak seasonal evolutions

Again, as the director of people is a diverse and a very broad role, the fundamentals are not just limited to the above ones. But, with these fundamentals, you can develop a clear idea in your mind that how necessary a director of people is for an organization’s development and what the duties of a director of people revolve around.

Thus, if you’re looking to aim for this role in a human resources department, familiarize yourself with the right knowledge, like maintaining good employee experience, technical services, developing strategic planning skills, understanding the latest market trends, and implementing federal employment laws throughout the organization.

Step 3: Learn to Drive and Maintain a Positive Culture in the Organization’s Environment

As a director of people should be the master of the company’s values and culture, you should learn to establish an ethical and varied culture throughout the organization. To become an expert director of people, you must learn to:

  1. Practice transparency among employees
  2. Focus on good employee communications
  3. Provide and collect feedback to and from employees to know how they feel about the organization and the work they do through surveys

HR Director vs. HR ManagerSuch practices enhance employee engagement, which leads to maintaining a positive organizational culture throughout the environment.

Driving and maintaining a positive company culture in the workspace is one of the most fundamental duties of a director of people. Thus, you must have a sound grip on how to maintain positivity in the work environment.

Step 4: Take a People Management Certification Course

If you’ve acquired the basic knowledge through an academic degree and now you’re wondering how to master the fundamentals, how to enhance employee relations and organization’s value in their eyes, then a course or specialization in the right field like people management or human resources is a good choice for a director of people’s role.

With a certification in people management, you can learn:

  • Key responsibilities of a human resources director of people
  • Employee lifecycle processing
  • Effective communications among employees
  • Employee relations and satisfaction and best yield tactics through various fun human resources activities
  • Organizational skills and culture
  • Employee training programs for performance improvement
  • Business administration and employment law
  • Mentorship tactics and interpersonal skills
  • Employee discrimination and harassment
  • Employee salary packages and additional benefits coordination
  • Labor statistics
  • Labor relations analysis

Certifications not just complement your job applications, but also make the employers hiring HR directors see that you are eligible and an eager-to-learn person. Such practices demonstrate your passion and interest in the field.

In addition to that, candidates with less experience, certifications, and additional qualifications are a big plus.

The right choice of certification will allow you to master the practices that cover the A to Z processes of talent hunting, job optimization, labor relations, and employee retention. On top of that, you can learn the tips to support employees’ morale by providing them guidance and arranging time to time one-to-one sessions with employees.

Our human resources diversity and inclusion certification course provides detailed information on how people should work, engage and behave in an organization. The course entails information on dealing with each employee as an individual piece of the puzzle without losing the organizational goals in the big picture.

Diversity and inclusion certification

Step 5: Learn to Enhance the Employee Contribution Towards the Company

To become a successful director of people, you must learn the tactics to increase employee morale and satisfaction. The reason why the enhancement of employee contribution towards the organization is necessary is that it helps you achieve a positive work environment. You must know how to properly recognize the employees for the work and effort they do. However, keep in mind that the lack of recognition leads to employee dissatisfaction that results in a high turnover rate. Thus, we can say that employee contribution directly affects the organization’s productivity.

Apart from recognizing the employee’s efforts, you must learn how an award and recognition culture works. You must learn to recognize the employees’ work to make them feel appreciated and more engaged with the work that they do to increase their contribution to the organization.

Furthermore, also learn to invest in employee learning and organizational development. For example, developing a thorough understanding of how to train the employees with their skills. In addition to that, helping employees with their career progression makes them feel appreciated and special towards the organization, and they ultimately tend to contribute more.

Step 6: Practice the 5 C’s to Gain Experience for Better Employee and Work Relations (Optional)

Candidates with lesser qualifications must gain formal or informal experience because only then the application can serve as a competitive application to receive the invitation to interview for the director of people’s role.

You should learn the five C’s for a director of people’s role. Here are listed those key components, but know that you can not master these five crucial C’s by reading but actual practice is necessary to understand the core learnings.

  1. Create. Creation of such an employee team that collectively worlds to build a brighter future
  2. Comprehend. Comprehension of past, present, and future challenges for risk management
  3. Communicate. Communicating effectively through open communication channels
  4. Collaborate. Collaborating with employees for a smart and stronger workspace for teams
  5. Confront. Confronting employees both for their mistakes and good deeds to make them view the differences between both outcomes

You can gain the right experience by winning a junior director of people’s job. In addition to that, working online and winning freelance projects provides you with a good opportunity to practice these five C’s and people’s skills. This way, you can also build proficiency with HR software and can also learn better organizational development to develop your portfolio.

Although gaining experience is not mandatory, but is undoubtedly a good option to go for when you want to land your dream job at any cost.

Step 7: Submit your Application for a Director of People’s Role

The last step to becoming and achieving your target goal is to hunt for the right director of people’s role. Mastering the mandatory people management skills and gaining the fundamental knowledge may still make you ineligible for a role. Make sure to read the job description to understand the company’s requirements, as not all organizations follow the same strategies.

Then, mold your resume and director of people cover letter based on the job requirements. Avoid sending the same resume and cover letter over and over again to different HR directors of people roles and vacancies. Instead, adjust your application according to each job requirement and priority to increase your chances of winning the director of people’s job.

Above we have provided a detailed guide to becoming a director of people. Follow these steps sequentially to land your dream director of people’s job.

How to Become a Director of People at your Own Company?

If you are already working as an HR generalist or recruiter in your company, then you can apply for a director of people’s role in your organization after you fulfill the below-mentioned steps:

1. Volunteer to Propose Tactics to Increase Employee Contribution at a Less Cost

You can reach out to the already working people managers regarding the issues they are facing to increase the employee contribution to the organization. Research on the factors that you believe can contribute significantly to empowering employees without having to spend a big chunk of money. Then propose those developed strategies, and ask the director to implement them to see how the results.

By doing so, you can better analyze how your proposed solutions and tactics perform and affect the company’s progress.

2. Build a Portfolio of the Volunteered Tasks You did as Side Projects at Your Work

Following step no.1, work on proposing innovative solutions to drive a positive culture throughout the environment. Keep on doing such projects as a side hustle, and request the senior to implement these solutions to test how well they perform. This way, you will ultimately start building a portfolio with real-life results, that you can showcase to your organization’s executives when you apply for promotions and senior roles.

3. Interact More with the Directors in HR to Learn the Policies

Another great method to build skills and gain knowledge in this sector is to interact more with your seniors and workers in the people’s management sector. More interaction allows you to grasp more knowledge and wisdom from the experienced director of people themselves.

4. Apply for a Director of People’s Role

Once you believe that you have mastered the mandatory skills, and have a great portfolio to showcase your skills, you can apply for the director of people’s role. One main benefit of this tactic is that the employers will already know your dedication and learning towards the role. In addition to that, a strong portfolio with excellent results will increase your chances of winning the seat.

Know that a director of people must be skillful to handle multiple projects simultaneously. Familiarity with HR software is also fundamental for talent management for HR professionals. Follow the above-mentioned guide to apply to the director of people’s role at your organization.


A director of people is a pretty diverse and challenging role when it comes to efficiently fulfil the job responsibilities. If you’re looking to become a director of people, then here’s the step by step method for you to follow:

  1. Get at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources
  2. Master the fundamentals of people management and directorship
  3. Learn to drive and maintain a positive culture throughout the organization’s environment
  4. Take a people management certification course
  5. Learn to enhance the employee contribution to the company
  6. Practice the 5 C’s of building better employee and work relations to gain experience
  7. Submit your application for a director of people’s role

A brief detail with proper instructions is already covered in the above article, feel free to scroll through to understand the process.

The median salary of a director of people is $103k per year, which is a really good salary in comparison to the average salary of an employee in the US. Hence, the director of people is a good job with better monetary benefits

To that end, continuous upskilling and knowledge building is crucial for each role regardless of the field. Thus, we recommend you to keep up with the latest market trends and skills for the credibility of your knowledge and the competitiveness of your job applications for the director of people’s role.


Here are answers to some of your queries regarding the salary, qualifications, and director of people’s job.

Is a Master’s Degree in HR or Business Administration Required to Become a Director of people?

A master’s degree in business administration is not a crucial requirement to become a director of people. As technologies and organizations are evolving, employers have started to focus more on skills and capabilities instead of degrees. Thus, our recommendation is to focus on building people’s skills more instead of enrolling yourself in generic degrees.

How much does a Director of People Earn?

According to Glassdoor, a director of people earns an average of $103k+ per year with a base pay of $89k and additional pay of $14k per year.

The most likely salary range for HR directors of people in the United States is $52k-$217k per year. Where, $52k is the 25th percentile, while $217k is the 75th percentile of all salary data received by Glassdoor.

So, an average salary of $103k per year means $8583 per month, $2145 per week with an hourly rate of $53.64.

Is Director of People a Good Job?

As the salary is way above the average salary of an employee in the US, thus director of people is a good job in terms of reward. However, know that this opinion is based on the average annual salary data received by glassdoor in the United States. Hence the role and its outcome may vary from region to region.


If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into a Director of People position, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft an excellent HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy that lands you a sought-after Director of People job.


Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.