I was in a conversation with the most senior HR leader of a very large regional organization recently and when asking him what’s on top of the list that keeps him up at night his reply was, “One thing: Building the future HR organization as the trusted advisor to the business.”
And he is not alone. The digital transformation movement in HR has revealed a new reality that future-forward HR leaders are increasingly finding themselves immersed in — the dire need for the function to up its game as a strategic player, and fast. To do that, CHROs have to look back at their own house and assess what stands in their way of entering the strategic leadership network, starting with how well (or not) their HR organization is prepared for the journey from a capability perspective. There’s tons of research identifying competency gaps HR leaders will have to fill before they can orchestrate a broader agenda for HR.
HR professionals can begin by enhancing their skills in 5 areas — some of which are totally unchartered territories for HR — that are key to future success in the profession and likely to be widely practiced 5 years from today. They include business strategy, HR technology, and people insights and, of course, humans.
1. Business savvy and financial acumen
This will remain the hottest of all HR skills of the future. It is established that HR professionals need to know and contribute to the vision, mission and financial success of the business. Beyond knowing how to read a profit and loss statement, HR leaders must understand the strategic direction of the business and the economic and social environment in which the company operates. That way they are able to anticipate and prepare for changes in work. Only then can CHROs effectively manage human capital and align HR strategies with their company’s strategies and goals.
2. Technology and people analytics
Progressive companies have already started applying people analytics to predict and assess everything from employee retention to recruitment strategies. Employees using a chatbot to find out how many sick or leave days they have remaining and AI enabling job candidates to answer interview questions, complete assessments, and track the status of their job application are just examples how HR in these organizations are embracing technology and insights to future proof themselves.
As more and more Gen Z join millennials in the workplace, a wide range of employee experiences are expected to be available online to accommodate the digital customer experience younger workers prefer, and none but HR will be managing that effort.
Hence the need that CHRO’s be deliberate about building stronger predictive analytic capability in their teams.
Technology will free HR managers to focus on the most important component of digital transformation — people. This will require HR professionals to learn (or strengthen) certain skills such as design thinking, empathy, coaching skills, and people leadership skills. Top HR professionals of tomorrow are coaches who help to guide the individual careers of everyone and coach managers to become better people leaders. With competition fierce for good talent, successful HR professionals will also need to give talent a reason to come to work for the organization. Therefore the ability to create thriving workplaces where employees enjoy being in and can’t imagine being anywhere else is another skill they will have to master.
4. Workforce planning
Welcome to the new age of workforce where transient and gig employment, job automation, re-skilling those whose jobs are affected by automation, are all new challenges for the HR professional to start getting their heads around. Workforce planning of the future will require breakthrough and proactive approaches by HR professionals to examine the entire employee lifecycle and determine how to best recruit, grow, deploy, optimize, and retain employees taking all the above challenges in mind.
Adopting marketing techniques will enable HR to become better at talent management. Recruitment marketing exists now and done at the very early stages of the talent acquisition process. However, given the demographics and importance of not only attracting talent but also retaining it, to be able to market the employer brand, modern benefit packages, and company values to appeal to the modern employee — future and existing — becomes a critical skill to learn. Additionally, a deep understanding of the connection between EX, CX, and UX is another aspect why HR professionals must examine which competencies have enabled marketing to lead their own successful transformation journeys and adopt them in HR.
All signs indicate that HR will look very different 5 years from now.
As far as the HR profession is concerned, I agree with those who believe that HR positions will develop in such a way that they will probably be one of the most sought-out transformed professions.
And, to be able to realize all these aspirations, HR professionals will need to be bigger, broader thinkers, and they’ll have to be business inclined, tech-savvy and nimble enough to deal with an increasingly agile and rapidly transforming world of work.
To get there, it’s imperative to start from now. With intention.
So what are you waiting for?