When It Comes to Ongoing HR Development, It’s Really Up to You

“Can I see a show of hands of people that watch CNBC or any other business channel? Can I also see a show of hands of those that read the business section of your newspaper?”

Both those questions were asked over the past two weeks at different HR conferences [the HR Leaders Africa Summit held in Lagos, Nigeria, and the Lebanon HR Summit]. I decided to ask those questions and I was shocked by the number of responses. Maybe two or three hands went up, and there were at least 50 people in the room in both cases.

And you want a seat where?

My response was, “and you want to be strategic business partners?” My next question was, “what are the major discussions within your industry?” Again, the response was blank stares.

Folks, if you want to be taken seriously you have to take business seriously. All the above mentioned outlets are great training for understanding how business works.

So many of our HR professionals look forward to attending conferences and training throughout the year, but for the most part, we can’t sit back and wait for two or three events to take care of our development needs throughout the year. We have to self-educate. That means reading everything that we can get our hands on.

My other question to the group was, “how many of you watch reality television?” Nearly everyone’s hands shot up. I know that after a long day at work, TV sounds much better than sitting around reading a white paper or delving into a long business article, but those articles will challenge you to think deeply about what you do and what is happening in your industry.

Every industry is going through its own challenges. The more you know about the disrupters in your industry, the better able you will be to do your job.

Keep learning, because no career is safe

However, if you have dreams of advancing your career, it will not be determined by a training budget. Your complacency will not determine your success. In today’s turbulent environment, companies and jobs can rise and fall in a matter of months.

Your lofty job title could change at any given moment. In other words, no career is safe in today’s brave new world.

All of those factors are reason enough for everyone to embrace a student-like mindset and turn self-learning into a daily (or at least a weekly) habit. You can hone your current skills and develop new ones while enriching your mind.

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If it is HR strategy you are interested in, you should read everything you can get your hands on. If it is HR analytics, the same process can be taken.

One of the advantages of the Internet is that it makes learning so much easier. At the click of a few keys you can find not only scholarly articles but blogs on any interest you may have. If there are people in your industry that you admire as thought leaders, most likely they blog or post articles. If so, sign up to get a daily or weekly dose.

5 things you should do to help your career growth

If you are hankering to move your career into a new direction, say from transactional to a more strategic approach, my five (5) nuggets of advice go like this:

  1. Make learning a habit. This habit will enrich you throughout your life. If you have no desire to learn anything new, whether it is for work or personal, you will, in all likelihood, stagnate. There is always something that we can learn that will improve how we lead our lives and do our work.
  2. Explore items of interest not within your sphere. There are certain websites that I try to read as often as possible. I am very much interested in sites like CFO, CEO, CMO, CIO.com (and of course, TLNT). I want to know what the thought processes are in these peer driven areas. What are they struggling with? This gives you a bird’s eye view of the things that are keeping professionals up at night. Remember, if these are the people that you want to be in the room with, you have to be able to understand what they are struggling with.
  3. Take advantage of free educational resources. There are so many free webinars available today that you can just put the earphones on and listen. Every type of subject can now be explored on a free basis, and the only point of entry is to sign up. The great advantage of webinars is that once they run you can always go back and listen to them again. Deloitte, McKinsey, and many others produce numerous white papers on all the key HR disciplines — and all at no cost to you for the most part. There are numerous YouTube videos and Ted Talks that are also rich in content regardless of your discipline
  4. Who do you admire in your industry? We all have people that we admire in our field. For the most part, all of them publish either a blog,are an  influencer on LinkedIn, or speak occasionally. You can now, with just a few clicks, connect with them on LinkedIn and keep abreast of their work. Not only that, but the real stars in this field are all approachable. Reach out to let them know that you admire their work and want to connect.
  5. Get involved. There are numerous HR groups outside of SHRM. Here in Dubai, we created the HR Leaders UAE Forum for senior leaders. We connect throughout the day on WhatsApp, and our first ever meet-and-greet will be held next month. If you do not have one in your city, get a few people together and create your own.

Taking charge of your own development

These days you can’t sit back and complain about not being developed. You development should be paramount to your career and you should own it.

If you are lucky to work in a company that values development, that’s great, but if not, you must develop yourself.

If you want to be in the room, you must bring knowledge to the room. Blank stares will not endear you to this environment.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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