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Seven essential HR skills

Published on: 5 Jan 2017

HR Skills

Do you know how you measure up against your peers? Job candidates who perhaps haven’t looked for a new role for a while can feel that they lack understanding of where they fit, or how to benchmark themselves against others.

And the pressure is on. Pointing to the Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trend 2017 report, director at Hays Human Resources Barney Ely says that nearly a quarter of employers of HR professionals feel that their organisations: “do not have the talent needed to achieve their current business objectives, indicating a shortage of skills in the profession.”

With these challenges in mind we asked HR experts for their opinions of the essential skills and attributes which professionals need to acquire, or to highlight on their CV, in order to remain relevant.

1.Involvement in the business

Being a successful HR professional is about being bold enough to shake off some of the cliched  views that the profession is reactive rather than proactive. This also means getting involved and networking across the business.

“If you want to be successful in HR do not sit in a silo”, says Sue Cacioppo, personnel and legal director of hospitality group JD Wetherspoon.

“Get involved in the business and make an effective contribution”, she says.

2.Change management experience

At Hays, Ely has noticed more employers looking for candidates “with experience in change, transformation and HR systems.” He adds that the demand for these particular skills is driven by “a shift to agile HR” which is turn is causing the responsibilities and remits of HR professionals to continue to expand.

3. Data analytics skills

Along with the demand for particular skills in change management is the call for those who have appropriate data analytics skills, a push very much in evidence within the PersonnelToday job pages

Ely agrees. “Those HR professionals with technical skills, such as data analytics and social media expertise, are in specific demand, as HR departments look to better understand and interact with both potential new hires and current employees.”

In its annual Outlook survey the CIPD points out how crucial HR analytics can be in helping HR professionals to communicate with different stakeholder groups:

“They need to ensure they provide enough detail to tell a credible and compelling story of how their strategy and initiatives can, and do, contribute to achievement of different stakeholder demands.

“The growth of HR analytics may itself provide HR leaders with the data to form persuasive evidence-based arguments for their approach”, says the CIPD on page 33 of the survey.

4.Technical skills

As Personnel Today frequently reports, there is an imperative for HR professionals to make use of appropriate technical skills such as social media expertise, particularly as seven out of ten employers now use such media in their recruitment drives.

Ely agrees. “Those HR professionals with technical skills, such as data analytics and social media expertise, are in specific demand, as HR departments look to better understand and interact with both potential new hires and current employees.”

5.Commercial awareness

Commercial awareness continues to be an important skill for HR professionals. It is crucial that they understand the commercial environment in which their organisation operates and the demands and needs of their workforce. “HR leaders are looking for candidates who are able to apply their industry knowledge to achieve positive results for the organisation”, says Ely.

6. Able to motivate all age groups

The work of Lynda Gratton and Andrew Taylor, both professors at London Business School, has culminated in the best-selling book The 100-year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity (Bloomsbury) which is having a major impact on the employer/ employee relationship, as both realise the impact of an extended working life. Gratton has advised that employees may work for around 70 years, and so expect employers to invest in their skills and wellbeing for long periods.

Meanwhile, many organisations are re-evaluating their benefits and rewards packages as they recognise the necessity to cater for the differing needs of a multi-generational workforce. “HR professionals looking for work within reward and benefit need to be able to demonstrate how they can help employers engage and motivate the talent of a multi-generational workforce”, says Ely.

7. Flexibility and Adaptability

And finally, who better to cast a fresh eye over the latest HR skills in demand than winner of Personnel Today’s HR Rising Star Award Anna Haines?

Emotional intelligence, relationship building, and being able to change your approach are vital she says.

“I would advise HR colleagues to be flexible in their approach and when dealing with multiple stakeholders”, says Haines who collected her award in November 2016. She is HR Business Partner at CBRE Global Workplace Solutions.

“Don’t expect anything to be straightforward”, she says. “Think on your feet”.

She adds that HR specialists need to be mindful that the role has changed over the past decade, and with it the expectations of others. “We are not personnel managers anymore”, she says. “You really learn and partner with the business, and have to work with it to build and change.”

At Hays, Ely agrees. “HR professionals who can adapt to the new agile way of working, have the technical skills and commercial awareness to drive business transformation and can help an organisation better understand the needs of a multi-generational workforce can expect to be sought after with lots of career opportunities”, he says.