4 skills the HR leader of the future needs to thrive

Charlotte Nicol
Last updated on 17th February 2020
2 min read

How would you rate your skills as a HR leader? Surprisingly, when we asked 500 HR leaders this question, fewer than one in three said they’d rate themselves as expert.

It seems worrying in the first instance. Yet, with increasing demand for skills such as People analytics, behavior sciences and employer branding – it really reveals the increasingly expansive role of HR in organizations today. If HR Directors need to be a jack of all trades, then it’s inevitable they may feel like a master of none sometimes.

HR skillsets need to change

The fact that new skillsets are required was one of the biggest findings from our recent research report ‘The changing face of HR’. In fact, 86% of HR leaders we spoke to think that the role of HR Director will unrecognizable in 10 years’ time.

Interestingly, the top skills HR Directors identified as important in the coming years were also the areas where they feel they have the biggest gaps: tech-savvyness, creativity and People analytics.

Skills gap research findings

More is expected from HR and People leaders

Really, it’s no surprise. We know organizations are having to work harder to not only attract, but keep, top talent. Fast-growth progressive companies who want to get ahead know the value of putting people at the top of the business agenda.

More is expected from leaders of HR teams as a result, as they move from being traditionally seen as backroom function, towards offering more strategic value and contributing to business growth.

Combine this with new increasingly complex compliance regulation in HR; new work styles such as the growth of the contingent workforce and gig economy; the varying expectations of a multi-generational workforce; stubbornly low productivity and engagement; and the emergence of new digital technology in both the workforce and HR. So it’s hardly surprising that there’s huge pressure on HR leaders to call on a wider range of skills as they respond in these new emerging roles.

We look at each of the top four skills HR leaders identified as most important in three years’ time.

1. Communications

This was cited as the top necessary skill for the future by HR leaders we polled. Over three-quarters (76%) said they thought communications would be important in three years. This includes ‘soft skills’ such as listening, sharing, collaboration, empathy and other interpersonal skills.

2. People analytics

Over three-quarters (76%) of HR and People leaders thought People analytics would be important in three years’ time. However, just 28% felt their current people analytics skills were expert.

3. Creativity

73% of HR and People leaders said creativity would be important in three years’ time, and yet only 28% rated their creativity skills as expert.

4. Tech savviness

Digital technology is one of the biggest drivers of change, and almost three-quarters (73%) of HR and People leaders thought tech savviness would be important in three years’ time. However, just a quarter (25%) of leaders currently think of themselves as tech experts.

Expectations of HR and People teams are changing

Expectations of HR leaders are evolving, but not just across the business world. 69% of HR leaders we polled said they believe employee expectations of HR are changing too.

In today’s changing world of work, people want to be part of an organization that they believe in and creates great workforce experiences for them.

To do that, a company needs to know this right at the top – and that’s where HR come in. Not only can HR and People leaders demonstrate the value of becoming people-focused on the bottom line, but they can drive these people-focused changes across the business.

What skills will the HR leader of the future need?

Yet, these new ways of working require different approaches and skills: analytics; marketing and communications expertise; tech savviness; creativity; behavioral science. The HR and People team of the future will include an army of experts in each of these fields.

Ultimately, the HR Director or CHRO of the future must be a leader of all these trades, and an expert in one: choreographing these new roles and responsibilities, driving people decisions with commercial shrewdness across the business and demonstrating value as a result.

Download the research report, The changing face of HR, today to discover the research findings in full.

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