What HR skills will be most in-demand in the future?

With new challenges at every corner, HRM highlights the skills HR professionals will need to survive and thrive. 2020 has thrown some unprecedented challenges in HR’s way. From rapidly changing ways of working to the news that we are in recession – the pressure is on and there will invariably be some HR professionals that stand out from the pack.

Monica Watt, chief human resources officer ELMO Cloud HR and Payroll, spoke to HRM about some of the complex business problems the profession is facing and the interconnected skillset HR professionals will require to move organisations forward.

Agility and essential skills

One of the biggest challenges HR professionals are set to encounter is acclimatising to a hybrid working environment – and knowing the difference between a distributed, remote and flexible workforce. Workforces will shift from being remote first to a blend of some employees working strictly from the office, others permanently from home, and those that move in between.

HR professionals will need to be curious and think fast to be able to redefine the HR competencies and capabilities required to lead workforces in these different scenarios. As Watt says, there’s going to be no one-size-fits-all scenario.

“That means understanding and defining the different business models and strategies that are needed to manage those different demographics and situations, and how you’re going to define performance,” she says. But when you’ve got people filtering back into the office, how do you achieve the same connection, the social community in collaboration, innovation, humility and enjoyment with those who remain at home?

This is where heightened EQ skills or ‘essential skills’ as Watt refers to them, come into play. There are new rules for communication and engagement in a 2D versus 3D environment, and HR professionals will need to be able to get the sense of wellbeing, position, frame, body language and intonation in these different settings.

“Essential skills are going to be fundamental for HR to assist the management cohort to understand how each of those groups of employees is going to work, as well as how they themselves are presented.”

Data literacy and business acumen

The need for data literacy has never been more pertinent in the HR profession. Crunching numbers to measure employee performance and wellbeing during periods of remote work, return to work and hybridisation will be necessary to identify any new trends that may impact delivery. Yet in the 2019 HR Industry Benchmark Survey Report, just 5 per cent of HR professionals indicated that their organisation’s use of HR metrics is optimised, and even less (2 per cent) have the advanced capability.

HR teams have indicated that they are struggling to link HR metrics with anything tangible. But Watt stated that understanding how to utilise people analytics will be a skill that’s in high demand in an economic climate set to be hit by budget freezes, limited resourcing and financial instability.

“We’ve got to be able to determine how our people are being used, why they are engaged and we need to make sure they have the right skills at the right time.” This entails knowing how and when to use surveys, says Watt.

“Surveys can help both HR, managers and the business align and really know where they need to invest their energy, what the risks and opportunities are, as well as assist in the decision-making about employees based on the data and insights coming from them.”

“HR professionals will need to become strong data analysts, so we can crunch numbers (from surveys) and provide hard facts about where our business can move forward.” It’s not just about gathering quantitative employee data, says Watt, but again using essential skills through observation to contextualise this data.

“You’re going to have to be very strong in identifying the qualitative data over a period of time that translates into a quantitative outcome for the business,” says Watt. That brings us to another vital HR skill – business acumen. The only way people analytics can be utilised effectively, says Watt, is through financial literacy.

“HR needs to understand what the financial mechanics of the business are, why the business operates, what market it operates in – and particularly what it is trying to achieve and what resources we have for that.”

“There’s a relational impact on everything we do in HR. We need to leverage every skill, capability and resource inside the business to achieve those objectives. The only way you can do that is by determining what point in time your business is at, what the future state of the business needs to be in and what is needed to get there.”

Recruiting prowess

Recruitment is one of those HR functions that can really slow the profession down. From clunky processes, slow decision making and skills shortages – recruitment can be an arduous task. Last year’s HR Industry Benchmark survey revealed that a third of HR professionals feel recruitment and the executive search takes up too much of their time relative to the value it brings. And with limited resources and a hybrid workforce certain to be thrown into the mix, things are about to get a lot more complicated.

So knowing when, where and how to hire in an increasingly unpredictable job market can free up HR for more strategic tasks. Competing for talent can be made more straightforward with a strong employer brand and messaging.

“Recruitment marketing is my number one focus in FY21 and beyond,” says Watt. “I’ve done a lot of work around my brand, the employer brand and showcasing what the opportunities are like at ELMO – all the things that tell people why they want to come and work with us, who are as human beings and as an organisation.

“That’s where you’re going to leverage technology, essential skills and the financial measures of what the business is – what does a role need to be achieving, what are the outcomes, what is the cost of having a role filled?” With a hybrid workforce looking set to become the norm, HR also needs to consider sourcing talent from a wider pool – which is where being financially savvy kicks in.

Managers will need to consider why they need to hire for roles locally at higher price points when they can recruit in other locations at a fraction of the price, says Watt. But before casting a wider net, Watt says HR needs to weigh up what kind of customer experience will be compromised by outsourcing or offshoring – drawing on those essential skills yet again.

There’s also the need for a keen sense of cultivating talent from within. With limited budgets, HR will need to help managers figure out how to do more with less.

“So your movement in, around and through your organisation to leverage the skills and ability as well as the opportunities of each of our people is going to change. The internal referrals and secondments and promotions need to be leveraged a lot greater, which means we need to identify the skills and opportunities for each of our people.”

Source: By Chloe Hava, AHRI. AHRI has again partnered with ELMO to conduct the 2020 HR Industry Benchmark Survey, to help provide Australian HR and payroll professionals gain relevant data to understand how their HR capabilities compare to their peers. Take the survey here and go in the draw to win a $3000 VISA gift card.

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