What’s the future for HR Professionals?

If I had a crystal ball and looked into the future what would I see in terms of the HR professional of tomorrow?   The expectation would be that the HR teams would be transformational rather than transactional, they would be leading the business strategy processes rather than just contributing and they would be strong enablers to levels of business success. 


This is not fantasy, this is the new reality for HR professionals across the globe, and to be fair this is not new – much has been written about the changes needed to those in the profession, so why it then that HR is professional appear to be failing in their mission to deliver to this agenda?


Perhaps it starts right back at University or college, students undertaking HR qualifications often have little insight into what HR is really all about, nor do they receive the additional skills needed to help them be successful – basics such as strong IT, administrative and organisational skills came as a surprise when I presented to HR students at a leading Scottish University recently. 


The ability to influence effectively may also be a factor – HR professionals often understand the tools which will enable a business to perform better, such as performance management systems and creating strong levels of employee engagement, yet often fail to get their organisations to fully implement these.  HR professionals must develop strong influencing skills, in order to persuade the senior team to fully embrace HR strategies, which are proven to drive business performance.  One way to do this is to ensure that the people strategy is fully aligned to the business plan and most importantly that HR interventions are measured in terms of impact on the bottom line.  HR professionals who are credible “know their numbers” and effective and robust management information is essential to help with the influencing process.


The next core skill has to be around having a deep understanding of the business and the commercial market it operates in.  For every HR team operating in today’s challenging economic climate this is an essential requirement, and one which should go deep across every level of the HR team.  Being able to update the HR strategy proactively in line with what the business needs now, and in the future, is essential for HR people to be seen as truly enabling the business and the people it employs.  In addition, having this understanding - no matter what HR role is undertaken will ensure that the best actions can be taken, in any people situation.  For many HR professionals this can be a real challenge, but investing the time and effort to fully understand the business will pay real dividends particularly in raising the credibility of the HR function.


Finally, transformational change skills are clearly needed – now more than ever!  More and more HR professionals are moving into transformational change roles, this is a departure from the traditional role of HR but one where every HR professional should absolutely aspire.  In many respects this is where the greatest value can be delivered into a business from HR, particularly in the current climate.  HR professionals need to equip themselves with some serious change management tools and expertise.


So, lots of skills are needed, expectations are running high – so why would anyone want to be in HR in these modern and challenging times?  For me, this is the time HR professionals can come into their own.  By developing the core skills needed for modern HR they can truly influence the delivery of business performance.  In my view, they should have a seat at the table (board or executive team it does not matter), they should demonstrate these skills relentlessly, be passionate about their business and stand up and be counted at every turn.  It is my view that HR is finally turning into a profession which finally has real influence and teeth!  By developing these skills, we can be credible and influence, if we don’t then we deserve to wither and die as a profession.


Ulrich HR Roles Model

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