Seven skills HR needs for the top table

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HR professionals are increasingly taking a seat at the top table. However, greater input requires a broader skill set and the digital age requires a HR professional who is not only savvy with technology but also has the ability to ethically lead the HR function.

The HR profession has evolved considerably in the past decade. At the core of the profession is the requirement to be authentic and transparent, but what additional skills are required, and how can you stand out?

Horizon scan: The first crucial skill for a HR professional looking to be part of the C-suite is the ability to horizon scan. In today’s volatile business environment those working in HR will need to identify external opportunities and threats to the organisation that have a potential impact on its human capital.

Be strategic: The HR function should also be ready to make strong contributions to the business strategy. This skill is very much rooted in business acumen and can be what keeps a firm afloat in times of hardship. Strategic thinking is of high value to the executive team. A strategic HR professional who is able to identify and support the emerging talent pool will be directly contributing to business growth and strength in the market.

Manage talent: Acquiring and managing talent so that they remain with the business, and doing so effectively and efficiently, is a skill that should never be undermined. Holding on to top talent is of vital importance for companies whose staff may be looking to jump ship as markets become more stable. A talent drain can be extremely damaging and HR professionals should ensure that their focus is on maintaining a stimulating atmosphere that is at the same time developing and challenging individuals.

Nurture employee relations: Managing employee relations and maintaining the continuous engagement of staff can be exhausting, but it is a key role for HR. Executives from other business disciplines may view the HR role as purely dedicated to this, so success here is of utmost importance.

Set culture: The development and maintenance of a robust organisational culture will filter down throughout all employees, creating more effective organisations. Placing importance on professional development will ensure that employees feel valued and have support for their learning, while also giving the organisation a competitive advantage by building an efficient, skilled workforce. Acting to meet employees’ learning needs, and influencing and managing the organisation’s budget with regards to these actions, will demonstrate the ability to balance the aims of both employees and the business as a whole.

Network: Effective networking is key to successful needs management. Being able to form and develop partnerships to the overall benefit of the business will enable HR to gain external credibility. This further demonstrates an ability to amalgamate the needs of the workforce with those of the business, a crucial attribute of a successful HR professional.

Be accessible and authentic: Above all, a successful HR professional must be approachable and authentic for every level of the business. Making yourself available will ensure that you will be able to keep your finger on the pulse and have a holistic understanding of your organisation. Not many top executives will be able to say that they know the inner-workings of every part of their organisation, so in your bid to become part of the C-suite this should become your selling point. 

Marcia Hazzard is head of the HR and organisational behaviour department at GSM London

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