"Stay on top of skills and technology to overcome future challenges"

"Think about the skills you see HR teams needing in the next few years, as technology advances"

To futureproof HR, professionals need to think about the skills that HR teams will need in the next few years.

HR teams were in survival mode throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to figuring out how employees can work remotely, employers needed to provide extra mental and physical health support, all while keeping up to date with changing health guidelines.

For companies that were struggling, HR teams were also involved in C-level strategies to keep things running smoothly, handling redundancies, restructures and overall employee satisfaction and retention.

These changes reflect just how much the role of a HR professional has drastically changed in recent years – and how their status has been raised with both employees and C-suite executives. Importantly, there is now a greater emphasis on the ‘human’ aspect of human resources, particularly when it comes to enhancing the employee experience. It is no longer sufficient to merely meet legal requirements; it is imperative to go above and beyond to understand what motivates employees and how this aligns with the overall company strategy.

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Research has found that 66% of CEOs believe that AI can drive significant value in HR. Academic research also suggests that the integration of HR practices with AI-based applications has a stronger impact on enhancing company performance, as it can analyse, predict and diagnose bottlenecks within businesses.  

For instance, AI can help HR teams attract new talent and use data to evaluate what’s causing higher employee turnover. It can also help businesses to identify where they have a gap in diverse talent. But the smartest AI is often the most expensive – a technology many businesses, aside from conglomerates and high-earning companies, cannot afford.  

What we are likely to see in the meantime, is the adoption of such technology to help with automated tasks. Nonetheless, it will certainly shift the way HR teams work and the value they can add to businesses. HR leaders and businesses must now put more focus on employee needs and the emotional intelligence needed for judgment and company strategies, while AI looks after the painstaking processes and data.

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Therefore, to futureproof your role in HR, I would advise you to think about the skills you see HR teams needing in the next few years, as technology advances, and focus on developing these. Of course, this naturally points towards more interpersonal skills. HR will begin to have an even bigger seat in the C-suite, guiding business decisions with a stronger people, or human, perspective. HR professionals need to make sure they have the communication skills and business prowess to impress in the boardroom, and get leadership teams on board with the constant changes occurring in the employment market.

We can’t predict the future. We don’t know the different challenges technology developments will bring, nor the evolving economic market and consumer/talent demands. As such, being agile and maintaining a holistic approach to solving challenges in the workplace will be needed. Creativity is also important; no one expected the Covid-19 pandemic, but many had to put on their creative hats to keep businesses and employees thriving.

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Working in HR can be challenging, but it can also be extremely enjoyable. No matter what the next few years build, creating a better workplace and inspiring colleagues will remain at the heart of what you do.

By Dr Aaron Taylor, head of school for HRM at Arden University