· Features

An identikit picture of the ideal HR professional

What qualities and skills does an HR professional need? Is the CIPD qualification relevant? Is a business background necessary? Should they be generalists or specialists? Three industry insiders tell Stefan Stern what they expect of HR people

Colin Povey, CEO, Carlsberg-Tetley

There are three elements to this. First, you want your HR people to understand the competitive environment customers, consumers, and the way the whole business operates. They should be rounded business managers. Second, you need people who are comfortable with change, who are skilled in managing the process. Good HR managers are catalysts for change, and are dissatisfied with the status quo. They are people committed to making things that much better every day. The third element is the tools needed expertise in organisational design, development, communication, remuneration. I reckon you need the three elements in a ratio of 40:40:20.

The modern business environment is playing into the hands of good HR people who want to be at the heart of the business, making interventions which add value. Every business can offer great products and service but its your people, teams, the whole organisation that makes the difference.

Andrew Lambert, director, Careers Research Forum

Weve been doing a lot of work in this area recently. Several different aspects of this debate are worth mentioning.

One is the relevance of the CIPD qualification. Opinions vary on this: it has a high degree of recognition in the industry but some question whether it is setting sights too low. Smaller businesses might be keener on it than larger ones, which would look for more than the basic qualification.

Then there is the question of competencies in key disciplines specialisms versus generalism. Organisations are looking for expertise in the usual HR disciplines: reward, employee relations, progressive management development, and the newish area of talent resourcing. But in general larger organisations want HR to be a business partner. Organisational design is a specialism thats emerging. Change management and consultancy are other roles HR is expected to take on. Coaching and mentoring skills are also required.

Some organisations have been appointing non-specialist HR chiefs to bring a fresh approach while leaving the technical work to specific experts in-house. Another ongoing question is the role of the board. If the board is going to focus more on corporate governance, getting on to the board may be something of a red herring it will be an arena for non-executives rather than executives.

Fiona Sellers, director, Courtenay

Good HR directors are no different from good directors in other business disciplines. They have to have business acumen and be able to think strategically. Specialist HR knowledge comes second to that. The HR director really becomes a commercial director of the business with responsibility for HR. They will have the ability to mix strategic matters and operations while seeing both the big picture and the detail. And HR will be judged against measurable business results.

CIPD can be useful, but there are also other post-graduate qualifications MAs in organisational development or employee relations. MBAs may be attractive too, but are not essential.

HR directors should be able to work with finance directors and managing directors as credible board members. They should have judgment, give guidance, feedback, advice on management style. No other director can do it.