To stay relevant, HR needs to upskill

'People don't usually go into HR to learn data literacy or become digitally proficient'

To stay relevant, HR needs to upskill

For HR professionals to remain relevant — especially post-pandemic — many need to boost core competencies, as only about one-quarter have four key future-proof skill sets, according to a survey.

Just 21 per cent of 5,648 HR professionals surveyed had complete training in four key skillsets: data literacy, business acumen, digital proficiency and people advocacy, according to the Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR) in the Netherlands.

Those are key to becoming future-proof.

“Companies are struggling with increasingly complex challenges and problems and just look at the current state of the labour market and the great resignation, things are not getting any easier,” says Frank Markovic, content and thought leadership specialist at AIHR in Rotterdam. “What happens is that, especially because of COVID, HR was becoming more strategic within companies.”

The online training company developed the competency framework so that “HR professionals build on top of their expertise or functional competencies to be able to not only be experts in the subject but to deal with other departments within their organization and… go beyond their company to look outside to understand the market, what’s happening out there with other companies, what’s hot in the labour market, etc.,” he says.

Technical skills weak

HR professionals are most lacking when it comes to technical and digital skills, which “isn’t really surprising because these are the most difficult to master and it’s not traditionally HR-relevant topics: people don’t usually go into HR to learn data literacy or become digitally proficient,” says Markovic.

Forty-one per cent said they were able to leverage technical data but 61 per cent say they are falling behind other colleagues, found the survey.

“Obviously, there’s a long road to go there,” he says.

On the other hand, 63.8 per cent of HR professionals are strong in being people advocates.

Frank Markovic

But business acumen is another area of concern as only 45 per cent reported having a solid understanding of business needs.

In light of the ongoing labour shortage, many employers would rather upskill, than look outside, found another survey, while another one showed that three-quarters of leaders are not assured in their own abilities.

More training needed

For HR professionals to succeed and be seen by C-suite members as good contributors, upskilling is crucial, according to Markovic.

“HR will need to step up: they can’t just sit idly and expect… to hold on to the strategic role; they need to prove themselves to remain strategic and not to be sidelined… they need to continuously upskill and improve themselves to remain relevant [and] to have that seat at the table.”

Unless HR professionals have the necessary skills, they can’t be what the business needs them to be, he says.

“They can’t just base their decisions on their feelings, that needs to be data driven. They need to understand business to be able to know how to best serve customers, they need to connect with employees and they also need to use technology to a good, sufficient level,” he says.

For those HR professionals who recognize more training is needed, the first step is acknowledging that fact, says Markovic.

“The second step is to start somewhere: upskilling is a continuous process, it’s not going to happen overnight. You can go from a specialist HR to a generalist HR who is T-shaped and future-proof, but it takes time.”

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