HR directors need to up their game on data and social media

HR directors need to improve their data analytics skills

HR directors must focus on developing their skills in data, analytics and social media to “future-proof” their careers, according to research from Hays in association with the CIPD.

The report, The DNA of an ideal HR director, looks at the skills and capabilities that HR directors believe they must develop for ongoing career success, as economic recovery stabilises. It is based on a survey of 559 HR professionals in the UK and Ireland.

At present, “the ideal HR director is able to understand business models and operations, and contribute to sustainable business plans”, the report says. But it predicts “a noticeable shift towards more externally focused capabilities” for HR directors over the next few years. This reflects the improving economic outlook, as organisations move from managing internal costs to building long-term sustainability via renewed recruitment and expansion activity.

HR’s remit will expand to include greater interaction with other departments within the organisation and with external contacts. HR directors will need to augment current critical skills – such as cultivating a high-performance culture, understanding business drivers and influencing internal stakeholders – with new capabilities.

Social media skills emerge as the area in which HR directors most urgently need to up their game. Three HR directors in 10 expect acting on social media opportunities to be important to their strategic credibility in three years’ time, compared with one in 20 that currently believes this. As social media use proliferates among younger generations, HR directors must learn how “to make use of the engagement, recruitment, collaboration and development opportunities that social media presents”.

The ability to understand and act on macroeconomic issues and trends is the other main area in which HR directors must develop their skills. One HR director in three cites this as a key skill for the coming years, up from one in five at present. These capabilities must be underpinned by strong analytical skills and the ability to simplify complex data. Hays says such skills are “increasingly important in today’s environment with the growth of ‘big data’ and increased opportunities for evidence-based decision making”.

In January 2015, CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese identified HR data and analytics as a key theme for the HR profession in 2015. Cheese said that HR needs to focus on “analytics, better numbers and being able to better measure what is really happening in organisations around human capital”. The CIPD will be increasing its focus on its Valuing your Talent agenda – which aims to create a common reporting framework for key human capital metrics – to help achieve this.

While social media and data skills are expected to show rapid movement up the agenda, the Hays/CIPD report says that the main priorities for HR directors will remain unchanged. The top three skills priorities for current and future HR directors are the abilities to “shape and advance a high-performance organisation; foster collaboration and knowledge sharing; and encourage a culture supporting innovation”.

7 Responses to HR directors need to up their game on data and social media

  1. Peter Cook (@AcademyOfRock) 13 Jan 2015 at 9:32 am #

    I could not agree more with this article.

    In the post-modern age, distributed knowledge is power, not the possession of knowledge per se. It has been estimated that the half life of knowledge in psychology is 5 years. I’d be pretty sure it is even less in some fields e.g. computing. To lead a company, make sure your staff have the knowledge they need to do a good job. This is especially important in industries where the half life of knowledge is short and / or getting shorter.

    I’d agree that many HR professionals are not data savvy. It’s better to “swim with knowledge” rather than “drown in data”.

  2. Peter Cook 26 Jan 2015 at 9:31 am #

    I could not agree more with this article.

    In the post-modern age, distributed knowledge is power, not the possession of knowledge per se. It has been estimated that the half life of knowledge in psychology is 5 years. I’d be pretty sure it is even less in some fields e.g. computing. To lead a company, make sure your staff have the knowledge they need to do a good job. This is especially important in industries where the half life of knowledge is short and / or getting shorter.

    I’d agree that many HR professionals are not data savvy. It’s better to “swim with knowledge” rather than “drown in data”.

    Peter

    • Michael Carty 26 Jan 2015 at 10:38 am #

      Great comment, Peter. I really like the “swimming with knowledge” point – a great way to express this key need for HR.

  3. Jon Ingham 30 Jan 2015 at 11:39 pm #

    I think it’s interesting that although HRDs are finally getting interested in social media, their focus on collaboration, which is surely the key outcome which social media supports is on the decline (still, as you say, in the top 3, but down from 66 to 50%.)

    Apart from that the suggestions look apt. I agree with Peter Co. that data savvy needs to be improved but am also pleased that this report seems to suggest analytics is something we need to do in order to do something (the top 3 priorities again) rather than an objective in its own right which I thought Peter Ch. seemed to be suggest in the podcast.

    • Michael Carty 9 Feb 2015 at 8:37 am #

      Thank you for the comment, Jon. You raise a very interesting distinction between the idea that HR data analytics activities should be a means to an end, rather than an end in their own right (although I’m not sure that’s what Peter Cheese was suggesting in the podcast).

      In your view, is there any one particular action HR could and should be taking in order to increase its data savviness?

      • Jon Ingham 15 Feb 2015 at 10:13 am #

        Hi Michael, I agree Peter probably didn’t mean this but I’d have liked him to be clearer as I think many people do get the order confused. Dave Ulrich calls it an ends / means inversion. Avoiding this means focusing just as much on strategic understanding of our businesses than it does the data and analytics tools which can, but aren’t always needed, to answer these questions. So data savviness isn’t the most crucial issue or capability.

        It is still important though and my suggestion for improving it is simply to try doing it. Identify some interesting and potentially important questions, the data which might give insight on these, and then have a go with some tools that can resolve these. The more we do the more we’ll learn.

        • Michael Carty 16 Feb 2015 at 1:33 pm #

          “The more we do the more we’ll learn.” Couldn’t agree more!

          Great comment, Jon.