Transferable skills for HR professionals

We are told that some things are “for life”. But while eco-friendly shopping bags and dogs might fit this description, a job no longer does and this realisation has led many people over the past five years to accept the concept of a “portfolio career”.

The tricky part comes from identifying and nurturing a portfolio of transferable skills to make this career happen. Such a portfolio needs to comprise talents and experiences which will keep the door open to different career opportunities, and is especially necessary when the economy is in a state of flux.

So where might these skills take you? At HR consultancy P3 People Management, director Charlotte Gallagher says that HR professionals who are looking to transfer into another role might consider any of the following: teaching; management consultancy; business coaching; personal coaching; business development roles; mediation; and welfare. Conversely, employees in these roles may find that they can move into HR.

The key to making your transferable skills work for you is to compile the right type of CV, adds Gallagher: “You have to show an action-oriented CV demonstrating what you did and the results, together with evidence of the impact on the bottom line where appropriate.”

Here, we present a short guide to the go-anywhere skills which can be transferred within HR jobs or taken outside to other career paths.

Insight and analytical skills

Being able to analyse and understand data and information quickly is important across all business roles, especially HR. Whether you are looking at the financials of an organisation or project success indicators, you should be able to apply information in a structured way and propose practical options based on the best available evidence.

Head of HR practice and development at the CIPD Vanessa Robinson adds that it is important for HR professionals to understand the value of information gleaned from employee satisfaction surveys or exit interviews.

Transferable to: other generalist HR roles; reward management; organisational development; employee relations; business consultancy.

Brand management

As organisations look to build customer and employee loyalty, managing internal or external brand risk is a sought-after skill. Recruiting employers are keen to see how applicants have challenged the organisation to re-think potentially ill-advised actions that may run the risk of damaging the internal or external reputation of the organisation.

Transferable to: senior HR roles; specialisms in employee engagement and business partnership; business consultancy.

Communication skills

Areas such as training, organisation development and employee relations rely on strong communication skills and a high level of emotional intelligence. “Organisations want people who can inspire others,” says Gallagher.

Transferable to: people and organisation development roles; employee relations; roles outside HR such as teaching and consultancy.


The ability to make a difference and to be inspirational is highly sought after in both HR and other professions and sectors. For example, a number of public sector workers have moved into teaching because they have these skills, according to Training and Development Agency for Schools report published in January 2011.

For those looking to take such skills to their next HR job, it is worth remembering the advice of the CIPD HR Profession Map: “You’ll need to influence people at all levels both within and beyond the organisation. Many HR initiatives succeed through partnership.”

Transferable to: all senior roles within HR; teaching; and lecturing.

Change management

The decade ahead will be challenging for all businesses, but particularly for the public sector. HR professionals who can show that they have been at the heart of managing change, helping to facilitate service delivery redesign and building leadership and management skills for sustained transformation, will be in demand.

Transferable to: most business roles, particularly in the public sector.

Problem solving

HR requires a talent for identifying and resolving problems, and many professionals are able to strike the balance between a helicopter view and an eye for detail (especially for policies and procedures).

Transferable to: all HR roles, particularly specialisms in employee relations and employment law.

Commercial awareness

Robinson points out that HR is an applied business discipline: “Practitioners need to make sure that they have a business-based awareness,” she says. A demonstrable knowledge of hard figures and metrics is one way to achieve this.

Transferable to: all roles within HR and business; specialist HR business partner roles.

Specific business knowledge

HR professionals have to demonstrate a command of core business issues. “For example, if you are an HR director in a hospital, you have still got to understand what makes a good hospital,” says HAYS regional director Aileen Brown.

Evidence comes from designing HR policies or processes that support progressive ways of doing business – the structure of performance management, talent development and reward processes can be a powerful vehicle for taking organisations forward in particular ways.

Transferable to: all roles within HR and business and specialist business partner roles.

Technical Skills

At Skipton Building society, head of HR Chris Worts points out that the ability to manage a project on time and on budget – with formal recognition from a major software provider – is sought after by many professions and sectors. 

IT skills are also increasingly in demand across the board as organisations move their systems online, according to the CIPD’s “Truth about HR” report.

Transferable to: all roles within HR and business.

Comments are closed.