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”.