My next move

I am a graduate, CIPD-qualified HR officer with three years’ generalist experience, and now want to move into a specialist human resources information systems (HRIS) role. What skills and competencies should I be developing to progress, and what is the best way to switch from a generalist to a specialist role?

First of all, you need to focus on the experience you have on the systems side. You haven’t said much about what exactly you have done around HR systems, but to build on your experience, you could volunteer to do some reporting on the system, induct new staff on using the system and speak to other departments about their needs. Speak to line managers, for example. How do they feel the system could work better, and how could you as an HR officer help this happen?

It’s important that you are honest with your manager. Say to him or her: “I’d like to focus on this side of things – how can I get more involved?” If your company plans to implement a new system, or upgrade the existing one, for instance, this is a project you could get involved in to add to your skills.

In terms of your CV, make sure you tailor it as much as possible to your achievements with HRIS. Even though you are currently an HR officer, you can still highlight specific activities on the systems side so that a potential employer will automatically see your specialist experience.

Another option is to network with your internal IT department. Perhaps you could ‘buddy up’ with someone there for an hour a week to learn more about the technical aspects of the system. You could also research CIPD-accredited qualifications in implementing or managing HR systems.

If you can’t find a role that focuses specifically on HR systems, your other option is to join an organisation where there’s a major systems implementation project, as you would learn a huge amount and would prove invaluable experience for when the right role does come along.

However, it’s worth keeping up your generalist skills, as specific HRIS roles tend to come up quite sporadically. And, with just three years’ experience, you have chosen to specialise quite early on in your career.

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you do specialise and find that it is not what you want, it may be difficult to go back to a generalist role.

Mark Carriban
Managing director,
HR Recruitment Business,

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