Self-development in your HR career

Demonstrable evidence of self-development does not just help HR professionals to succeed in the job they hold but can also help to secure future employment, as employers increasingly look for applicants who not only have knowledge but are actively pursuing further learning.

The first rung of any HR professional’s development ladder is usually accessed by professional membership of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). CIPD qualifications are awarded at advanced, intermediate and foundation level, and study for awards, certificates and diplomas at each of these levels is available. Most CIPD qualifications provide the underpinning knowledge towards CIPD professional membership (associate, chartered member or chartered fellow).

“Membership is seen as a badge of professional competence,” says Sue Upton, director of membership and marketing at the CIPD.

The CIPD also offers a range of more than 125 informal and specialised courses. Its best sellers include: “Employment law practitioner”; “Organisation development”; and “Designing effective e-learning materials”.

Aside from the CIPD, various professional qualifications are well-received by employers. Recruitment expert Paul Duffield, director of BetterPlaced HR, says that MBAs are still highly regarded, as are various external programmes on organisational and people development from leading business schools.

Special interests such as coaching skills can add value to a CV. Accredited and well-known providers of business coaching skills, affiliated to universities or to one of the well-known coaching federations, are a safer bet for coaching courses than small providers.

HR professionals will also find that personal development is moving in line with general trends. Recruiters are aware that many employers are implementing a sophisticated and targeted approach to on-the-job learning, with practices such as work-shadowing, job-swaps and “going back to the floor” becoming popular. Applicants who can demonstrate that they have been chosen for such activities are likely to be in demand because this illustrates a sense of mutual commitment (and worth) between them and their organisation.

“HR professionals need to get on internal courses, become involved in a special project, or find a mentor,” says Duffield.

Commercial understanding is a sought-after skill among HR professionals. Targeted in-house development, not formal external courses, helps with this.

“There is great benefit in making learning relevant and cost-effective,” says Chris Worts, head of human resources at Skipton Building Society. He advises that all HR professionals should have an overview of all business departments (just as supermarket managers might spend time in bakery and butchery departments to get a business-wide perspective) not just “qualifications without the battle-scars.”  He promotes this approach among his department and the rest of the organisation.

Five top tips on self-development

  1. Tap into business-focused learning opportunities, such as secondments or work-shadowing at your current employer.
  2. Use these to develop your understanding of other departments or to get a holistic view of your business sector.
  3. In-house schemes can also boost your appeal to prospective employers. Recruiters are impressed by applicants who have been selected for internal initiatives, as it provides evidence of credibility.
  4. If such schemes don’t exist, then suggest them, or create one for yourself with a mentor. You could also look at an extra-curricular activity such as volunteer work, but for these purposes make sure that its content reflects your aspirations and that you are clear on the learning points and targets.
  5. Check your understanding of a core business issue with a specialist supporter from the relevant department.

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