Monthly Archives: March 2013

What skills do HR really need? And what can set us apart in the workplace.

So I am just about finished my postgraduate. I’ve begun putting together my professional profile and it’s time to reignite this blog. Rather than being a reflective journal about HR practices I want to include more practical topics and more of what I want to take to the workplace. 

Talking of workplace, I’ve started looking for jobs.

Now I’ve been in the world of work full time for nearly 6 years. I graduated first time round with a music degree from a top UK music conservatory, started a job for a technology retailer, found L&D, and I am now back at university to give me the tools to have a career in HR. Well at least that was what I thought I was going to get. It would seem the demands placed on HR are now more varied than ever. From my job search I’ve found a list of interesting skills that I would not expect on a HR job spec. Some I can elude to have and some I will never have. 

So I constantly hear about HR 2.0 and the new strategic outlook and range of responsibilities and people skills and commercial awareness and ethics etc etc. They never mentioned graphic design though?

Here is a list of extra skills I think will be useful to the future HR worker, some of these I have seen in current job postings and some are where I personally see things going.

1. Graphic design – Yes I did see a job for a training designer which included necessary experience of using Photoshop and InDesign. Now I know part of instructional/training design has to be aesthetics but these specialist programmes demand a lot of knowledge. The major plus is that if you have this skill your training will really pop and stand out. Also your great design skills may be borrowed for other projects, like layout for corporate communications, company newsletters even when the boss wants to create an office christmas card. Any projects you can get involved with are a good thing no matter how small. 

2. Analytics/statistics – Big data is, well, really big now. Especially in larger organisations and consultancies. Google lay their people success all down to analytics. The world is catching on and so should HR. My experience and initial belief in HR was making connections with people and talking common sense. Business managers need facts not hunches to spend money. Play them at their own game, throw a pie chart or 2 their way.

3. Speak more than one language – we work in a growingly global world. Most large companies have an international presence and depending on which sector you want to move in to, a second language may be a prerequisite. Travel and hospitality rank high here, but organisations with a lot of foreign exposure like oil and gas may really benefit from a translator as well as HR worker, another way to stand out.

4. Technology – Ok so maybe I take this for granted after working in technology but surely everyone knows the ins and outs of an excel spreadsheet? What about hooking a computer up to a projector? My experience is something very, very different. Most of the tutors on my course are great HR lecturer offering deep insight into their specialist area but when something goes wrong with the computer then it’s straight on the phone to IT. Technology is probably most prevalent in e-learning for HR or you may have a self-service online HR function. Particularly within L&D, technology experience is crucial at a more strategic level. Why wait until you get that senior HR job to find out, or will you even get it without this knowledge?. Tech is getting bigger and bigger, grow with it.

5. Marketing – Budgets are being cut and staff are really disengaged so without money how can HR turn things around? Help them understand how good the current situation is. Become an internal ambassador for the organisation and spread the word, written and verbally. Market the organisation as attractive to gain the top talent and retain the top talent. This makes the rest of the job a lot easier. Employer branding exists both externally and internally, ramp up your internal communications. Even better, analyse performance afterwards to show how you have contributed.

6. Financial- Ok, so this is something that HR already do and the CIPD are really big on students gaining a financial awareness through advanced study. Don’t just wait to have things explained, go out and talk as an equal with line managers. Don’t see this as a burden but a tool for you to become even more credible in the organisation. Again, don’t wait for the strategic position to know more about how the decisions are made and affect everyone financially. 

Ok, so having a skill set in all of these areas is impossible if you want to be competent but never ignore the power of skills external to your role. They may bring around the opportunity for you to get noticed. And they can add some variety as well. Don’t just be in HR. I was at a conference with a panel of HR directors speaking. One really stood out to me who had joined the board of the company. Not only was she at the highest level, HR director seems to be a step below the rest, she was happy to say that she was a businesswoman who was versed in HR. Maybe we should all take a leaf out her book and offer that little bit more.


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