Article: The anatomy of a Next-Generation HR professional

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The anatomy of a Next-Generation HR professional

The focus of early-career HR upskilling should be on being role-ready through a solid foundation of business acumen, technical skills, and relationship building or partnering skills.
The anatomy of a Next-Generation HR professional

Constant business flux is today’s reality, and to deliver value in such an unpredictable and ambiguous environment,  talent must continuously adapt. To build such an adaptable human capital for tomorrow, HR professionals must understand and predict how the workforce milieu is changing.  For this, HR professionals must themselves build a strong skills foundation, by upskilling and reskilling themselves in the relevant areas, tuned into the ongoing transformation of work. This will help HR professionals add strategic value to the business and propel the organization in the desired direction, through the right talent strategy. For this, HRLT must invest in apt upskilling-reskilling tools and content, so as to set up their HR teams for future success. 

HR Success Factors for Today and Tomorrow

HR roles are changing fast. While some tasks such as CV screening are being automated, some are preferably being outsourced. HR professionals are struggling to add the same value as earlier, as this digital transformation disrupts the status quo. Naturally, the early-career HR professional faces many questions, often fuelled by the lack of direction and the impending need for transformation. Questions such as, “Which capabilities do we need as freshers and early-career HR professionals?”, “How must I start my journey to become an HR Expert?”, and “What should I, as HR, be prioritizing today?”, are top-of-the-mind conundrums in the minds of young HR professionals. 

It is, therefore, important for early-career HR professionals to get acquainted with some of the key knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will help them evolve into successful HR leaders of the future. 

The Anatomy of a Next-gen HR professional:

Next-gen HR professionals must cultivate the  following success factors early-on: 

  • Business acumen: Perhaps, every HR professional must start his or her career by developing a deep understanding of doing business. HR must talk the business language to work closely with the business, and this is possible only by developing deep business acumen. For example, an early-career Sales HRBP can gain useful insights by talking to ground-level sales folk, to understand how sales and P&L work in real life. 
  • Technical expertise: HR must start by building knowledge, skills, and attitude in their chosen area of niche. The focus for early-career HR professionals should be on becoming role-ready and not just becoming a ‘broad’ HR professional. So freshers must think about what fits the organization, and gain and apply their technical know-how in the context of what works for business. Technical expertise is not merely ‘knowledge accumulated’, it is ‘thought applied’. 
  • Be Digital: Human intervention is increasingly being supplemented, or even replaced by digital interactions. For example, millennials are increasingly researching jobs through social media, hence it is imperative for the next generation Talent Acquisition professional to be digital-savvy. Similarly, learning is going hybrid, with a mix of virtual and physical learning modes to meet the future skills requirement. Naturally, L&D professionals must be well-acquainted with emerging technologies and tools to aid virtual or blended learning. 
  • Technology and Analytics: Applying people analytics to predict and assess everything, from employee retention to recruitment strategies, is the next-generation need. For example, HRBP and HR Operations experts may need to track their employees’ leaves using chatbot inputs. For this, HR professionals must be well versed with emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, and Analytics, etc. 
  • Marketing: As HR moves from a cost-center to a business partnering to an advisory role, HR professionals need to don the “marketing hat”. Be it attracting the right talent pool as a TA specialist, or engaging with the CXO-suite to drive the right people-agendas, the ability to market and gain buy-in is perhaps the most critical future HR skill. 

Some of the softer areas that HR professionals must work towards are: 

  • Coaching mindset: As HR takes on a more advisory role, the ability to coach and convince the business managers for critical agendas, will gain importance. Hence, early-career HR professionals must learn to build trusted relationships and partner effectively with business folks. The future HR role is all about acting as coaches i.e. helping guide the individual careers of everyone and coaching managers to become better people-leaders.
  • Relationship-building and partnering: A successful coaching intervention often stems from trust between the two parties. HR, for its future role, must learn to build and elicit trust as it partners closely with the business and C-suite. 
  • Agility: Responsiveness and readiness towards changing business needs is essential to navigating any new situations.   
  • Learnability: Continuous learning is a must-have attitude for HR professionals to adapt and respond to new business needs. 
  • Curiosity: This goes hand-in-hand with learnability- a watchful and curious attitude is imperative for beginner HR professionals to stay abreast of the trends and thereby stay ahead of the learning curve. 

At the outset, HR professionals must focus on putting together the building blocks of the above skillsets. To build a strong core one must emphasize business, technical, and partnering expertise. This will help early-career HR professionals constantly rediscover and evolve, and eventually tune-in to either of the following future HR roles- (1)  Business co-pilots i.e. HRBPs with deep technical expertise, Analytical Engineers i.e. deep data scientists, Cross-Functional Experts i.e. broader CoE experts, and Cultural Stewards i.e. custodians of organizational culture. Building a strong foundation early-on is the way for the HR of the Future to become bigger, broader thinkers in a quest to deal with the rapidly transforming Future of Work.  

How can early-career HR professionals build future HR Skills? 

Aon HR Learning Center’s (AHLC) Next Generation HR Hub is one such platform that offers the above, and much more, under a single-umbrella offering. With modules focussed on early-career learning, the series is not merely prescriptive; it empowers learners such that they can focus on roles and skills that matter to them.

The extensive content includes skill-role linkages and gives external perspectives through research and industry context. Self-assessments help early-career HR professionals assess themselves and leverage the ‘development report’ to steer their careers. The tool not only acts as a learning tool but also is a platform for HR professionals to showcase their competency and capability to current and potential recruiters, through the Next Generation HR Quotient score. Such a holistically-driven learning construct can greatly help early-career HR professionals accelerate their learning curve. Most importantly, the self-paced nature of the offering enables employees to own and grow their careers by taking responsibility for their own development and seizing opportunities as they arise. 

Ultimately, the onus of learning is on the employee, so early-career HR professionals must constantly ask themselves compelling questions periodically. Self-discovery questions such as “Do my skills add up to role readiness?“, “Does my role impact talent outcomes?”, and “Are the talent outcomes impacting business results?” are sure to guide learners in the right professional learning direction. Doing this introspection proactively and early-on in one’s career can open up avenues for value-adding roles, thereby setting the path to building a solid and successful HR profile. 

HR and L&D leaders must also support employees along this journey by identifying and investing in the right learning ecosystems and defining individual transitions, career pathways, and development plans for HR success. Future-proofing oneself with the right upskilling and reskilling investments must be a priority for all employees, managers, and leaders alike. Now is the time for all stakeholders to proactively address the skills-gap- it is the time to Do or Perish. 

Click here to know more about AHLC's Next Generation HR Hub. 

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Topics: Skilling, Leadership

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