Setting the Right Competency Areas for Today’s HR Professional I HR in Asia
HR professionals have a very unique challenge of constantly viewing an employee as two different types of entities. Employees need to be considered as individuals and also as the whole organisation itself. This is simply because the fundamental responsibilities of an HR executive, right from entry-level to the C-suite, are all centred around growing people to grow the organisation, and vice versa.
The evolution of the Human Resources role can thus be attributed to two very broad factors. One is that people’s sensibilities are changing, employee expectations are growing in magnitude and number, and the idea of work culture and the employee experience is constantly being revisited. The other factor is quite expectedly, technology. The world is growing smaller and more connected even as our lives grow larger and so do our aspirations. Convenience is the new buzzword, and if the HR team can make the lives of employees easier, then they have achieved something substantial.
So, as a business owner or a decision-maker, there is a lot that one demands from the HR team. Increase retention, reduce attrition, curb absenteeism, focus on mental health, introduce agility to internal processes, bring the element of happiness to life at work, attract better talent, build existing talent – The list is endless and the responsibilities wide-ranging.
However, there is a method to address the madness because there are some focus areas that can transform HR’s role in an organisation. While there can never be a cookie-cutter approach to defining HR competencies across companies and industries, they largely fall within the ambit of two overarching responsibility areas that apply to most organisations globally – being a talent curator and being a tech advocate.
What does it take to be a talent curator?
Good communication skills, empathy, the ability to build and sustain relationships, and a collaborative bent of mind are some of the key attributes involved in managing talent flow. Human capital development is central to HR’s role, and this is only possible when they truly understand how people drive the business. Whether it is leadership training, learning programs, onboarding, including and retaining the workforce, or setting up engagement and rewards systems, an HR executive’s role is critical at every point in the employee lifecycle, and at every stage of an organisation’s growth.
Then, how does their role affect the bottom line? Here are a few indicative questions:
Are your L&D programs targeted and need-based or are you spending more than you should on unnecessary resources?
Is a high attrition rate costing you millions, even as you lose good talent?
Are you penny-pinching on rewards only to realise that underpaid and undervalued employees burn out and quit?
To put these in context, according to RBL’s HR Competency Study, 46.5% of the impact felt by external customers and 52.4% of the impact felt by investors/owners is due to the activities of a company’s HR department.
From culture-building to compliance, from saving money to making money – the Human Resources team makes things happen. Not only is this role cross-functional, it also involves working with people across the hierarchy of the company. All of this comes together to make HR the key organisation enablers. It is in this diverse and wide-ranging manner that HR professionals can add strategic value to the business. It’s not and never has been about just hiring and firing, team bonding activities and office lunches.
What does it take to be a tech advocate?
Curiosity, agility, critical thinking and a problem-solving approach at every juncture can help the HR professionals of today integrate seamlessly with the tech realm. Whether it is the regular use of talent management/acquisition softwares, or a heavy dependence on virtual communication, there’s a tool for everything out there. Several of these, from payroll management platforms to feedback portals, have become an integral part of the workplace. Increasingly affordable and user-friendly, such tools can also make internal processes much easier.
As the global workforce’s dependency on video calls, social media, and cloud computing grew phenomenally during 2020, the need for HR to upskill and grow their understanding also grew in tandem. For instance, it’s no longer enough to just upload a job post on LinkedIn, it’s just as important to boost ratings on Glassdoor and Indeed, establish an employer brand on Instagram, all while rolling out internal communications on the latest employee portal. This is essentially an ongoing and collaborative process of learning, unlearning, and knowledge-sharing.
Additionally, in the age of HR Analytics, data plays a huge role in decision-making. Data analysis can be handed to experts, but it is imperative for HR executives to know the fundamentals to truly understand how this data is adding value to their role and to their company. It is also often the job of HR to drive cultural change to bring about organisation-wide digital transformation. While managers and team leads are responsible for a top-down cascade of tech-first thinking, the onus does lie on HR to embed tech throughout processes seamlessly, thereby ensuring widespread comfort with the use of tech tools.
What overlaps between the two?
Many of the competencies mentioned above also apply to the other area of responsibility. For instance, agility is just as important in people understanding as it is in tech adoption. And problem-solving can also translate to conflict resolution which is an integral part of people management. On the flip side, working collaboratively can boost tech and data-centric learning, and empathy can help HR teams disseminate information with the end-employees ease of access in mind.
When you put these categories together, there is one all-encompassing competency that should never be forgotten – Visioning. For today’s HR professional, thinking of today isn’t enough. It’s even more crucial to think of tomorrow. The perfectly competent HR leader is one step ahead of the company at all times, thinking of what’s to be done next, thereby shaping the company’s future while remaining firmly grounded in the present.
This article was first published in 2021 in HR in Asia