HR Leads Business

Jun 14, 2016 | Barry Lawrence, HRCI Staff Writer

The Future of HR Competencies

Human resource management is at a crossroads. HR professionals, like never before, are being called on to deliver business outcomes, not just HR outcomes. The bar has been raised and this means new roles and competencies for today’s HR leaders.

Future HR Competencies

“HR began its evolution long ago. But the change we are facing now is unprecedented,” write Kenneth J. Carrig and Aki Onozuka-Evans, contributors to The Rise of HR, a compilation of HR thought leadership sponsored by the HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®). “What we are aiming for is a broad spectrum of change, from fundamentally restructuring HR competencies to widening the scope of work to execution capabilities. This will take some time, but we should not hold back.”

HR Professionals as Organizational Engineers

Carrig, a corporate executive vice president and CHRO for SunTrust Banks Inc., and Onozuka-Evans, a principal at AOSIS Consulting LLC, argue that HR professionals must master six critical competencies to embrace human capital knowledge that strengthens business value. HR practitioners must:

  • Know the business inside and out.
  • Become strategic advisors who can articulate what’s necessary to properly execute a given strategy.
  • Have the qualities of both cultural stewards and credible activists to achieve business outcomes.
  • Embrace data analyst capabilities to help companies know where to invest and divest in terms of human capital.
  • Be talent development facilitators and weave talent development responsibilities throughout the organization.
  • Cultivate a more innovative culture with divergent thinking and the testing of new ideas.

“Let’s not forget that there is still much more to be done in human capital optimization,” Carrig and Aki Onozuka-Evans advise. “Human is one of our foundational words, but to really harness the power of human capital to improve HR and business performance, HR will need to go beyond human and adopt the mindset of organizational engineer, so that every process and decision led by HR will address execution capabilities.”

Embracing New Organization Models

Deloitt’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report finds that more than nine in 10 of the global executives surveyed say organizational design is a top priority. HR must find new ways of thinking about leadership development, performance management, employee learning and career progression for business environment that look more like Hollywood production teams with people coming together to tackle projects, then disbanding and moving on to new assignments once the project is complete.”

Such a challenge will put new pressures on HR to create engaged workforces, already a tough job in traditional work settings. Garry Ridge, CEO and a member of the board of directors of WD-40 Company, says HR professionals must have a deep understanding of human behavior.

“This goes beyond reading the latest popular book, listening to the most recent conference speakers’ addresses, or conferring with other HR professionals,” writes Ridge in The Rise of HR. HR needs to study psychology on an ongoing basis ―and that study should be of research that follows the scientific method.”

New Behavioral Competencies

In addition to a broad understanding of HR knowledge and functions, Alan R. May, vice president of HR for Boeing Defense, Space and Security, and vice president of strategy, compensation and benefits for the Boeing Company, concludes that there are six discernable and important behavioral traits that successful HR leaders must have:

  • Intellectual curiosity to “know the business cold and develop effective relationships.”
  • Simplicity, or the ability to make “the complex simple, without compromising functional integrity or organizational impact.”
  • Empathy, because HR leaders “spend the majority of their time with people because people get things done.”
  • Courage “to advance the debate on a given issue and ultimately to make a balanced decision.”
  • Dynamic range: “There are moments when the script calls for gravitas and others that may invite levity ― all in the same day.”
  • Grit to dig in and drive long-term organizational change.

“While one might argue that most, if not all, of these characteristics are essential in any leader, I have seen these six in combination differentiate true excellence from mere competency in the HR practitioner,” May writes in The Rise of HR.

HR professionals must continue to have the knowledge and practice-based skills to perform their jobs. But the future will also require that HR leaders pay equal attention to business challenges and to improving their own personal competencies as well.