As the New Year beds in, the HR press is full of articles about what the profession’s priorities should be in 2018. As you’d expect, preparing for the implementation of the GDPR in May and gender pay gap reporting feature highly. Given the spate of recent harassment allegations across corporate and political life, HR are also being urged to take a fresh look at how to create cultures where people are treated with dignity and respect.
But while the activities that need to be at the top of the profession’s agenda are clear, what should HR people be focusing on personally in the year ahead? Practitioners are often so busy looking after organisational needs and helping employees build careers, that they pay scant attention to raising their own professional practice.
Here are our suggestions for HR people who want to raise their game and stand out from the crowd in 2018:
Understand the business inside out
How well do you really know the business you are working in? Are you up to speed with the latest business strategy? Do you know what changes are likely to affect the market your organisation is operating in? Developing a deep understanding of the company is vital if your HR interventions are going to make a real difference. Get close to the senior management team and make sure you are aware of what’s uppermost in their minds right now. Read the trade publications and attend exhibitions that cater to your industry, so that you are fully aware of any trends in the market that may affect your HR strategies.
Get tech savvy
HR people have in the past been slow to embrace the latest technology – but with the march of Artificial Intelligence and increasing digitisation of the workforce, it’s an area that can’t be ignored any longer. It’s not just a case of knowing what the latest HR software systems are. It’s about developing an understanding of how these systems can help the organisation manage its people processes more effectively and consistently – and understanding how the data the systems produce can provide valuable information to support business decisions. There’s also a strong case for looking at how AI might affect jobs in your industry in the future, so that you can start to plan now for what new skills will be required and for how roles might change going forward. Professional bodies like the CIPD are running events and training to help HR get to grips with data analytics – but it probably won’t hurt to make the IT department your friend.
Develop an external focus
It’s very easy to get swept up in the day-to-day priorities of the business. But the best HR practitioners make sure they get out there and find out what’s happening in other organisations. Getting involved in your local branch of the CIPD, for example, can help you benchmark your practice and find out how your peers are tackling common issues in a different environment.
Attending conferences will help you keep up with the latest thinking and will stimulate your thinking about how you could be approaching problems differently. Try attending events which have nothing to do with HR – you’d be amazed at how much of what you might glean from other specialisms that can be transferred to your practice.
Talk to people on the front line
It’s easy to get trapped in your own HR bubble and to keep your head down dealing with the day-to-day. But if you really want to make a difference, you need to get out on the front line and talk to managers about their issues, challenges and opportunities. Spend a day on the shop or factory floor. Talk to people in the call centres or admin teams. The key is to develop an understanding of what managers are struggling with, what support they need to better manage their teams. It’s also vital to know what employees are thinking and feeling about their jobs and their experience of working for the business. Equipped with this knowledge, you will be able to design interventions that will take your effectiveness as an HR practitioner to the next level.
In today’s ambiguous and fast-moving working world, none of us can afford to stand still. You may have got your professional qualifications under your belt, but if you want to keep ahead of the pack, you need to keep learning. Think about what would really help you raise your game. Do you need to improve your influencing skills? Or maybe you need to update your legal knowledge? Identify the gaps in your expertise and the skills and knowledge that will help you move your career and professional practice to the next level. It doesn’t have to mean going on an expensive training course. Investigate what resources are available online, book yourself onto a masterclass, sign up for a webinar or see if there are any MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that might meet your needs.