So, what’s the HR forecast for the coming year? What are the key competencies HR people need to help steer their businesses through the challenges of the year ahead?  How can HR professionals make their voices heard and improve their influence and involvement in strategic business decisions?

Management guru Dave Ulrich has recently published research which addresses these very questions. He talks about the need for HR to turn outside trends into internal actions, for them to come up with sustainable solutions to business challenges and to operate in a way that helps to shape the future of the companies they work for.

How you actually do this on the ground was the issue upper-most in the minds of a group of HR folk who got together at a Herts CIPD event last week to hear a talk from Paul Deeprose of Career Gym.

Paul drew on his experience as a specialist HR career coach to highlight the essential ‘strengths’ HR people need to equip themselves with if they are to help their businesses negotiate the uncertain business climate that prevails in 2012, and create an HR forecast for the year ahead.

If you’re an HR person – or the one dealing with HR issues in your business – how many of the following boxes can you tick?

  • Astute commercial acumen:  It goes without saying that any HR person needs a detailed understanding of the business they are operating in, but this is only the first rung.  HR people need to deepen their understanding of the economic, environmental and technological factors affecting their market sector so that they can help the business shape appropriate strategies for the future.
  • Authentic consultancy skills:  HR has traditionally been primarily a ‘reactive’ profession.  But true internal consultancy means challenging the status quo and asking ‘smart’ questions that add value to the debate.  HR people in 2012 need to facilitate discovery.  They need to help line managers think differently so they can find new and creative ways to improve business effectiveness.
  • Active external focus:  Who are you networking with and why?  Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?  How strong is your personal brand?  HR people need to get more comfortable with networking so that they can seek out and share best practice, benchmark their activity and get an external perspective.
  • Expert relationship/stakeholder management: HR often build relationships with the wrong people in the business.  They need to identify the movers and shakers and expand their horizons beyond their direct contacts and immediate line manager.  Key questions to ask are who are the real stakeholders and how can you work with them as ‘customers’ and prove your worth by meeting their needs?
  • Proactive, strategic and pre-emptive:  HR needs to deliver tomorrow today.  It’s about spotting opportunities and acting on them, seeing possibilities in even the most difficult situations and identifying issues before they arise so you can pre-empt them.  If you are not thinking about tomorrow today, how are you going to move forward?
  • Innovative and creative:  There are always ways to improve things – and sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that are the most effective.  HR needs to adopt a mindset of curiosity –  both about the business and the people within it.  What can you innovate on?  Can you use technology – from the latest on demand HR software to social networking tools – to find new and better ways of doing things?  How can you sell your ideas to the business?
  • Exceptional influencing skills:  How good are you at getting the business to sit up and take notice?  When was the last time you managed to really turn someone’s mind around?  HR people need to get better at understanding dissatisfaction and helping to create vision.  It’s about asking line managers what isn’t working, what HR could do to help and then working in partnership to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs
  • Output Focus:  HR needs to strengthen its focus on measurement – without getting into analysis paralysis.  It’s about using metrics not just to justify your position, but to generate valuable business information.  The profession needs to think more clearly about how it can demonstrate its success and measure return-on-investment.
  • Courageous Conviction:  The X factor of HR!  The best HR professionals have a sense of purpose, believe passionately in what they are doing and are willing to stand up and be counted.  HR needs the courage to fight its corner and to sometimes make mistakes.  But it’s important to recognise that sometimes, you can only go as fast as the business.

So how do you match up? What’s your HR forecast looking like? And is it too much for one person to juggle, or are there any other competencies you think should be added to the list?  Let us have your views.

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.