Courses that HR professionals should take during the pandemic

Demand for courses in digital HR and diversity and inclusion seem to be on the rise today

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Come rain or sun, human resources professionals always have their hands full. The pandemic, however, seems to have brought fresh challenges their way. This is also the best time for HR professionals to hone their skills.

While there are a whole lot of courses to choose from, and even more modes to access them, the best way to learn remains the digital route. Irrespective of the career stage an HR professional is in, the truth is that there is always scope for improvement and growth. Also, developing oneself professionally is the best advice leaders can give to their juniors, in any domain, especially HR.

For beginners, there are innumerable introductory courses available online. For those who are already in the field, courses that prepare them to manage HR and human capital — hiring and retaining good talent; maintaining organisational culture; courses on thought leadership, business and technology and employee experience can be very enriching. The trick is to learn to apply the theory in the real world and gather hands-on experience to help your career grow and be ready for the future.

What are the courses on offer?

Human Capital Strategy:

If you wish to build effective teams, then as an HR professional, a course on human capital strategy would be just right. It will teach you to design the culture and values of the organisation, hire the right talent and create effective teams. An ideal course on the subject will cover culture, values, organisation structure and its development, performance optimisation, hiring and talent development.

At the end of the course, you should be able to decide exactly what each team member should be tasked with in order to achieve the organisational goals and vision. A free five-module course on human capital strategy is offered by the Philanthropy University and Hitachi Foundation via Independent. Wharton School offers a course on managing human capital, via Coursera, which also covers many of these aspects. The course on strategic HR management offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would also be a good option.

Cultural Competency:

Diversity and inclusion are high on the agenda for most organisations the world over. However, to create truly inclusive teams, the HR personnel, no matter which level they are in, should first address unconscious biases. Yes, there are courses available online that employ modern learning methods to help students recognise and study their unconscious biases. Once there is self-awareness of unconscious biases, it is possible to ensure that the workplace is more inclusive. Courses such as Cultural Competency will enable you to intervene appropriately and change behaviours to eliminate unconscious biases. No leader can be successful without being inclusive in today’s world. Inclusive leaders have to appreciate the improved outcomes of a diverse team, and learn to deal with their own as well as other’s biases. The ideal curriculum should cover culture, diversity, bias, stereotyping, inclusivity, hiring diverse candidates, and so on.

By the end of the course, you will be equipped with useful skills on how to channel the diversity potential of the workforce, to encourage innovation and better performance. ESSEC Business School offers a course on D&I in the workplace, via Coursera, which teaches how to better channel the diversity potential in the workplace for better performance and innovation. A course on Achieving gender equity using design thinking in D&I is available for less than Rs 500 and can be completed in six lectures. It is offered by the Sai Acuity Institute of Learning Pvt Ltd Enabling Learning Through Insight.

Creating Meaning for Employees:

Employees remain engaged only if they find their work fulfilling and meaningful. This was not easy to achieve in the pre-COVID era. Now, with the work-from-home situation, the challenge is only getting bigger. It is the duty of HR leaders to ensure that the organisational culture is meaningful and motivational so that employees feel excited to start working every morning. Courses such as Creating Meaning for Employees, offered by Alison, teach you to create a productive culture and make you realise that culture is integral to a successful business. A positive culture can be created by making jobs more meaningful for employees. As an HR professional, you have to help align the employees’ personal goals with the company’s business and cultural goals. This will create a meaningful experience at work, wherein the employees feel connected to the organisation.

Holistic Health and Wellness/ Happiness Coach:

With the work-from-home arrangement here to stay, it has become very important for everyone to manage their time effectively, organise themselves and keep stress at bay. Besides co-workers and online meetings to handle, there are household chores and domestic responsibilities to take care of too. All this requires self-management, which also involves balancing professional and personal life. Look out for courses on stress management, time management and performance improvement. These are valuable lessons, which can be passed on to all employees.

Udemy offers a certificate course in Holistic Health and Wellness, which actually teaches a learner to be a wellness coach. However, it is a course that HR professionals could benefit from, as it helps them understand people better. The certified Happiness Coach Course from Happiitude in collaboration with The Berkley Institute of Well-being, California, teaches you to boost and sustain personal happiness, and master the techniques for building workplace happiness programmes, aligning company values to behaviour, and measuring and sustaining happiness initiatives. Stress Management – Techniques for Coping with Stress, is a free online course offered by Alison, which can be taken in about three hours.

Digital HR:

Leveraging technology is the key to preparing for the future. All HR professionals should take a course in digital HR, as it teaches them to employ technology for effective human resource management and to build teams of the future. A digital HR course will allow you to provide employees with the tools required to drive better business value. It will teach you to transform the existing HR processes into automated and data-driven processes of the future. This will also help you to master the design thinking process and enhance employee experiences — to change challenges into opportunities and create value for the organisation/business. Academy to Innovate HR (AIHR), offers courses on Digital HR Transformation; Employee Experience & Design Thinking; Digital HR Strategy, and even a course on Blockchain and HR.

HR Management & Analytics:

This is a comprehensive course which will cover all the important aspects of HR, from the basics of HRM, to HR technology and analytics, to employee data, data sources and metrics, to employee visualisation, to advanced HR analytics and use of analytics in different stages of HR management. Amity Future Academy’s six-month postgraduate programme in HR management & analytics covers all these aspects in detail over six modules. For those who cannot afford a one-time fee, there is an option of interest-free EMI.

How to choose

As an eager-to-learn HR professional, before you begin, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want a certificate? Do I wish to learn something new or just enhance my current skills? Do I have the time to take a course? Do I wish to be part of a live course, amongst others from the fraternity? Will self-paced learning be a better approach for me? Do I have the budget for a proper certification? Would a free course be better?

Answers to these questions are important. After all, with so much going on, HR professionals can do without the pressure of having to complete a course within a rigid time period.

There are innumerable courses out there, many of them free, that give you a certificate on completion. They also encourage you to get onto a fast-track mode putting in extra hours, so that you complete the course in a shorter time period. But wait, do not get carried away. As an HR professional, you already have a lot on your plate handling remote workers and their associated grievances right now. What you need is a course that lets you learn at your own pace. Begin by focussing on the course and its content. The certificate can follow later. A significant number of courses are available free, but may require you to pay for the certificate, if you require one.

While online educational programmes can go a long way in helping professionals develop specific expertise in areas, such as compensation, benefits, talent acquisition and employee relations, they can also give them the required understanding of subjects, such as critical evaluation, relationship management and communication, which are challenging for HR.

Since the HR of any organisation is critical to the improvement of the bottom line of the business, it is essential for HR professionals to be masters of their domain. Eager learners have umpteen alternatives, provided they ensure that they learn from a credible source; take a course, which does not rely only on a single-way online learning approach; and opt for interactive courses that will sustain their interest. Remember, it is necessary for the learner to be self-motivated otherwise it can be a challenge to complete even the smallest module.

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