Our work in India gives us ample opportunity to meet a whole lot of HR people, and over a period of time, it has become increasingly obvious that the most impressive ones—professionally and sometimes, even personally— have made the effort to stand out due to certain skills. This is just an attempt to list those key skills, without which, we believe you are doing yourself a disservice, not to mention, your future prospects in this market.
Right on top of my list is your comfort with respect to two critical aspects of everyday life for us today—social media and technology. I mention them together because I increasingly see comfort with one is linked to familiarity with and ability to learn the other quickly. With almost every employee on social media today, an HR professional who expresses disdain at say, LinkedIn, can be in serious trouble. You may not be a fan of social media, but unfortunately, being ignorant is still not an excuse. Similarly, with the spread of HR Information Systems— which have the potential to make your life really simple if you make the effort to familiarise yourself with them— cutting yourself off is a very bad idea for your HR prospects.
The best HR analytics tools free you up from admin work to add real value to your organisation, be it in the area of performance analytics, capacity analytics, capability or even employee churn. And all these happen to be critical areas with the potential to make a real impact on your contribution.
Employee engagement using gamification: Your employees are also consumers, and it is increasingly obvious that consumers love winning. Simple everyday tasks with a small prize, be it swag or even an announcement over the intranet, can make a major difference in terms of response and engagement. Understanding and developing applications for gamification are activities everyone will give an HR professional full marks for, today. However, you must remember that setting targets is not gamification. Making the employee love the idea of how to get there, is.
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Onboarding: This is an old virtue, but surprisingly, one we still get feedback on. Blame it on higher turnover rates, or even the higher cost of hiring. Firms increasingly value a solid onboarding process. It is a great way to make a new employee get comfortable, as well as deliver a resource that starts contributing faster. With inductions crunched to an ever smaller window of weeks if not days or less, an onboarding process that is able to drum in the key aspects of a firm’s professional, operational and cultural aspects effectively, is very valuable. Increasingly, this is also a cost issue, as some firms realised that their onboarding costs were simply too high. That means, you as an HR professional, must be right on top of the process. There is nothing bosses dislike more than an employee clueless about a key aspect of the organisation after say six months, despite an elaborate onboarding. Let us look at the case of the employee who missed realising how critical the firm’s offsites were to the CEO of a small firm, where he used to have a detailed one-on-one with every employee. He assumed they were all fun and games, going by the pictures he saw, but was caught unprepared at the first one. The CEO blamed HR. Poor onboarding is said to be responsible for as much as 20 per cent of early leavers in key sectors, such as IT, BFSI and more.
Data sanctity: This is another very interesting quality we have observed. Yes, in this day of information overload and sharing, understanding the need for protection of data and information is highly important. Just as CXOs hate to get any big news after their subordinates do, an HR skill that gives importance to data protection over sharing will generally be valued. Data can be of a personal nature, from employee backgrounds to salaries and even specific incidents. We have all seen how the most innocuous ‘leaks’ can lead to disastrous outcomes, including employee attrition. For HR personnel, everything is professional, and needs to be treated as such.
Comfort: If you wish to be good at HR, make sure you can handle the really uncomfortable situations well. It can be something as simple as a fear of public speaking, to something as technical as learning the best negotiation tactics. But an HR skill you simply cannot miss is to be unflustered in all situations. Employees really do look at the HR department and people for cues all the time, and you should never forget that. My favourite HR professionals have aced this single quality. Be it good news or poor tidings, it’s a skill to ensure that the same is communicated clearly, leaving little doubt for misinterpretation, and keeping the doors open for any clarifications. So, maybe getting comfortable does mean mastering more than one quality. But remember, this is one quality that defines you, even after you get back from work.