In so many organisations the HR professionals are really stepping up to the multiple challenges that this economic climate is throwing at them. Many of the skills requirements are not new, but I’m a believer in evolution and never losing sight of how one has to re-focus to deal with future opportunities and issues.

For me, there are some absolutely essential actions that each and every HR practitioner should be embracing as we move to 2011, so that they are ahead of the competition if moving on, or at the cutting edge of delivery in-house:

Commercial Acumen
We all know that HR has to be commercial to have a credible impact, so what are you doing to enhance your commercial ability? This is clearly not a tick box ‘done that’ exercise – HR practitioners need to be continuously developing their business nous. Can you genuinely debate a balance sheet? Do you know how the sales margins are calculated, and why they are what they are? When was the last time you sat with Marketing to discuss new markets and campaigns? How could the old production line become far more efficient? Set yourself some relevant questions/goals and go and find the answers each week. Only then will you really develop the right level of commercial skills.

Organisational Design and Change
It is all too apparent that this is a changing world. Companies are re-shaping all around us. I would suggest that as an HR practitioner, generalist or specialist, you have to be immersed in the practical world of change. Every top HR professional will have an opinion as to how and why the organisation can become more efficient; they would have done their own SWOT analysis on how change will affect the business and understand the organisation structure models that offer so many options.

Raise and manage your profile
Internal and external networking are a vital focus for 2011 and beyond. Life has been made easier with the advent of technology, but nothing can substitute building relationships in person. Astute HR professionals will have a profile that they nurture. How impactful is your LinkedIn profile? Is it complete or has it been done half-heartedly (if at all)? LinkedIn is a major business tool where one can contribute to debates, offer your opinions and get noticed. Do attend seminars and approachn ew and old contacts to get another perspective on what is happening outside your own four walls. 

Know yourself
Evidence from my career coaching has proven time and again that people do not spend enough time thinking about themselves. Courage and confidence play a huge role in an individual’s effectiveness and this is only achievable if you truly know your strengths, limitations, values and ambitions. In 2011 you will probably need to make some difficult decisions, or have difficult conversations – ensure you are comfortable with this by being sure of yourself. Self awareness features highly in successful leaders.

…and understand others
In changing times displaying empathy is a valuable and important ability. HR professionals, rightly or wrongly, are expected to be those who most ‘understand people’ in an organisation. It is therefore essential that we constantly build our Emotional Intelligence and use it wisely to drive a people agenda that is appropriate and will work. Top HR practitioners will be concerned about the ‘survivors’ of any change and will be building resilience in these people to deal effectively with a ‘new world’.

Development
This is such a vast subject but successful HR professionals will be focusing on enhancing their own skills, whether it be creativity, influencing, consulting, Business Partnering, leadership and strategy or technical HR skills. My experience suggests that not enough HR people have a formal mentor and I passionately believe that finding one in 2011 would increase your overall development exponentially.

Metrics
Long gone are the days of HR being a ‘nice to have’ – it is an essential commercial function and as such has to demonstrate its worth to the business. Why don’t you be the one at the outset of any new activity to stop and make note of the current baseline position against which you will measure progress within the proposed timescale? You will need to drive financial benefit from changes in behaviour; you will need to show percentage and financial savings and ultimately demonstrate to the business that your actions within the last 12 months have added to the bottom line. This can only be done if measures are taken at the outset. Do it and make a difference!

What are you going to do in 2011 that will ensure you get noticed and indicate that you are one of the leading lights in your function, company or community?

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