The people profession: how can HR develop in 2019?
Off the back of the CIPD's recent research on the 'People Profession in 2018', senior HR professional Charlie Goff-Deakins examines three development areas for HR and people professionals to focus on in 2019.
The CIPD recently issued the results from the survey 'The People Profession in 2018', which consisted of 974 respondents from a people profession background in the UK and Ireland.
The research provides us with important insights on where we are as a profession and which fundamental areas of development need our focus as individuals.
The findings are particularly timely – the workforce is forever evolving, its needs are becoming far more complex and businesses are having to quickly adapt to economic and political uncertainty
Our status as a credible profession and partner to the business is crucial to meet the needs of businesses and its employees, and it’s important we continue to maintain and build upon this in 2019.
By examining the results of the survey, we can identify three essential areas of development that need our focus right now and throughout 2019.
1. Challenging business and ethical practices
In 2019, we need to remind ourselves of our professional responsibility in challenging business and ethical practices by asserting our knowledge and experience.
The survey results report that there isn’t a correlation between experience and the ability to challenge.
For us to be more confident in challenging practices, we need to develop our fact-finding skills to build a strong business case, which will better articulate our perspective and illustrate the potential consequences of action/inaction.
One way we can begin to challenge is by asking more questions. If you witness questionable and unethical practices, play the ‘critical friend’ and ask the right but non-accusatory questions. The answers to which might enable you to offer solutions that don’t jeopardise ethics or business integrity.
Learning how to read your own business and financial data develops your business acumen and has the instant benefit of informing your day-to-day decisions in your role.
What are the manageable factors that have influenced their decision and how can these be mitigated? Is the more ethical approach a lot harder or filled with excessive bureaucracy? Why is this so? Can this process be improved and made more efficient, and by doing so not discourage people in taking the more ethical approach?
When we better understand people’s reasoning for acting in a certain way, we might be able to resolve the source of the issue and thereby eliminate the need to act unethically and solve a much larger problem.
While we can rely on personal experience after years of developing proficiency to solve these problems, backing this up with data analysis and business context strengthens our credibility and influence – and this leads us onto the next area of development.
2. Understanding business and its data
Developing our business acumen will help us understand both our own organisation and business in general, making us better decision makers and strategists.
There are a number of ways we can do this, most of which don’t rely on formal training, like business courses and related degrees. Starting with information and data readily available to you in your own organisation provides clearer context, as you’re already familiar with your organisation’s behaviours and ‘ways’.
For example, do you read every internal communications message about what’s happening in other departments and business functions? Their successes, their concerns, the information they’re sharing, such as budgets and annual reports? These all contribute to your understanding of your business and business in general.
Learning how to read your own business and financial data also develops your business acumen and has the instant benefit of informing your day-to-day decisions in your role.
Data is more than cold, hard figures: it’s intelligence, a measure of people’s behaviours and a trend detector.
Learning how to read data helps us evaluate our previous efforts and in turn re-evaluate future actions based on the current and predicted patterns. This makes us much more proactive rather than just responsive in business.
Multi-comparative data analysis (looking at the correlation between two or more data sets) can provide a deeper evaluation of data. You will come across data on a daily and individual basis. Try to compare these in a broader sense, for example the data on occupational health referrals compared with the increasing/decreasing numbers of absence and reasonable adjustments made.
Beyond your organisation’s finance and data, you can also keep abreast of external factors like politics, economics and trade through social media, the news and paper/online publications.
A trusted mentor (if you don’t have a mentor, please get one) should be able to help you relate internal and external factors to certain business decisions, which, on top of the data you have been evaluating, should collectively help you see the bigger picture of the business.
3. Diverse CPD for better career mobility
The CIPD’s research suggests that we’re bringing a broad range of skills into the profession, which we have developed from previous careers. We continue to add new skills to our repertoire as a result of the demands from an agile and responsive workplace. And we then transfer these skills to a different career, once again outside the people profession.
Business leaders are still prioritising business outcomes over employee development and engagement. If we are to live up to being outcome-driven, we need to transfer our full skillset and the impact we have into a business context.
We must develop our confidence with digital working in order to lead the business through the development of its people.
In particular, we need to educate business leaders on joining up the dots between employee development, engagement and motivation with business and financial outcomes. The CPD we undertake needs to provide a solid framework to facilitate this.
Whether our career aspirations are to leave or remain in the people profession, or to better our chances of promotion, developing our skills through diverse CPD will strengthen our career mobility.
While we all know how important CPD is for our employees, we need to focus on making our own CPD a habit. Quick wins to start the habit include:
Adding ‘CPD record update’ to your calendar and/or an ongoing manager one-to-one item
Incorporating it into your current role through stretch projects or shadowing
Taking up activities that rely on a schedule like volunteering relevant but underused skills, or enrolling on MOOCs (project management, business and data analytics are good starters).
In addition to these, proactively learning from case studies and success stories – for example learning what a digital workplace looks like from pioneering trailblazers – should help our CPD stay relevant and timely for your current organisation and the next.
The report shows the majority of us are happy in our careers and with its prospects. But we need to be using our full skillset to be truly happy, elements of which have already been developed from our current and previous employers.
Our potential skillset also needs to structure around a diverse CPD framework that can develop us in time for an ever-more mobile, uncertain and unpredictable world of work.
Furthermore, businesses are embracing the digital workplace and eager to see the benefits it can provide.
We must develop our confidence with digital working in order to lead the business through the development of its people. But this can only be done effectively if we develop our skills in business and data, and learn how to use these capabilities to form decisions when challenging certain behaviours.
Charles Goff-Deakins is a senior HR policy specialist and a member of the CIPD with HR and managerial experience from the private and public sectors. He is a HR policy lead, author of the book 'HR Beyond the Theory', HR feature writer, career development blogger and editor, international speaker, and a hungry learner. He also founded the career...