Six must have skillsets for successful people leaders

6 minute read

From employee experience facilitator to data and analytics translator, people practitioners need to develop six skillsets to successfully lead the people function of the future, says HR influencer, psychologist and people analytics expert Dave Millner

Six themes for people practitioner of futureBuilding on research over the past 10 years, and considering the digital world of work trends that are driving new expectations of the people function, I believe there are six key themes that will drive the demands of the people practitioner in the people function of the future.

1. Culture and Employee Experience Facilitator

Employee experience relates to perceptions and feelings of workers towards their job experience, whereas employee engagement is about the perceptions and feelings of the employees towards their organisation. Ensuring these elements are aligned and suitably prioritised requires a culture where leaders and managers alike put themselves in the employees’ shoes.

This means the HR practitioner will need to:

• Challenge leaders if existing practices, procedures and methods constrain performance

• Facilitate with leaders the culture-based challenges and changes

• Realign HR offerings to cater for future people experience need

• Facilitate dialogue with and between people so they can all contribute fully to research, design and delivery methods that need to be adopted to understand what employee experience could look like.

2. Design and Productivity Architect

Barely a month goes by without another major report highlighting the challenges of lower-than-expected productivity in both public and private sector organisations. The issue remains the same: productivity is about the efficiency of an employee, a machine, a factory or a business unit, or indeed a process-based system, that converts inputs into useful outputs.

The opportunity to make an immediate data-based impact exists, and as people are the main resources involved alongside automation, the HR function needs to focus far more time on this business challenge.

That means the HR practitioner will need to:

• Examine productivity data to understand the issues and challenges

• Work with leaders and managers to understand how business and people-based insights can be brought together to create a better more aligned solution

• Review education and learning programmes to ensure that employees and managers are able to understand how to identify productivity and process issues before they become a crisis

• Ensure that technology improvements truly maximise and enable productivity outputs

• Use organisational and job design methodologies to identify workflow improvement opportunities.

3. Data and Analytics Translator

Data and analytics are at the heart of this new digital world of work. Now, I’m not trying to convert every practitioner into a statistical genius; far from it. Rather, the future HR practitioner needs to be more numerate and able to explore data and information to elicit insights that might not normally have been identified. This is based on having a commercial mindset and thinking like a business leader, ensuring everything has an impact on the bottom line or, for public sector organisations, impacts upon the purpose and efficiency of the services provided.

The analytics translator role is about:

• Focusing on domain knowledge (HR, talent management and L&D) and using data to help business leaders identify and prioritise business problems based on which will create the highest value and impact when solved

• Being comfortable with building and presenting reports and user cases

• Collaborating well with technical (analytics and statistics-based people) and senior management teams

• Managing projects, milestones and dependencies

• Being able to translate analysis and conclusions into compelling stories and actionable recommendations to take forward

• Being comfortable with data, metrics, measurements, analytical processes and prioritisation.

4. Technology Integrator

HR technology will be a crucial enabler for the people function moving forward. There will be a need to provide a clear focus on efficiency, effectiveness and engagement throughout all people practices. This will be increasingly relevant as the continued automation of efficient 24/7 talent and people practices continues to advance at speed. Underpinning this will be the change management process as digital based transformations will be ongoing.

As a result of this the HR practitioner needs to:

• Have a greater understanding of what is happening in the whole area of technology. What developments are coming HR’s way? What impact can they have on the workforce’s capability to deliver to their customers?

• Become more involved in technology and see what it can enable the people function to achieve in terms of business outcomes and data-based insights

• Develop digital-related capabilities through pilots or user testing technologies so you can learn through first-hand experience how to use the technology and offer pragmatic feedback. This will also ensure you understand what the user experience is like.

5. Talent Practices Enabler

HR needs to continue to attract, retain, develop and maximise the performance of the organisation’s talent at all levels. At the heart of the challenge is the need to obtain and demonstrate value for money. It’s important to remember the majority of roles are undertaken by solid and competent performers, not necessarily the organisation’s superstars or high potentials.

The rise of automation is raising expectations about how technology can improve and enhance most elements of the employee life cycle. However, there do seem to be four key fundamental practices which seem to be at the heart of a solid and differentiating talent management strategy, namely:

Recruitment, selection, assessment and feedback: It remains crucial to generate objective data about an individual’s capability that allows the organisation to both understand the strengths of that employee but also to better differentiate their investment by focusing on those elements that add the greatest value to the organisation.

Performance management: The need to connect with the employee becomes really important as dialogue opportunities become under even more work pressure than ever before. The ability to improve an individuals’ contribution to the business through mutual goal setting, coaching/feedback and reviews remain a vital part of everyone’s responsibility and drives the workforce’s experience at work, their level of engagement with what they are being asked to do and their commitment to the organisation’s purpose.

Learning, development and coaching: Underpinning the employee experience raises the opportunity to improve an individuals’ capabilities and behaviours so that they are able to increase their performance. The personalisation of learning, through technology, is vital to ensuring that the employee takes as much responsibility for their development as the organisation does.

Succession and talent planning: As the speed of disruption increases, the ability to be able to have a clear and focused understanding of the organisation’s talent becomes more crucial. This is about looking at both future business critical roles, succession planning, and also having a clear appreciation of the resourcing demands of an organisation over a six to twelve-month period through workforce.

As a result of this the HR practitioner needs to:

• Be able to clearly identify the expected business outcomes of any talent management process

• Challenge the business to ensure there are clear lines of accountability across all levels of the organisation, making sure these practices are adopted and reviewed critically, with data to ensure business impact is being realised

• Retain a balance between simplicity and complexity when designing talent practices; it’s all about obtaining leader and management ‘buy in’ and developing their ability to implement the solutions

• Ensure there is an expectation to measure the ROI of the talent practice and its role in identifying and collecting data that can subsequently be used to assess the viability of the process

• Ensure the business always focuses on the best rather than just ‘making do’; the importance of standards is crucial to driving performance from the workforce.

6. Educator and Coach

If you’re an experienced HR practitioner, you probably think coaching is just another name for what you’ve already been doing for years, namely helping managers and leaders increase their capabilities and knowledge in dealing with people-based issues and requirements. But the ongoing speed of change in people practices and the advent of more technology means the coaching role will take on an increased importance to make sure investments made in technological infra-structure are both understood and implemented effectively by the management and leadership teams.

As a result of this the HR practitioner needs to:

• Be able to address people-based issues and opportunities as well as drive a more detailed understanding about how a leader or manager could improve performance by reflecting on their approaches and methods in the workplace

• Give direction, guidance and support to leaders and managers, some of whom will be more senior and perceived to have more experience than the practitioner

• Facilitate conversations with tact and credibility to ensure underlying messages are clearly understood by the coachee

• Motivate leaders and managers to take personal action by creating compelling stories and messages that convince them to make changes in the way they operate

• Generate a climate of collaboration where perceived barriers are broken down so that there is a clear agenda focused on improving business performance

• Ensure they are commercially credible from a business point of view as well as being up to date in terms of talent management/HR domain knowledge.

There we have it: the people function is facing some of the most exciting challenges it has had to face for some time and for the practitioners in HR and the learning and development functions, the time to shine is here.

Now it’s over to you!!

This is an edited extract from Introduction to People Analytics: A Practical Guide to Data Driven HR by Dave Millner and Nadeem Khan – Kogan Page, Published April 2020

Published 4 March 2020

As people are the main resources involved alongside automation when it comes to productivity, the HR function needs to focus far more time on this challenge

Enjoyed this story?
Sign up for our newsletter here.