What is the HR Skill Set of the Future?

hr skills, hr future

The bulk of this blog post was originally published at my blog site, but I thought it was an important piece and wanted to repeat it here. Originally I had come across an article directed at the Chief Information Officers, in other words the IT leader, which talked about the skill sets the CIO of the future will need to have to be most effective. Not too surprisingly I think this skill set works well for the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) as well. In fact they work well for the HR professional at all levels. I have written about each of these skill sets in the past but thought it would be constructive to revisit them.

The SkillY Set

Mark Samuels, writing for ZDNet, says that there are four skill sets that every CIO needs to have to be successful in that role. These include:

  • Being a storyteller
  • Be a futurist
  • Being a team player
  • Being a networker

I think you can see that these skill sets can apply to most leadership positions, but I think they are critical to HR.


Samuels says that CIOs need to be able to tell a story that has a happy ending for the business. Storytelling has been around a long time. It was how people passed on information and got others involved in what was happening. In my post Storytelling as the ninth HR competency I contend that good storytelling is an essential leadership skill. You have to be able to paint a “word picture” that will convey the message you have. You may not always have a happy story to tell, but you have to be able to help people see how things may end in the best possible way given the circumstances. Well-crafted stories can excite, involve, and explain things that numbers and reports often can’t. I give you some tips about becoming a better storyteller in my post. This storytelling as a creative endeavor will be critical to keeping your HR job in the future.

Being a Futurist

Those of you that know my writing here at Workology  know that I concentrate on the future. I also do that on my blog Future Friday. Samuels tells his CIO readers that sometimes they have to “future gaze.” This means that you put down the reports, push aside the current problems and look ahead at what the future may hold. My many blog posts about my program of 7 Steps to being a practical HR futurist, talks about how you have to follow trends and then start creating scenarios that might help you construct possible futures. This actually requires that future gazing and storytelling skills. Being a futurist requires someone to be more widely read so that they can be aware of trends, but I give tips on how you might do this and make it manageable enough to fit into your workweek.

Being a Team Player

This message is probably not as foreign to CHROs as it is to CIOs, but it is an important skill. In my post The Key to a Successful Team: Lessons for HR I talk about the importance of selection and development. You can take a tip or two from John Schuerholz, a highly successful baseball leader. As Samuels says smart leaders “spend more time engaged with the rest of the business and working with external service partners.” That works for HR as well. HR needs to climb out of its silo of existence. Some HR positions are taking on many other aspects of the business in pursuit of the creating the best “employee experience”, as Airbnb is doing.

Being a Networker

Samuels talks about the importance of a network to get things done. This is as equally important to the CHRO. Many people may be hesitant to network internally with HR because of a “fear factor”, but that has to be overcome. In my post Networking: An Essential Skill in a Successful HR Career (and every other career too) I talk about the importance of networking both inside and outside the company. In my post Five Networking Tips to Make You More Effective in 2012 I offer tips that are as effective today as in 2012.

Following the suggestions that Samuels and I offer can improve your skills in HR leadership. Let me know if  you have any other suggestions.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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