HR Professionals Need Professional Development, Too by @HRTMExec

HR performance is stagnating or growing worse, according to Deloitte’s “Global Human Capital Trends 2015” report. Deloitte’s report points out that “HR is not keeping up with the pace of change in business. Today, there is a yawning gap between what business leaders want and the capabilities of HR to deliver, as suggested by the capability gap our survey found across regions and in different countries.”

Why such a huge gap between what is needed and what HR professionals can deliver? For most human resources professionals, the work day is spent with the nose to the grindstone, trying to keep up with the increasing demands of hiring, managing benefits, conducting performance evaluations, and countless other tasks relegated to the HR department. This leaves little time, it seems, for professional development. As a result, most HR folks ignore their own professional development until it is time to search for a new job. Without increasing and expanding their skillset, HR professionals have no hope of meeting the evolving needs of talent management.

According to Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Associates, all is not lost. Varelas has been in career development for more than 30 years, has experience in career consulting and coaching development, and has worked with numerous executive management teams to improve organizational effectiveness. HR professionals must grow themselves, she explains, adding that it does not take nearly as much time out of the workday as some might imagine. “Focus on both your next employer and your current employer,” Varelas says. “Development for the job you’re in is also development for the job you’ll move into.”

The first step to professional development for individuals in the HR field is keeping abreast of what is happening in the business world, both within the employee’s market and on a global basis. Spending some time each day reading The Wall Street Journal can make a broad impact on the talent management professional’s knowledge of what is happening in the HR field, greatly improving the ability to meet the growing demands on the department.

The second step is to maintain a vision of what the strategic goals are for the HR department and the organization as a whole. Varelas suggests, on a daily basis, asking “Is my day, is my week, really focused on those goals?” If the day is not focused on those strategic goals, the HR professional should look for ways to change that.

Opportunities for professional development are commonplace throughout most of the year, but it is necessary to take an opportunistic view towards finding them and making time for them. Varelas recommends spending roughly half of a work day each month in professional development, which could include webinars, reading business-related books, participating in seminars hosted by professional associations like SHRM or NHRA, or taking advantages offered by numerous law firms to help HR professionals increase their skillsets.

If HR departments are going to reverse the trend of underperforming, it is up to each individual talent management professional to become responsible for his or her own career development. Broadening their horizons and strengthening their networking are crucial for HR workers and must not continue to be overlooked.


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  1. Spot on Jeff! (Again)

    This is so important – when it comes to HR / L&D managing their personal development I’m reminded of the sayings:
    “Set a good example” (My mother)
    “Physician, heal thyself” (The Bible)
    “I’m starting with the man in the mirror” (Michael Jackson)

    I consume 14.5 hours a week of learning a week (mostly audiobooks) – and I put 90% of my success down to that fact alone.

    I do this because a) I enjoy it, and b) I learned top leaders and CEOs etc. read 50 books a year on average.

    HR should do the same… Then when HR finally gets ‘a seat at the table’, they’ll have something interesting to say. (I’m not being flippant – I mean it.)

  2. Jeff Butts

    Absolutely agree, but I have to say that 14.5 hours a week sounds like an insane amount of time! Then again, audiobooks are easy to listen to during a commute (if you have one), and can make an awesome impact on your knowledge acquisition. At a minimum, I think HR should devote the half of a work day each month Varelas suggested, just to “keep up.” The more time they can spend continuing their education, though, the better!

  3. Thanks Jeff, I agree – the half a day will help, although we should look for ways to build learning into our lives rather than having to carve out time (which tends to then get rescheduled or cancelled).

    Jane Hart highlights a similar experience here:

    And 14.5 hours isn’t as crazy as it sounds – I’ll write a blog post that explains how I do it & let you know when it is up. :-)

    All the best,