2020 highlighted the value of HR as the driving force in keeping people motivated, engaged, and productive. As the pandemic unfolded, HR rose to the challenge, providing support, communication, and structural changes to help us all navigate the new normal. 

HR leaders now have a commanding seat at the table, paving the way companies recruit and develop talent, invest in company culture, and ensure employee satisfaction. Today’s HR leaders have a massive impact on a company and its people, acting as strategic partners to everyone from C-levels to managers to new hires. 

What differentiates an HR pro from an HR leader?

According to thought leader Josh Bersin, there are four must-haves for future HR leaders. Hear what he has to say in this interview with our CEO Ronni Zehavi.

Here’s a breakdown of the four skills an HR leader needs. 

1. Embrace data

People analytics is probably the most critical asset at an HR team’s disposal. HR can wield these insights about a company’s employees to improve decision making, increase productivity, and streamline work processes.

What can an HR pro learn by mining the data? Everything from professional development to absenteeism rates, productivity trends, and quality of hire. In today’s hyper-competitive market, top HR teams embrace data to find the perfect people for the job and keep them motivated.

2. Be technologically agile and innovative

What does it mean to be agile? Staying current on the latest technological trends is vital. An HR department that doesn’t implement time-saving advantages is bound to fall behind.

Technological advances in internal communications, information sharing, and onboarding need to be embraced by HR. HR tech facilitates a continuous feedback loop between team members and managers crucial to employees’ ongoing development. And metric-driven feedback clarifies expectations, which increases people’s confidence in an organization.

HR leaders who stick with spreadsheets and generally avoid technological innovation will have a hard time attracting and keeping the best and brightest.

3. Know the business

Indispensable HR leaders don’t work in a vacuum. They are strategic partners and have a deep understanding of the company’s bottom line.

HR professionals understand that an organization’s most valuable commodity is its people. As a result, recruiting, retaining, and developing talent must be closely connected with organizational business goals. The best HR pros stay in regular contact with leadership to ensure that HR strategies align with a company’s short and long-term objectives.

HR pros must know an organization’s key performance metrics, including profit, margin, and ROI–as well as what drives these measurements. By combining their business knowledge with their understanding of the people that comprise an organization, influential HR leaders can develop innovative solutions to business problems.

4. Know the basics

Employment laws and regulations greatly influence HR practices. An effective HR leader needs to be well-versed in a wide array of compliance issues, ranging from recruiting to retirement.

Ultimately, HR professionals are responsible for making sure that an organization treats people fairly and legally. An HR leader needs to understand some of these critical areas: benefits, wages and hours, immigration, anti-discrimination, family and medical leave, occupational safety, and union laws.

HR professionals who are abreast of the latest employment laws are a significant asset to an organization since they can reduce exposure to legal risk. HR leaders who understand the law and its applications help their organizations stay compliant while protecting their people’s rights.

Do you have what it takes?

“I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” — Thomas J. Watson, Jr.

Today, a great HR leader is much more than just a people person. An effective HR pro has a unique balance of compassion, technological know-how, business acumen, and legal knowledge. With these traits, an HR professional can facilitate better decision-making and influence an organization’s key decision-makers.


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From Annie Lubin

Annie grew up in Brooklyn, New York. On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find her curled up with her cats reading a magazine profile about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.