The number of synonyms for “HR leader” is multiplying at a record pace. The bustling variety of newer, more descriptive titles, like People Champion, Employee Experience Coordinator, and Chief Heart Officer, indicates that the role of “human resources” is evolving to keep up with our understanding of influential people management. 

No matter what you call it, HR’s primary responsibility is to help their company grow by improving operational excellence, optimizing costs, and investing in the employee experience.

That’s a tall order. As we continue to navigate the new world of work, here are three traits that define HR superstars.

1. Learning and development is in your DNA

Whether it’s personal, professional, or organizational, a hunger for improvement is something that HR superstars share. Great HR leaders are constantly fine-tuning their own skill sets and finding innovative ways to take their people and cultures to the next level. 

HR superstars understand the importance of ongoing learning and development, not just for the benefit of their effectiveness as leaders but also for their workforce and organizational planning. HR leaders who only focus on the needs of today and don’t plan for the maybes of tomorrow will have trouble keeping up. Data from Gartner shows that the total number of skills required for a single job has been increasing by 10% year-over-year since 2017. Building critical skills entail figuring out what skill gaps your employees have and how to effectively integrate learning and development into their current workflow.

The best HR teams use the data at their disposal to help people develop the most critical skills for success. Even better, these are the same skills that will help your organization’s best and brightest develop a deep sense of satisfaction at work. A whopping 86% of employees feel that professional and career development benefits are essential to their overall job satisfaction. HR superstars know how to help the organization and employees reach new heights. 

2. You’re constantly testing and testing

Using data to understand your people better is a must for any HR superstar. People analytics can provide tremendous insights about how to engage people better, help them to succeed, and make sure they feel their best. 

All of this can require a bit of trial and error, which is why HR superstars ask themselves the same question you might hear a product manager repeating—how can we provide our users (in this case, employees) with the best experience possible? The answer is to identify a pain point, provide a solution, and then measure its success. Or, in HR speak, survey, distill, act, analyze, and repeat. Every HR initiative can be measured for success—from lunch and learn to mental health days to the variety of snacks in the breakroom. Testing and measuring results gives HR leaders the confidence to know their initiatives are working and insights into what else employees might need. Superstars see this as an asset and use all of the tools in their arsenal to identify the problems impacting their people or culture and find unique solutions that will save the day. 

3. You embrace technology to focus on the human side

Technology is transforming every aspect of the way we work, and HR is no exception. A human resources information system (HRIS)—a must-have for all HR superstars—stores, organizes, and analyzes the crucial people data that HR needs to make smarter business decisions. An HRIS also easily automates lengthy and monotonous HR tasks, freeing up time to concentrate on high-level strategies and enabling HR to create personalized employee experiences at scale. Using an HRIS, a time-consuming task like onboarding multiple remote employees spread across different sites becomes much more manageable and can be done with the click of a button (maybe a few clicks, but it really is that easy). An HRIS is designed for speed and convenience, but it’s still up to HR leaders to get the most out of the system. In the hands of an HR superstar, an HRIS is very powerful, providing HR with one source of truth to help form better people decisions. 

Leading your organization to new heights 

In 2021, HR teams will be increasingly relied on to build up their people’s hard and soft skills, prepare people for organizational changes, and spearhead the streamlining of operations management, both within and between departments. All this is to say that HR is no longer an administrative position but rather acts more like a strategic business unit that optimizes all aspects of the employee experience. 


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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.