In our recent conversations with HR leaders across the globe, a number of key talent challenges are emerging and the necessity of having a team with a deep toolkit of skills in 2018 is becoming even more apparent.

Below is a snapshot of some of the key skills we have seen in high demand.

HRBPs as the New Business Leaders

As organizations continue to transform HR operating models in favor of Ulrich’s ‘three pillars’ model, they are faced with a real challenge. Are current HR leaders capable of truly becoming the new strategic business partners?

Business leaders want an HR leader who is really a business person in everything but name. The ability to understand and empathize with challenges that exist in a line of business or region is key.

HR business partners need to be able to develop strategic plans and identify the real talent capability and longer-term headcount required to support the business to succeed, or respond quickly and move in a different direction. Not all HR professionals have an innate ability to view HR through a more strategic business lens and to clearly articulate HR concepts and strategies in a way that makes sense to a business lead.

We have seen great success with professionals moving from the broader business into HR, but this alone is not the solution. Not least because it assumes an existing deep HR toolkit and skills, which may in fact be harder to learn and develop than an HR professional learning the nuances of the business.

The HRBP needs to be able to take highly conceptual, enterprise-wide strategies set by the CoE and implement them at a practical level for a variety of business scenarios and demands. The key then becomes the ability to influence, negotiate and manage multiple stakeholders, often with competing interests and timelines for action.

A number of CHROs we have spoken with still see a huge gap in professionals with 8-10 years’ experience who can excel in this structure. The pace of transformation has been so rapid that the market and talent pool are still catching up.

This then leads to the challenge of how much visibility and exposure you give a high-potential employee or senior manager to the broader business, while allowing them to make mistakes and learn. Speed and accuracy are still the main requirements of a business lead, who may still prefer to interact with the more senior HRBPs. This must be managed with care if you wish to provide your team members with development opportunities and broader exposure to the business, while still managing the needs of senior business leaders.

Flexing the Talent Muscle  

In the current climate of mergers and acquisitions, transformations and change, we have seen a trend towards the need for HR leaders to have a strong organizational design function. This is in response to a growing focus on driving organizational performance by creating and developing a culture of high-performing individuals.

Talent CoE leads and HR business partners need to understand an organization’s capabilities, as well as its gaps, to successfully execute a global strategy that can develop and retain the best talent in order to give the business a competitive advantage. CHROs and business heads valuing this as a core requirement demonstrates the value they place on an HR leader’s ability to create and shape the culture of an organization.

Strong communication and influencing skills are required in order to succeed in shaping the culture. As a result, communications professionals are moving into talent roles and some CHROs are also functioning as a head of communications for a business. Unless strategies are communicated effectively, with support garnered from the right stakeholders and sponsors, they will never realize their full potential. Again, organizational savvy and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a business are the keys to success.

The Many Faces of Talent Acquisition  

Regardless of industry or location, the war for professionals in the area of talent acquisition area has been immense.

With a strong economy and new start-ups in the areas of digital, health tech and fintech, companies have a growing need to build a talented workforce. More established companies are also going through periods of change where new talent is required to take the company in new directions.

We are also observing talent acquisition functions being upgraded to reflect a move from reactive recruitment to end-to-end solutions, which enable organizations to attract the best talent at any time.

TA leads are now social media and employer branding experts, onboarding specialists, and in tandem with talent management and HR business partners, strategic workforce planning superstars. We have heard on numerous occasions from CEOs that they see talent attraction as one of the top two HR imperatives.

Having a leader who understands global demographics, mobility and the ‘hooks’ that attract talent is worth its weight in gold. The new TA leader will also be highly capable at building effective talent pipelines to support of all areas of the organization so that it can pivot quickly when capability gaps exist. Turning the tap on to existing warm contacts as opposed to a time-consuming fresh search will be the future of TA.

Automation will impact the more transactional aspect of recruitment, and TA professionals who have taken the time to really understand their market and build long-term relationships will be the most successful.

Climbing the Digital Mountain

We are now seeing an explosion in this space, and HR leaders now have the highly challenging task of bringing a digital culture into their organization where one did not previously exist.

An insurance or publishing company, for example, is not necessarily a technology company because of a digital transformation. The operating model may have shifted, however significant training and development is needed before the heart of the company, its people, truly welcomes these changes and understand the power and benefits of digital ways of working.

We have seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions activity within the tech sector, as companies collect early to mid-stage digital start-ups under one umbrella. However, the key challenge for HR leads remains successfully integrating a gaggle of dynamic and entrepreneurial CEOs and their people into one culture. This means that HR leaders with the ability to drive organizational performance through cultural change as well as development and coaching programs are in particularly high demand.

It’s an exciting time to be in HR. Change creates opportunity, and this forces us to evolve and learn new skills, and stretch ourselves in new ways. Actively seeking ways to build out your toolkit will help you get ahead of the curve and succeed as a true partner for the business into the future.

Talent challenges in 2018: HR Skills in High Demand