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By Sarah Danzl, skills expert at upskilling platform Degreed

The last 12 months have put HR professionals under a huge amount of pressure. Many have been dealing with a host of issues thrown up by the pandemic, often for the first time such as furloughs, redundancies, lockdown legalities, remote workers and employee wellbeing.   It’s not surprising therefore that our recent State of Skills study found that two thirds (68%) of HR professionals said that Covid has accelerated the need to learn new skills.

To help you get ahead, we’ve crunched the data in our State of Skills report to uncover the top 10 most in-demand skills for HR professionals this year.

  • Advanced IT and programming

We’re not suggesting you jack in your jobs and become coders. But with Covid accelerating digital transformation this skill is necessary. As more companies focus on developing technology, it’s important HR professionals also have a basic understanding of areas such as programming languages.

  • Leadership and managing others

You’ve probably read this and thought “but this is my job”. True. But like everything else in the world, Covid has impacted how we lead and manage people. As we still get to grips with our new ways of living and working, these skills need to evolve too. More importantly, as companies shift towards a new post-pandemic future these skills must be refined so that you’re all collectively working towards the same goals.

  • Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking

HR professionals are responsible for making a lot of decisions that impact a company. Often you are making these decisions on other people’s behalf, for example CEOs, heads of and other senior leaders. It’s, therefore, important to develop your skills so that you think like an entrepreneur and feel comfortable taking initiative.

  • Advanced communication and negotiation

Communication and negotiation skills are necessary as you are the link between the business and its employees. You’ll no doubt have these skills nailed as an HR professional but there’s always room for improvement! As ways of working change and companies become more global it’s important to ensure that you continue to evolve the way you communicate and negotiate with your colleagues and leaders.

  • Project management

Whether it’s hiring new leadership staff, reviewing compensation packages or developing a new upskilling system, these are all critical projects that need to be managed properly. For this reason alone, it’s vital that you continue to develop your project management skills.

  • Teaching and training others

You are responsible for providing development opportunities through teaching and training to maximise the workforce’s performance and increase value to the business. To do this effectively you also need to keep your skills in this area up to date.

  • Creativity

Creativity is key to the success of any growing business. Everyone views things differently and should feel confident to share these ideas with colleagues and put them into place. HR plays a fundamental role in promoting and encouraging this behaviour and so, as a function, needs to be creative itself.

  • Scientific research and development

This is a broader technological skill that HR professionals in our study said they were keen to develop. If you work outside of science and healthcare, this may seem a little rogue. But the ability to conduct in-depth research and critically assess findings and act on them are all transferable skills that are becoming increasingly vital to HR roles.

  • Advanced data analysis and mathematics

To be an effective HR professional you need to be able to analyse data. We’re seeing a huge push amongst companies leveraging data to make better decisions, for example by using data on employees’ skills to determine how projects are staffed. This can involve the use of complicated predictive analytics on HR data, or the much simpler use of data to make better decisions.

  • Basic digital software skills

Digital HR is growing and it’s highly likely that your organisation is using at least one HR software. The huge growth in this area means more senior HR jobs require digital software skills. If you want to progress, it’s paramount you learn general digital software skills and immerse yourself in the platforms your current employer is using.

Learning skills doesn’t have to mean full training courses. TED talks, YouTube videos, podcasts, online articles or advice-led pieces can all help build skills. If you want to go deeper on a particular skill, consider investing in more formal qualifications through online learning platforms or from industry bodies such as the CIPD.

We all learn something new every day. But those who will stay ahead of the curve will be focused on the key skills they need not just now, but in the future too.