6 Unconventional Skills to Develop for Future Professional Success

Aug 21, 2019

We spend a lot of time talking about what organizations need to do in order to be successful: things like candidate experience, employee experience, company culture, etc. One of the prerequisites of developing a world-class organization is having a human resources department that can partner with the business to make it happen. I hate to say it, but a mediocre HR team may or may not have the bandwidth to build a best place to work.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re out on your own. I just finished reading the book, The CMO of People: Manage Employees Like Customers with an Immersive Predictable Experience that Drives Productivity and Performance by Peter Navin and David Creelman. This book offers a unique perspective on the HR profession and how to build a Human Resources function that is up for the task of creating that best company the C-Suite is looking for.

One chapter in the book that really spoke to me was on “How to Build an Unconventional HR Team”. Navin and Creelman highlight six skills that human resources professionals should focus on for their professional development.

  1. Collaboration shows a willingness to work with others. Often in HR, we can be accused of being the “department of ‘no’” and this can exclude us from critical business conversations. While it’s true there will be times when we do have to say no to protect the business, there are also times when we can open the HR lab for a little experiment or do an A/B Test to determine the best strategy.

  2. Curiosity demonstrates our ability to learn, explore, and look for creative solutions that all stakeholders can support. I agree with Navin and Creelman that sometimes the word “creative” can conjure up images of artistic ability. It can also be associated with bending the rules (and not in a good way). It’s time to think of curiosity as a positive attribute that is focused on creating a win.

  3. Data and Technology Savvy have to be on the list. You simply cannot be a human resources professional today without having some level of competence in technology and data analysis. You do not need to be a computer programmer, but Human Resources departments without a tech component will be left behind. Employees are looking for modern work experiences that match their personal lives.

  4. Executive Presence is defined by the authors as “having the communication and storytelling skills to sell things to skeptics”. I can totally see this being a necessary skill. We can come up with the best ideas in the world but if no one buys into them, then they’re not going to happen. In addition, we have to keep the buy-in of stakeholders, so projects stay fully supported (and funded!)

  5. Risk-Taking involves recognizing opportunities, being comfortable with managing risk, and having the judgment to shut down something that’s not working. I must say the last part of that sentence about shutting down projects and programs that aren’t working is so critical. Organizations that want to move forward sometimes need to change the past.

  6. Systems Thinking is the ability to see how all of the pieces fit together. Whether that’s within a department or the organization as a whole, HR pros need to understand how the organization works. It’s critical for effective recruitment, onboarding, learning, and planning. It also is a key component of selling ideas to management (#4).

On some level, I could see these skills being highlighted in a company-wide management and leadership skills training program. The company might also want to develop some behavioral based interview questions around these areas to make sure that future hires have a sense of curiosity or proven skills in collaboration.

I can see “The CMO of People” being required reading for human resources pros before going into the department’s annual strategy and budget session. It’s a perfect time to talk about what HR wants to accomplish in the upcoming year and, more importantly, how they’re going to go about achieving it.


Sharlyn Lauby is the author of HR Bartender, a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.

Written by: Sharlyn Lauby

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