It is worth HR's while to become experts in emerging HR and business topics, writes David Creelman
Most HR professionals are eager to
learn new things. We study tech
niques for training, recruitment,
compensation and so on. These are all impor
tant topics, but they have been around for
decades. It can be interesting – and a good
career move – to build expertise in less mature
HR topics. If you pick a subject where there is
no textbook and no college course then you
have a chance not to learn from experts but to
be the expert.
There are four topics where there are still a lot
of unknowns, and that means there is a lot of op
portunity to discover better ways of doing
things. Following the best practices of other
companies is not enough in this area, you have
to create your own best practices – that’s an in
teresting challenge for an ambitious HR leader.
Web 2.0 is an area that is rich with prom
ise; the term includes tools like wikis, blogs,
social networking and prediction markets.
Web 2.0 is all about getting people to work
in groups and that’s a great area for HR to
Contingent workers are not a new phe
nomenon, but it is an area where HR practices
are underdeveloped. Unlike Web 2.0 which is
still experimental, the contingent workforce is
already a large expense in most organisations;
progress in this area has an immediate payback. What is striking is that HR has invested
an enormous amount of effort in how to re
cruit, reward, train, and motivate permanent
employees; whereas relatively little effort has
been put into getting the best out of contin
gent workers. Learning how to manage the
total workforce (permanent and contingent
workers) is an area rich with promise.
Analytics is another area where HR lead
ers can break new ground. Analytics just
means doing some analysis of data; for ex
ample, if you analyse employee performance
by source of hire you can find out which
source of hire gives the best employees.
There is a lot of data in HR systems these
days but very few companies have devel
oped skills at getting useful insights out of
that data. Pick up Thomas Davenport’s book,
Competing on Analytics, and you’ll see this is
an exciting new area to explore.
Virtual teams, where team members are in
different locations, are becoming the norm
rather than the exception. Virtual teams are
becoming so important that developing ex
pertise in what makes them successful will
be a great aid to your organisation.
Once you have educated yourself on a topic
it is natural to become an enthusiastic propo
nent of the subject and urge managers to try it
out. This is natural but it may not be the best
strategy. Busy managers are not eager to try out
someone’s pet ideas. Enthusiasts often end up
angry because no one wants to take advantage
of their new expertise.
The best strategy is to talk to managers
about problems and opportunities. When you
really understand their situation then you will
eventually find situations where your new
found knowledge genuinely is of use. If you
are working to address their need, rather than
working to promote your area of interest, then
you will be much more successful.
By David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research. firstname.lastname@example.org