What makes a good HR professional?

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by Craig Donaldson

HR has come in for more than its fair share of bashing in previous years. Whether this is rightly deserved is a matter of conjecture, depending on whom you speak to, but one fact remains regardless: HR must step up to the plate and become more of a holistic player within organisations or risk being forever sidelined or even discarded in the face of inevitable business change.

The split between the administrative and the more strategic elements of HR now occurring within many functions is necessary if HR is to survive. These birth pangs are similar to those that accounting departments experienced when they struggled to come to grips with a more strategic approach to business, thus giving birth to finance. Just as a finance professional requires a more rounded skill set and broader business view, so too does the strategic HR professional.

The trend for line managers to move into and out of HR seems to be on the increase. These line managers already come with a broader business view and are unshackled by the blinkered approach many younger HR practitioners learn at university.

That’s not to say, however, that a line manager will make a good HR manager – they also require highly evolved interpersonal skills that can help them bridge the gap between understanding and conveying the value of good employees and the impact they can have on the business. Add to this a grasp of organisational development and an understanding of how to get the most out of people and an outstanding ability to manage relationships at any level, and a line manager just might make it.

So, what exactly makes a good HR professional? We’re seeking the answer to that question in our reader survey (see page 15 for more information). Given the changing nature of the HR function there’s no one correct answer to this question, but we look forward to your enlightening responses. Plus, the best 10 answers will each win a $250 gift voucher!

Speaking of good HR professionals, we would like to extend a welcome to Human Resources magazine’s new editorial board for 2005 (see below). Each board member comes with their own highly effective approach to people management and business, and we look forward to their contributions in making the magazine the best it can be for you – the reader – in 2005.