How to … transfer HR skill sets

by 11 Dec 2007

Today’s HR teams are under more pressure than ever to demonstrate their benefit to business and drive performance through effective people management. As a result the traditional HR generalist role has changed significantly and there has been an increase in focus on HR specialist roles.

Whether you’re looking to carve out a long-term career in HR, broaden your HR knowledge or you simply need a change of focus, the idea of transferring skill sets within the HR discipline and gathering experience from both generalist and specialist roles is gaining momentum in the HR community. This is leading to HR professionals being presented with a whole range of new opportunities.

Skill sets which transfer easily

Naturally, there are certain skill sets which can be transferred between easier than others. For example, a move between behavioural-focused skill sets (organisational development, learning & development, recruitment and generalist) is better suited and more likely to succeed than a move from a behavioural skill set to a technical skill set (remuneration and benefits or OHS). The same can be said in reverse.

This is not to say a move from a behavioural skill set to a technical skill set or vice versa is not possible, it is however a more difficult shift to make due to the strict knowledge requirements of the technical skill sets.

As a general rule transferring between skill sets is often more widely accepted internally compared to externally. If you move internally you are at least a known quantity and people are aware of the transferability of your skills. You also have industry and cultural knowledge which is important.

Larger companies also tend to be more open to changes between skill sets due to the size and scope of the HR functions in place.

Tips for transferring skill sets successfully

Broaden your skill set at every opportunity:

• Get involved in HR focus groups (both internally and externally); work outside of your primary area of focus wherever possible

• Put your hand up for projects; express an interest

• Be prepared to make lateral moves

• Be realistic with your expectations

• Show interest in different HR areas of your organisation to try and create links between skill sets

• Understand the links between your HR specialisation and the one you want to move to

• Educate yourself in your target specialism, both academically and experientially

Target skill sets that are in high demand. Skill sets currently in high demand include recruitment and organisational development. This trend is likely to continue into 2008.

Identify growing trends. Increasingly we are seeing companies recruit recruiters to identify, attract and engage the right employees. Deloitte, for example, has developed a ‘sourcing team’. This team is charged with promoting proactive sourcing channels; passive candidate market access; working with external recruitment consultants; getting the best out of the candidate market; and working effectively with candidates to promote the Deloitte employee value proposition with potential employees. Focus on areas where there is increased demand.

Get advice. Talk to a recruitment consultant or someone who has a wide knowledge of the current employment market and get advice about what options are open to you.

If you are interested in investigating the opportunities of transitioning your skill set to another area of HR the key is doing the groundwork first, being adaptable, and having a realistic understanding of which skills set groupings are more likely to succeed than others.

By Richard Taylor, practice leader, Hudson HR