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The Future is Calling: 5 Skills Tomorrow’s HR Leaders Must Possess

The most successful HR teams are those that keep their eyes on the future. As the pace of change in the world accelerates (more on that point below), HR leaders must keep abreast of newly emerging areas that can affect not just the workforce but the larger business outlook for their organizations. But just what are the emerging skills that tomorrow’s HR leaders need to be successful? Here are the five most important.

1: Technology Skills

HR technology is increasingly turning into a must-have, particularly in areas like workforce analytics. Deloitte says that over half (56%) of organizations are already redesigning their HR programs to leverage digital and mobile tools. They’re hoping to take advantage of new efficiencies in recruitment and HR administration, but deploying and utilizing these technologies requires specialized expertise.

2: Employee Experience Design Skills

Workplaces are beginning to emphasize the employee experience as a means of fostering improved engagement and productivity. That requires the ability to design an experience that starts with recruitment and onboarding and carries through the entire employee lifecycle. HR leaders must consider how the totality of the employee experience facilitates – or inhibits – their ability to be maximally productive in their role. The many nuances of employee design also mean that it will require specific skillsets.

3: Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

In some ways, this is a perennial area of expertise required of HR leaders, but it’s worth noting for how rapidly compliance and labor laws are changing. For example, as more and more employers hire “gig economy” workers – and many tech companies work almost entirely with gig and contract workers – understanding relevant labor laws becomes life-or-death for some organizations. Just ask these startups that shut their doors because they lacked a sufficient understanding of HR compliance in the modern world.

4: Change Management

Change happens. Necessarily so: as author Peter Drucker says, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” As we move into the future, the pace of change itself is accelerating, with the potential to continue disrupting entire industries. HR leaders must be ready to navigate whatever change comes their way.

5: Organizational Strategy

Author David Ulrich identifies six future competencies for HR in his book, HR From the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of HR. These include credible activist, capability builder, change champion, HR innovator, technology proponent, and strategic positioner. The last one is particularly important; HR is rapidly shifting from transactional to strategic, with HR groups playing more pivotal roles in organizational decision-making. As Ulrich says, “[HR managers] must take that outside reality and bring it into everything they do, practicing their craft with an eye to the business as a whole and not just their own department.”


CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.