What are the top skills HR will need in 2030?

The people leaders of the next decade will be agile, data orientated and tech focused, says Charlotte Penny – so how can the profession upskill today?

What are the top skills HR will need in 2030?

HR leaders know better than anyone how the pandemic changed the world of work – and how it made HR more critical than ever. 72 per cent of HR leaders told us in our research report series that the crisis enhanced the value and understanding of HR’s role. But what will HR look like in the future? 

We’ve conducted the research, with the help of the world’s leading HR experts. So how can HR leaders prepare? Here’s what the experts said about the HR skills needed by 2030. 

Agility

Before the pandemic, only 29 per cent of HR leaders said they were organised for speed, adaptability, and agility. HR leaders have made great strides in more agile ways of working since, but there’s still further to go. By 2030, HR teams will have even more responsive approaches, not only to the way they work, but to the way the team is designed and operates.

“HR leaders will be the lead change agent, using their understanding of transformation to create continually agile organisations,” explains Angela O’Connor, CEO and founder of The HR Lounge.

“Constant change will [also] be part of the daily job,” says Dave Millner, founder and consulting partner of HR Curator. “Companies will adopt a more agile approach to work, in terms of work patterns and performance expectations." 

Taking the principles of the agile HR methodology and applying them to processes and mindset would make great strides towards more HR agility.

Resilience

From interpreting government support schemes, to helping employees shift to remote working practically overnight, HR have more than proven their resilience. Adaptability and resilience are top skills, says Gemma Dale, author and lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University: “The pandemic taught us that whatever we plan for, we must be prepared to adapt quickly in a changing environment, whatever circumstances arise.”

HR leaders have shown stamina throughout 2020 and 2021, but this high-intensity way of working comes at a cost. Self-care is critical. 

People analytics competence 

Spreadsheets and gut feelings are out. HR has more insights than ever before to predict trends and inform business-decision making. However, there’s some way to go. 94 per cent of business leaders told us in our research that while they have access to people data, 60 per cent say they’re not using it to drive any decision-making. 

O’Connor explains: “[By 2030] HR will be at the heart of the company, using analytics and business forecasting for strategic workforce decisions.”

How can HR leaders get ahead today? “HR leaders need to brush up on skills around forecasting, planning and analytics,” says Matt Charney, head of product marketing at SmartRecruiters. “If you can’t do general accounting or financial planning and analysis, it’s a good time to start.”

Collaboration and influence 

HR leaders today and in the future will need to use their powers of organisation, delegation and mediation to not only strengthen collaboration, but to work in partnerships “with other functions, such as IT, and on projects outside of the traditional HR remit,” says Mel Norris-Green, research adviser at the CIPD.

HR leaders must learn how to harness their new-found status today. In the words of O’Connor: “HR leaders need to build on their ability to sell ideas, approaches and perspectives through influence.”

Compassion

Of all the skills, it was compassion that many businesses relied on most during the pandemic. According to Ben Eubanks, chief research officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory, in the future, HR will need to continue to “really think about how to serve people, to care for people and look for ways to build better connections.” 

Rowena Carter, director of people and culture at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, agrees: “Work on your own emotional intelligence and the ability to develop this skill in all leaders in the organisation.”

Digital savviness

As HR technology continues its ascendancy, HR leaders will be expected to have strong digital skills by 2030.  “Skills such as the ability to use software tools and the ability to collaborate and build relationships are critical,” argues Eubanks.

Mofoluwaso Ilevbare, head of HR at Procter & Gamble, explains it best: “Technology can enhance HR solutions; analyse employee insights and stakeholder needs; simplify HR processes; enhance productivity; and help leaders and make intelligent choices faster that accelerate business performance.”

Now what in HR?

The pandemic isn’t over, and new challenges such as the climate emergency and ESG are also increasingly becoming HR issues. However, HR has proven its mettle, especially in crisis management. Now, into evolutionary and adapted practices, HR needs a focused and determined approach to meet these challenges successfully.

Charlotte Penny is co-author of Sage’s HR in 2030 report