HR Insights 3 min

How to Transform Your Human Resource Career

June 15, 2012

If a visionary with the ability to peer into the future could take a look at what’s in store for the human resources profession and offer you just one piece of advice about how to make sure that your career is on track –  how you can be relevant and a vital part of our profession’s evolution – how valuable would that be?

We all want to know that we’re relevant, of course. And it gets harder to ensure that when the pace of change accelerates daily. But the fact is, it doesn’t take a psychic to read the writing on the wall (or in the crystal ball) when it comes to HR leadership positions.

One Word for HR’s Future

Just as Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Graduate years ago heard that his future should revolve around plastics, so human resources professionals today are also hearing a one-word message about preparing for tomorrow. The word for HR is numbers.

Do you read business publications? Are your fingers on the pulse of the latest research about HR? If so, then you know that the past year or two have seen a meteoric rise in information –  books, workshops, articles, surveys and more – on HR metrics, analytics, intelligence, etc. That combined with the mantra of “strategic HR” should provide some pretty clear signposts for practitioners who want to see their careers grow in the coming decade.

Maybe the idea of transforming yourself into a statistical wizard chills your blood. Or scares the daylights out of you. If it does, that’s okay. Because you don’t have to become a master number cruncher. If you wanted to do that, you’d have majored in finance, right?

Knowing What You Don’t Know

What you do need to do – and what savvy HR professionals (and wannabe HR professionals) are doing – is less drastic. But there are two key areas you need to understand if you’re going to the top of your profession, and most HR courses and curricula haven’t caught up yet. That means DIY.

First, get yourself up to speed in business. Organizations (and the executives in charge of them) speak the language of numbers. If you don’t know the lingo, you won’t be a part of those conversations. If you don’t already know how, learn to read financial statements. That might mean a finance course at your local college or an online class after hours. Finance 101 and Business 101 can help you gain basic knowledge about financial matters and business models quickly. Spend time with your CFO, too. He or she can be a great ally. Make it your business to know your business.

Second, learn how to capture, interpret, and report key metrics associated with your workforce. Notice the word key. That means not every possible metric. Information overload is as bad as no information at all. Learn what’s important to your company and focus on those measures. Use your BambooHR’s custom reporting capabilities to speed your capture of the data you need.

Interpret is an important concept here, too. It’s one thing to recognize that turnover is on the increase in, say, your sales department. But it’s another to know whether that turnover signals a problem. And if so, identifying what the problem is. And how to fix it. Make the effort to understand which people-related numbers truly affect the bottom line in your organization. Know what story those numbers tell.

When you can do those two things – speak the language of business and accurately interpret (and share) the story behind human capital measures, you’ll be well on your way to a bright future at the top of the HR profession. Take care of your tomorrow by investing in yourself today, and you’ll be ready. No crystal ball needed.





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Brenton Williamson

Aspiring filmmaker living in Provo, working with great people at BambooHR. Mountain biking is keeping me from becoming rich and famous.