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5 ways to build your people skills

Abhijit Bhaduri
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I am always pained by human resources people asking for “a seat at the table”. I have never seen any other function in the business making the same demand of their colleagues. Ever heard of a finance person asking for a seat at the table? Ever heard someone banging on the door demanding to be let in? Well, that's what it sounds like when someone says, “HR has earned a seat at the table”. How about designing the party where you want to be invited? As long as someone ... anyone else, can do your job half as well as you do, you stand the chance of not being invited to the party. You need to ensure that the key ingredient of the party is what you will bring in. If it is a dance party, bring in the music and be the DJ. You will have people pleading to have you over early so the fun can begin.

In addition to having a deep skill of all aspects of managing people and traditional areas of specialisation such as talent management and rewards management, HR professionals will have to supplement these with some new areas of expertise. Here are five new areas I recommend building your skills in. This is not just for HR people, but for anyone who wants to build their people skills for the workplace of the future.

Market research: The ability to mine data and generate insights will be a key skill. The insights should drive all the people decisions of the organisation. Think of the amount of effort that goes into understanding what the customer wants. Imagine the returns you would get if you put the same rigour in mining insights about your employees.

Technology: Comfort with technology will help professionals build their digital literacy. To be able to build a strong employer brand that is attractive to the current and potential employee pool globally, you will have to understand the possibilities that technology offers and see how you can leverage it. Millennials learn better through video. How about creating nifty videos of your ideas? And that does not mean getting a professional agency to do it!

Financial savvy & humane savvy: You will need to understand the financial implications of your choices. The implementation of the ideas will need to be done in a humane fashion. This is no longer a contradiction. It is the way in which business is expected to operate. While the decision has to be financially viable and good for the long-term health of the business, the leaders of the future workplace will keep the human element in mind.

Creative communication: The next decade will see a large number of people under 30 being added to the global workforce. Between 2010 and 2030, India will add 241 million people in the working-age population, Brazil 18 million, and China will add 10 million people in the same time. Think of this generation as one that speaks a foreign language that you do not know. That is the communication challenge of working in a multi-generational work environment. You have to learn to speak many languages. Some people find it hard to learn languages. The best time to start doing that is now.

Governance: You will need to build a deeper understanding of legal frameworks not just about laws relating to employment, but also about corporate governance, taxes, and sustainability that have so far been left to the legal department. Global leaders will need to learn at least the basics of the legal framework of doing business in a country and also know the basics of employment laws in operation. I am assuming you know these for the country you operate out of. How many others countries would fall in that category?

How well would you say you currently stack up against these areas? How would your colleagues rate you on these? Let me know.

(Abhijit Bhaduri is the Chief Learning Officer, Wipro)

(This article was published on October 9, 2011)
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