hr leaders: what’s on your professional development plan?

By in People Who Achieve and Talent Management
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You’ve heard the saying about the shoemaker’s children not having shoes. Sadly, all too often the same can be said of HR experts and their (non-existent) professional development plans. How many of us are so busy helping employees develop their plans or coaching managers about how to assist their direct reports with a plan, that we don’t take the time to draft a professional development plan of our own? Not to worry – the start of a new year provides the perfect opportunity to put your professional development plan in place. (And maybe get some new shoes while you’re at it)!

As you know, having a professional development plan can help improve performance in your current job or expand your skills to prepare for a new position. One benefit of taking the time to think about your development is that it forces you to assess where you currently are in your career and where you’re headed.

Sometimes it’s easier to make suggestions than to think about our development. That’s why we have ten suggestions for ways you can dig into your professional development:

  1. Complete the HR certification process. When you have your HR certification, it demonstrates your comprehension of human resources principles. Certification is a personal achievement, and it adds professional credibility within the industry and with business leaders. Check out the various certifications available, and make a commitment to prepare to earn yours in the year ahead.
  2. Enroll in an HR degree program. If you already have your certification, or you want to dig deeper into the practice and theory of HR in an educational setting, look into one of the HR degrees available. There may be courses offered at a local college or university, but if not you’ll find several virtual options, too.
  3. Make a mentor connection. Whether you serve as a mentor or as a mentee, you’ll learn and develop as the result of a mentoring relationship. This is one of the most effective –and inexpensive—ways to build your skills. The time and effort you put into establishing a solid mentoring relationship might just benefit you in ways you’d never considered.
  4. Attend an industry conference. When HR practitioners gather, you can count on engaging conversations and invaluable insights. Attending a local or national conference allows you to get insight about everything from benefits to compensation, to rewards and recognition. There’s a lot of learning to take away from a conference—just be sure you continue to put what you learn to use. If you’ve attended HR conferences in the past, consider finding a conference that’s specific to your company’s industry; it’s a great way to understand more about the business in which you’re working.
  5. Get involved in a networking group. If you aren’t a member of a local HR network (check out SHRM or NHRMA), attend a meeting and see if the group is a good fit. If you are a member, consider increasing your level of involvement—look for a way that you can gain skills or establish peer connections by taking on a leadership role within the chapter.
  6. Assess yourself against standard HR competencies. What are the HR competencies that will drive results and have an impact? More importantly, how do you rate when it comes to those competencies? In this webinar, Dave Ulrich shared several strengths that he’s found make the most impact for HR professionals, including being a “strategic positioner and a credible activist”; being able to manage change and serving as a proponent of technology. Listen to the recording, or download The Rise of HR, which Ulrich co-authored, to gain insight bout what you need to know (and do) to be effective.
  7. Find training to improve a particular skill. Not too confident about presenting to large groups? Or maybe you’re not a fan of data analysis. Those are just two skills that today’s HR practitioners need to be successful. Based on your self-assessment, find training in the form of online courses, in-person workshops, or a book that can help you enhance what you have to offer as an HR leader.
  8. Go deep. If you’ve been working as a generalist for most of your career, look at an area where you want to deepen your expertise. Spend time job-shadowing an expert in that area, then bring your newly acquired knowledge back to your generalist role.
  9. Go broad. If you’re a specialist with deep knowledge in benefits, employee relations, training, or another area of HR, look for a way to put those skills to use by managing a team or partnering with HR generalists from whom you can learn.
  10. Find a job rotation outside of HR. You may be asking why we suggest working outside of HR to increase your skills as an HR leader; it may even seem counter-productive. But, it’s not. As Michelle M. Smith says in this post, “most [HR professionals] are keeping your heads down and focused on administrative tasks, when CEOs clearly want you to raise your sights to strategically impact larger segments of the business.” Bottom line: getting a job rotation outside of HR, and then returning to the function with an enhanced understanding of the business, can be a great way to develop your HR career.

This list isn’t meant to overwhelm– it’s here to give you a place to begin thinking about what you want to achieve, and the competencies required to do so. With those requirements in mind, pick a development activity or two that will help you get there.

By liz sheffield
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