The HR Function Suffers Critical Skills Gaps In Specific Areas

For HR, communicating effectively is the most important skill

When asked to rate the importance of eleven HR skills, communication jumped to the top with 97% respondents indicating it is important or very important. This suggests that effective communication is a perennially important HR skill. We assume this is because HR is at the forefront of preparing and communicating policies, interacting with various stakeholders, and providing information on critical topics such as compensation, benefits, performance management, learning and development, and more. All these tasks require effective written and verbal communication skills.


In second place, at 95%, is the similar task of providing advice and direction. Other important skills include demonstrating HR expertise and providing leadership in organizational activities. That is not to say that other skills aren’t also important to HR. In fact, only one of the eleven skills was rated below 80% as important or very important: that is, analyzing HR data and metric. Here only two-thirds viewed it as important or very important.



HR professional tend to have higher capabilities in skills area that are deemed as most important

In addition to rating importance on eleven skills, respondents were asked to self-evaluate their own capability levels. The good news is that for nine out of the eleven skills, a majority of HR professionals considered themselves either expert or proficient. They gave themselves especially high marks for communicating effectively (86%), providing advice and direction (83%) and demonstrating HR expertise (80%).


The largest skills gaps are in the areas of HR analytics and change management

We took a closer look at the gap between the importance and capability ratings, which we refer to as the HR skills gap. The graph below shows the skills gaps in terms of percentage points. Analyzing HR data and metrics topped the list with a 24-percentage-point gap. This was followed by the skills gap associated change management, which had a 19-percentage-point difference.


We view these two areas as strategically important. HR must be able to gather accurate data and analyze it to produce key insights for senior leadership. Indeed, these key insights can be used to improve change management in organizations. Only through accurate analytics will HR know which cultural and strategic levers to “push” in order to maximize the effectiveness of changes. For example, which talent-management strategies are most closely associated with improvements in the retention rates of top performers even among major change initiatives? Of course, the pace of change in HR generally seems to be on the rise, and change management requires three related skills:

  • the ability to recognize which changes need to be made
  • the ability to introduce such changes into the organization, and
  • the discipline to be sure needed changes stick


There are skills gaps in a range of other areas as well, from providing leadership in organizational activities to making business recommendations. But one area that is of particular importance to HR is “demonstrating HR expertise,” which is widely viewed as important but where there is an 11-point skills gap. One of the goals of this report is to help HR professionals close that gap.

Source: HR
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