Anatomy of a future HR leader

HR magazine convened current and former HRDs to determine the skills future HR leaders will need, where they excel, and where there's room for improvement

HR Magazine | January 21, 2019

HR Magazine’s article, “Anatomy of a future HR leader,” quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Anna Penfold on how HR leadership roles are beginning to evolve. The article is excerpted below.

What should the HR leader of tomorrow look like? A seemingly simple question… The answer though is a much more complex – or perhaps alarmingly short and unilluminating – ‘we just don’t know’.

Which applies to the whole gamut of functional heads, not just HR. The challenge? Our fast-changing operating climate. And it’s not just the private sector, or specifically the British high street, being rocked by Brexit and radically disruptive industry-changing technologies. The public sector, thanks to the instability of recent governments, more extreme political movements, and of course Brexit, has also become a place of constant flux.


The Ulrich model

Another element to improving the future HR leadership pipeline concerns the very HR business models future leadership talent finds itself in. Many of the above issues with HRBP capability involve perennial debates around the HRBP role itself, and whether the model is working quite as Ulrich intended.

“Everyone is an HRBP now – that’s been the move,” agrees Anna Penfold, consultant at executive search firm Russell Reynolds. “But just because your title’s changed doesn’t mean you’re automatically operating strategically… So now we have a whole population for whom access is counted as responding when stuff happens – and the legalities and employment law side of things.”

Penfold adds the encouragement, however, that there are some pockets of great practice when it comes to savvy future-focused recruitment, succession planning and professional development within HR. Contrary to what some might expect these are in her experience often in the public sector: “That’s quite a shift from the past. It’s happened because austerity means everyone’s working in a leaner creative manner.”

She adds that the imperative to develop change-ready strategic behaviours in HRBPs is only going to become more pronounced because of increased demand for HR expertise on boards and for NED positions. “That means HR directors are moving to portfolio careers much earlier, which creates a trickle-down effect. So you’ll see people having to step up more quickly than ever before,” she says. “On a positive note that means those developmental experiences should come thick and fast for prospective HR leaders.”

To read the full article, click here.

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Anatomy of a future HR leader