Trend Watch: HR Practitioners Pursue Professional Development

With an eye toward advancement, HR pros are developing critical competencies.

By Jen Schramm Sep 1, 2015

Human resource professionals are optimists, it seems—at least when it comes to their own job prospects. And many are building on their hopefulness by sharpening their HR skills and competencies in order to make themselves more marketable.

Most are confident that they could land a new HR job if they sought one, according to the latest Society for Human Resource Management HR Jobs Pulse Survey Report, which was released this summer. Indeed, 88 percent said they are at least somewhat confident that they could find a new position similar to the one they currently hold. And many are ready to move on, with 22 percent reporting that they were likely to seek out a job opportunity within the next 12 months. Only 12 percent were not confident at all that they could land a job—a significant decline in pessimism compared with 21 percent in January 2014.

Positive trends in the overall job market are likely behind much of HR’s good vibes. Job openings hit record highs this year. Millions of new positions have been filled. Meanwhile, the year-over-year quit rate was up, suggesting that employees in all sectors are growing more self-assured and able to find other opportunities.

As HR professionals view these positive trends, many are thinking about the best way to position themselves to take advantage of new chances for advancement. For most, this means boosting their skills and competencies. Overall, 64 percent of HR professionals said they will focus on developing specific HR competencies over the next six to 12 months in order to move forward in their careers. HR professionals at all levels are emphasizing skills development: 74 percent of those just starting out in their careers plan to develop one or more specific HR competencies; on the other end of the career spectrum, 62 percent of executive-level HR professionals plan to do the same.

What HR is most likely to work toward is developing the fundamental skills and competencies that will improve their human resource expertise. This aligns with what we know about the kinds of HR jobs that organizations are currently trying to fill. According to the report, 55 percent of vacant HR positions in organizations are for generalists. HR professionals also say they are working on their leadership and business acumen skills.

Overall, the findings show that, while those in HR are feeling more positive, they are not resting on their laurels. They view this as their time to create their own bright future.

Jen Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.

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