Developing Leadership Skills in HR Professionals

Datin Dr Wendy Liow, Dean of HELP University’s ELM Graduate School, explores how a postgraduate in human resource can help one develop leadership competencies.
Datin Dr Wendy Liow
Dean of HELP University’s ELM Graduate School

More than a sexy title

Although HR as a profession has gained strides in the last few decades, many still do not understand the uniqueness of what HR does versus other disciplines. Many still think that Human Resource Management is just another old wine in a new bottle – with more dressy or sexy titles like talent management or human capital development. But deep down, it is just good old personnel administration that controls HR activities such as payroll, hiring, training and firing.  

Many senior HR executives continue to believe that they lack impact and influence with their companies, while the CEOs lament the fact that their HRs are not able to demonstrate a deeper connection to the business. 

Makings of a great HR

Datin Dr Wendy Liow, Dean of HELP University’s ELM Graduate School shared that beyond the transactions and tasks associated with the HR functions, there are other leadership competencies that HR professional must demonstrate in order to be an effective contributor to the organisation. 

‘I have had the privilege to work with many great HR people from all over the world and one very important competency that differentiates the good from the great is the level of their understanding of how businesses works. The more they can speak the language of the CEO, their peers, the more their inputs are valued and acted upon. It is not just understanding how to read financial statements, it is about knowing everything about the business – their core competencies, customers, competitors, collaborators and the challenges,’ said Dr Liow.

Dr Liow brings up some crucial questions that all HR personnel should ask themselves in regards to their careers:

  • Why is there such a disconnection?
  • Why and how do HR professional differ among themselves?
  • What competencies and characteristics separate the HR professionals?
  • Why some HR directors are respected while others never gain the professional reputation that they deserve?

To many HR professionals, it is about getting a piece of task done and not about using their position to make an effective impact on decisions and processes. Many HR executives prefer to sit quietly in the corner of the table waiting to be told what to do and who they should speak to. HR people need to realise that they are in a very good position to influence the people at the table, it should go beyond discussing whether payroll should be outsourced, or which recruiter that the company should be using. 

‘HR must be able to communicate, persuade and influence big decisions and that impact business results,’ said Dr Liow.

Four major HR roles 

A) Strategic business partnering

Strategic Business Partnering focuses on how to help HR become a strategic partner with the company, and for HR to support the overall business strategy, they must understand how human capital management and development impacts business results and improve their decision making about human capital. 

B) Leading the change process

HR plays an important role in the change process or change management in a company. HR needs to own the culture, and demonstrate that they have the capability to prepare the organization for change and make that happen. 

C) Capability building through integrated HR management

This is a focus area in which students will learn how to facilitate the process of attracting, developing, appraising, motivating and retaining talents in an integrated manner.

D) Effective employee communication and engagement

This is the fourth focus area in which students will learn how to use various communication tools, and the value of proper and effective communication to reach deeper into the organization and engage with the people more effectively.