I'm on the record as believing the HR Generalist (CHRO to early career) is the most important component in the HR machine at any company. Of course, I love HR Specialists too. Shout out to the specialists! You're doing what you love and you are important! We love you!
But the HR Generalist is the one who's in the conference room when s*** has gone completely sideways, and they're also the one who business leaders at all levels and functional areas confide in when they have seemingly insurmountable issues on their team or in their business.
What's that? Of course Legal is in the room at some point, but they're the second or third call in times of distress. A trusted HR generalist who has developed a relationship of trust is always the first call.
So here we are - 2020. What a mess of a year. But if you're an HR Generalist, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first? OK, the good news followed by the bad news:
1--Good News! In a post-COVID world, good to great HR Generalists are worth more and increasing in value versus their specialist peers.
The logic behind this reality is pretty simple. Headcount has shrunk in many HR functions as furloughs and layoffs have occurred, and as a result the market is placing a premium on Generalist skills. CHROs are rebuilding teams around the Generalist skill set. Don't take my word for it, just take a listen to these podcasts I did with long-time HR headhunter Kathy Rapp and HR pros Jessica Lee/Tim Sackett (click on the links if you don't see the podcast players below).
The challenge in this good news is that you're going to be asked to do more with less as a Generalist. Better than not having a job, for sure. But you're going to have to invest and work at developing your skills to stay relevant in the years to come, and to ensure you're making the career progress you'd like. Interestingly enough, a lot of what you'll need to add is specialist-related, because the best way to be a great generalist is to slowly but surely add specialist skills to your portfolio.
This realty brings us to the bad news, aka "the challenge":
2--Bad News! To stay on top as an HR Generalist in a post-COVID world, you need to understand how the world is changing and seek training & development that will make you "critical" to those you work for.
This is pretty simple. It's called being strategic with your own development and also being intellectually curious. You seek development to make yourself more valuable, secure and hopefully, engaged with what you do in the world of HR.
It's always better to be motivated to get better via deep interest in what you do. But if you're not curious about where HR is going, then you have to invest to stay one step ahead of the masses, my friend.
OK - let's assume you agree with me. Where do you start to seek training and development that will make you critical for the future? I always recommend you start with a conversation with the person you work for. Whether that's a C-level, a CHRO or a Director of HR, having a chat about what L&D opportunities they think are important for your future has multiple effects. It cements a connection that you sought their feedback, which creates a perception of investment in you. It also makes them more likely to pay for it. Advantage: You.
Of course, you can't just walk into that meeting without some prep, right? Here are a couple of big ideas on the best way to map specialist skills to add to your generalist portfolio:
--Look for trends that your company/industry/boss feels are important for the future. I wrote a few weeks ago on 21 Future HR Jobs (click link to review), and as it turns out, I'm not sure any of them are standalone jobs in the next decade. But I'm 100% sure many of the trends covered will be important for high-end, high achieving HR Generalists. You likely could develop a short list of 3-4 of these to guide your path.
--Then match those trends and look at resources like SHRM which is actively creating high-end continuing education for HR pros. For best results using SHRM as you seek to build out your Generalist knowledge and portfolio, do this:
--Take a 6-question quiz to receive a curated list of recommended programs, based on your interests, learning style, and expertise.
HR Generalists are in the driver's seat in a post-COVID world. But any high performing HR pro knows they have to stay current and continually add to their portfolio to stay on top and get the career results they desire.
Map it out, invest and go make it happen, my friends!