The new evolved human resource professional of the 21st century is a far cry from the administrative paper pushers of yesteryear. A multi-pronged progress in people practices have developed the discipline into a highly competitive and strategic function in the global corporate arena, and organizations and professionals are in a constant flux of adopting ever new practices, systems, and technologies to hire, engage and retain their employees faster and better. But before we see where we’re going with this, let’s look at where we’ve been.

Back in the 20th century (seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?) personnel departments primarily comprised hiring as per line manager requirements, payroll processing, training and development and addressing employee queries and grievances. While this worked fine at a time when concepts like lean and six sigma were gaining significant ground in the corporate world and the Enterprise Resource Planning phenomenon was sweeping across the world, it left a lot of scope for some of these processes to be automated and integrated with cross-enterprise functions. That was perhaps the precise point of origin of the Human Resources aka Human Capital aka People Practices function, and the curtains were drawn on the ‘personnel administration’ era.

With automation and systems integration came improved workflows, minimized wastage and greater attention to innovation in processes and sub-functions of Human Resources Management.

The rest, as they say, was history. In this case, transformative history.

Digital transformation has completely rewritten the rules even as HR leaders are moving into boards and are being heeded to with the attention hitherto provided to CFOs and CEOs only. The war for talent, and it’s the natural consequence, the realignment of strategic people functions has redefined what it means to be a successful HR professional in the modern era, and this wave of changes don’t look set to end any time soon, at least for the next few decades. So, what has changed for the aspiring HR professional, fresh out of B-school with dreamy eyes and the ambition to leave their mark? A lot, actually.

Social Media

Fifteen years ago, no one would believe you if you talked about the then-fledgling concept of common platforms over the internet replacing the big job boards as the primary talent pool for large companies. Today, the very same large companies are vying with each other for mindshare among skilled and talented potential hires. Employer branding is almost a new discipline by itself today, and social platforms where concepts, research, and white papers are shared, comprise the hunting grounds for the modern recruiter. This is a far cry from the employment exchanges of yesteryear. 


Using employee data to predict their behavior and customize HR services? Far cry from the days of record keeping indeed. The modern HR professional does all this and much more, even going to the extent of predicting employee turnover rates with predictive modeling. Personalized Chatbots for employee query redressal and social connections with employees are all basics of HR management today. According to experts, this is not even the tip of the iceberg and we will be seeing employee data and their insights having a far greater impact on company results and growth in the very near future.

Flexibility and Priorities

One-third of the managerial workforce will comprise millennials in another five years. That means catering to an entirely different set of ambitions and aspirations entirely. The millennial workforce is talented, environmentally and socially conscious, and seeks flexibility and work-life balance from their employers almost as much as they seek compensation. The higher the level of employee happiness and work-flexibility, the more likely the same employers are, to attract and retain the best talent in the market. It’s fairly natural that employers across the world expect their HR teams and leaders to be proficient and acclimatized to these practices and systems. In fact, they would want their HR teams to innovate on these even further, if possible.

So, You Want to be an HRBP/CHRO?

Consider for a moment what the average college degree or HR elective trains and prepares for. Feel free to select any of the trends mentioned above. It’s important to realize that as technologies evolve, workplaces and employers will too. Upgrading and staying updated on the latest trends, systems, and practices are not just about subscribing to a few newsletters. It’s about carving out a successful career in a field that getting more competitive with each passing day. However, when it comes to a career path, merely knowing is not enough.

How do you prove your mettle to an employer? How do you show your commitment and credibility in your CV, when it takes a recruiter less than ten seconds to screen your CV? The answer, of course, is the same reason why specialized and advanced HR certifications are among the most sought-after qualifications by organizations, large and small when hiring for the Human Resources function – credibility even at the preliminary screening stage.

Getting an HR certification not only demonstrates proficiency in HR, but employers are increasingly aware that alumni of global certification bodies share their knowledge and insights on a common platform, thus paving the way for a more efficient and effective HR team. Not to mention, these bodies require candidates to continuously upgrade their knowledge and skills at par with the latest trends in the market, keeping them updated with the highest practices and standards.

Your Arsenal Should Look Like This:

So besides the obvious what does one need after their college degree to establish a successful career in HR? Here are a few suggestions;

–    An advanced HR certification (fairly obvious, as mentioned)

–    Thorough knowledge in at least one HRMS (or an ERP’s -employee management module, like SAP, for example)

–    A good network on social platforms and memberships to local chapters of global HR bodies come in handy, especially for job references and notifications

–    Workable knowledge and practical exposure in at least two specialization areas (learning and development, engagement, recruiting, people analytics)

There is no end to how sweet you can make the syrup, but if the sugar is limited, these are the absolute must-haves that will create the crucial first steps in your HR career. All the very best!