Emerging Leadership Competencies and HR

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HR’s world is changing.  Adaptation and agility have become a necessary skills every human resources professional (and even those not in HR) is using to carry out their normal business functions.  But those aren’t the only skills they’re seeing emerge within their colleagues or even those employees working for their respective companies.

In fact, there are a whole host of new leadership competencies coming to bare.  Some more than others.  Regardless, HR professionals are having to call upon their ability to adapt in an effort to assimilate these new competencies into their own tool kits and embrace and nurture them in their company’s employees.

Emerging Leadership Competencies

The Research

In our State of HR report released in December 2019, we asked HR professionals around the globe a series of questions.  One of those related to the concept of emerging leadership competencies.  We asked respondents to think about the multigenerational workforce and pick those competencies they see as being the most prevalent.

The results are in the graph below:

The top three were:

  1. Innovative Thinking
  2. Technology Knowledge
  3. Multigenerational Organizational Skills

What’s significant about these results?  These three traits, and the others chosen by respondents, define what HR should expect from future workers in terms of ability.  Additionally, the majority of the traits are soft skills.  As HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson wrote in the report…

“HR recognizes it’s not enough to just have technical expertise.  Workers must also be able to interact effectively with other people.  The human component is once again taking precedence over an employee’s skill with a particular tool.  This new class of worker must be able to communicate effectively.  Companies that don’t embrace these skills will increase their risks of falling behind competitors.”

For the purposes of this article, let’s take a look at the top three in more detail.

Innovative Thinking

Avish Parashar is a motivational speaker.  His definition of innovative thinking really breaks down the concept in an easy to understand way.  He says innovative thinking is “to think up something new, or to think about something old in a new way.”  That is not only necessary for HR professionals, but it is a common trait in Millennial and Generation Z employees.

Nurturing Innovative Thinking

In his blog, Parashar outlines several ways leaders can foster this trait and nurture in their employees.

  • Inspire people to think out of their box.Play different games that promote innovative thinking and let people know you respect every thought they have.
  • Award thoughts, not people.If there is someone who deserves to be appreciated, don’t hold back. Even receiving a simple certificate would invite more innovative thinking by others.
  • Award attempts, not only results. We live in a results-driven world, and mot rewards are given to the people with the best results. That seems fair. The challenge is that innovation often comes after failure. If you only reward results, people will be discouraged from trying new things that may not work. Keep rewarding great results, but also add in some recognition for those who are attempting innovation.
  • Don’t Discount Ideas.Appreciate the efforts of every person who comes up with a thought not previously shared. It’s possible you’ll find some ideas to be completely nonsense, but this is how you dig through the coal to get diamonds.
  • Create a “Thought Box.”Place a box in the office and let everyone put their ideas into it whenever they want to. This can be anonymous so people will be freer in their ideas.

Technology Knowledge

Employees today are very knowledgeable when it comes to technology.  Just look at the traits often associated with Millennials and Generation Z adults.

Both are technologically savvy.  That’s not to say other generations don’t have an interest in technology or have technology knowledge of their own.  This is just a generalization.  That said, when it comes to this topic, Generation Z employees have a leg up.

Generation Z is the first real group of digital natives.  Most of them can’t remember a time before smartphones and tablets or even social media.  Some have joked this generation was practically born with a tablet in-hand.  And it really defines the generation when you consider other characteristics.

Gen Zers have built in expectations when it comes to access to information in their personal lives, and they extend that to their professional lives. 

To read more about Generation Z, check out our Rise of Gen Z article series.  Click here to read Part I.

Multigenerational Organizational Skills

According to a Forbes article, the average workplace houses up to four different generations.  Some house all five.  Regardless of the size of the organization, HR and leadership must recognize that each generation has its own set of skills and has a lot to offer in terms of those skills and experience.  The way to really organize this and make it work for the company is through the workplace culture.  This culture must be set up to embrace these varying skills and experiences.  Doing so will lead to more productivity and engagement among workers.

When thinking about culture, especially where the varying generations applies, keep a few things in mind.  A company culture should be:

  1. Richly Diverse
  2. Innovative
  3. Open to dissent
  4. Transparent
  5. Aligned with the company brand
  6. Supported by all, especially leadership
  7. Aligns with strategy and process

More on these concepts can be found here.

In Summation

There are many emerging leadership competencies not outlined in this article.  It doesn’t mean they are any less important.  Regardless though, every HR professional and leader should keep an open mind when it comes to these competencies.  That includes coming up with a plan or strategy to deal with each.  And be prepared to change course to adapt as more Generation Z workers come into the fold and more Baby Boomers and Generation X workers leave the workforce.  The key is to find the balance between these competencies and then maintain that balance at all times.


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Photo courtesy:  StockPhotoSecrets