5 must-have capabilities for HR professionals


The world of work is rapidly changing and these are the skills good HR professionals need to keep up.

In the current era of rapid and disruptive change, HR professionals are needed more than ever before. They are at the coalface of the fast-changing world of work and know that how we work is already shifting. 

To keep up with these changes, these are the five capabilities that will be essential for HR professionals who want to stay ahead of the game. 

1. Times of change

HR practitioners are now central to the way organisations prepare for and manage change-related initiatives, says Dr Justine Ferrer, Discipline Leader in Human Resource Management at Deakin Business School

“In the turbulence of operating environments, the ability to manage change is critical. HR professionals manage processes that influence the employee and job tasks, but they also guide how organisations restructure or develop – because at the core of both are people.

“HR leaders who have excellent communications skills, astute strategic insight into their organisation, and a deep understanding of the rationale underlying change are highly valued by CEOs for this reason.”

The changing work landscape means HR professionals need to be well acquainted with the letter of the law.

“One of the biggest challenges [for HR professionals] is staying up to date with current trends and law changes, especially in relation to the increased use of HR analytics and how they are utilized for meaningful purposes,” says Dr Ferrer.

2. The talent hunt

As organisations increasingly opt for ‘flexible talent’, HR professionals are re-orienting their core activities and purpose. Instead of just finding a candidate to fill a pre-existing full-time position, today’s HR practitioners are all about identifying and sourcing talent for new roles – that could be in the form of an individual or dispersed team.

Dr Ferrer says securing and retaining core talent continues to be an important issue for HR leaders, and will become increasingly important.

“In some industries and occupations there are core skills shortages – the ageing workforce is not being replenished by the current entry employees. This contributes to broader talent issues, and the challenge of finding and keeping core talent.”

3. Jobs in the era of AI and automation

Growth in automation, AI and big data is reshaping HR’s role and the kinds of knowledge and skills required by HR practitioners, according to Dr Ferrer.

As organisations increase their use of advanced technologies and data, HR professionals will play a critical role, she says, particularly in relation to the impacts of AI, automation and big data.

“The nature of jobs and work tasks will change, and HR has a key role to play in managing these transitions and ensuring that new job roles align with employee knowledge, skills and abilities, and the organisation’s strategic position.”

4. Thinking strategically

All of the above are part of a change of framework that Dr Ferrer says is the “bread and butter” of modern HR: shifting away from an overly functional focus revolving around employees, recruitment and positions. These terms represent an outdated mindset that no longer captures the highly strategic nature of contemporary HR, she says.

“HR practitioners today need to get beyond functional thinking,” says Dr Ferrer.

“They have to be able to visualize the overall contribution of HR to an organisation’s strategic goals and the bottom line.”

5. Many hats, one role

But it’s not enough to just think and behave strategically. Even aside from the impact of technological and legal changes, the scope of the HR function seems to increase with each passing year.

“The breadth and depth of the HR role is now so varied. Generalist practitioners may be required to wear multiple hats at different times of the day. The ability to move between hats can be a challenge, but an exciting challenge.”

So how do current and aspiring HR professional ‘future-prep’ themselves?

Dr Ferrer says keeping up to date with current HR thinking, and broader changes in business and leadership practice, is important.

“Being agile and adaptable is critical in this sense. Deakin’s Master of Human Resource Management has been designed to provide students with the information they need to operate in the modern day work environment right now, with information on important topics like employment relations as well as providing them with the knowledge to move forward and be future-ready.”

Upskill with practical, online, flexible learning

The content of the Masters program has been shaped to align with industry requirements. The recent addition of an HR analytics unit was in direct response to sector expectations.

The program is open to current and aspiring HR practitioners and is offered online and by trimester, to fit with busy, working lives. 

“Students study as they would in a face-to-face format, but in an online environment. So, there is no rush to get through intensive periods, as we understand that most of our students are HR practitioners and are working full time – so it is manageable.”

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5 must-have capabilities for HR professionals


The world of work is rapidly changing and these are the skills good HR professionals need to keep up.

In the current era of rapid and disruptive change, HR professionals are needed more than ever before. They are at the coalface of the fast-changing world of work and know that how we work is already shifting. 

To keep up with these changes, these are the five capabilities that will be essential for HR professionals who want to stay ahead of the game. 

1. Times of change

HR practitioners are now central to the way organisations prepare for and manage change-related initiatives, says Dr Justine Ferrer, Discipline Leader in Human Resource Management at Deakin Business School

“In the turbulence of operating environments, the ability to manage change is critical. HR professionals manage processes that influence the employee and job tasks, but they also guide how organisations restructure or develop – because at the core of both are people.

“HR leaders who have excellent communications skills, astute strategic insight into their organisation, and a deep understanding of the rationale underlying change are highly valued by CEOs for this reason.”

The changing work landscape means HR professionals need to be well acquainted with the letter of the law.

“One of the biggest challenges [for HR professionals] is staying up to date with current trends and law changes, especially in relation to the increased use of HR analytics and how they are utilized for meaningful purposes,” says Dr Ferrer.

2. The talent hunt

As organisations increasingly opt for ‘flexible talent’, HR professionals are re-orienting their core activities and purpose. Instead of just finding a candidate to fill a pre-existing full-time position, today’s HR practitioners are all about identifying and sourcing talent for new roles – that could be in the form of an individual or dispersed team.

Dr Ferrer says securing and retaining core talent continues to be an important issue for HR leaders, and will become increasingly important.

“In some industries and occupations there are core skills shortages – the ageing workforce is not being replenished by the current entry employees. This contributes to broader talent issues, and the challenge of finding and keeping core talent.”

3. Jobs in the era of AI and automation

Growth in automation, AI and big data is reshaping HR’s role and the kinds of knowledge and skills required by HR practitioners, according to Dr Ferrer.

As organisations increase their use of advanced technologies and data, HR professionals will play a critical role, she says, particularly in relation to the impacts of AI, automation and big data.

“The nature of jobs and work tasks will change, and HR has a key role to play in managing these transitions and ensuring that new job roles align with employee knowledge, skills and abilities, and the organisation’s strategic position.”

4. Thinking strategically

All of the above are part of a change of framework that Dr Ferrer says is the “bread and butter” of modern HR: shifting away from an overly functional focus revolving around employees, recruitment and positions. These terms represent an outdated mindset that no longer captures the highly strategic nature of contemporary HR, she says.

“HR practitioners today need to get beyond functional thinking,” says Dr Ferrer.

“They have to be able to visualize the overall contribution of HR to an organisation’s strategic goals and the bottom line.”

5. Many hats, one role

But it’s not enough to just think and behave strategically. Even aside from the impact of technological and legal changes, the scope of the HR function seems to increase with each passing year.

“The breadth and depth of the HR role is now so varied. Generalist practitioners may be required to wear multiple hats at different times of the day. The ability to move between hats can be a challenge, but an exciting challenge.”

So how do current and aspiring HR professional ‘future-prep’ themselves?

Dr Ferrer says keeping up to date with current HR thinking, and broader changes in business and leadership practice, is important.

“Being agile and adaptable is critical in this sense. Deakin’s Master of Human Resource Management has been designed to provide students with the information they need to operate in the modern day work environment right now, with information on important topics like employment relations as well as providing them with the knowledge to move forward and be future-ready.”

Upskill with practical, online, flexible learning

The content of the Masters program has been shaped to align with industry requirements. The recent addition of an HR analytics unit was in direct response to sector expectations.

The program is open to current and aspiring HR practitioners and is offered online and by trimester, to fit with busy, working lives. 

“Students study as they would in a face-to-face format, but in an online environment. So, there is no rush to get through intensive periods, as we understand that most of our students are HR practitioners and are working full time – so it is manageable.”

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