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Top 9 technical skills required for HR

Today's HR departments are increasingly reliant on a range of technologies. That means human resources professionals must get tech-savvy -- and do so quickly.

Now is the time to sharpen your HR technology skills.

Dependence on HR technology continues to increase, and a new tech-savvy generation is entering the workforce. The days of relying on IT, or the technical HR team member, are quickly fading. Now is the time to embrace technology, push yourself to learn more, and look for opportunities to use the technology at your disposal to make your workday more efficient and eliminate redundant processes.

To be successful on your technology journey, you need to develop both your hard skills and soft skills. Taking targeted training on an application will help, but to achieve high levels of success, you have to have the right mindset.

The added benefit of expanding your technical skills is that it will also help you build credibility with others within your company, including with IT, which can help you create more collaboration and see more success on initiatives from employee experience to back-to-office safety and more.

While not exclusive to HR activities, the list of tech skills below can help you become more successful as a modern human resources professional.

1. Spreadsheet and word processing applications

Regardless of the technological advances in HR systems, spreadsheets and word processing applications continue to be everyday tools in many organizations. The ability to use advanced functionality in these applications will save you time and effort. In word processing applications, this may include using themes, mail merge and tables. In spreadsheets, the ability to use advanced functions will save countless hours and greatly improve the spreadsheets you develop and share with others.

2. Macros

Macros can be a powerful tool in your toolkit, though they may not be essential for everyone. Understanding how macros work in Microsoft Office and Google applications and being able to develop them provide opportunities to automate many manual tasks. For example, you may use them to format a report you produce on a regular basis, merge data from multiple sources or develop individualized letters for each employee.

Two essentials of an HR technology mindset

To truly become savvy about HR technology, you'll need to have the right mindset. Here are two critical aspects of that.

Proactive curiosity

Trying to find a better way to do something, without always having the answer, will often lead you to a better solution than if you just take the easy way out and create a new manual process. Search the web, talk to people on your HR team and in other departments, and turn to your external contacts. Through this process, you are likely to learn something new that may solve your current challenge, or perhaps the next one.

An automate-first focus

This soft skill will ensure your HR team avoids adding manual processes to your daily routine unless there is no other option. When a new process is needed, brainstorm opportunities to use your existing HR systems. With some upfront planning, you can ensure your HR processes remain as efficient as possible. Also, remember that HR professionals don't have to have all the answers. Don't be afraid to turn to other internal and external resources to find the right software or automation.

3. Familiarity with common technology lingo

As an HR professional, you will likely come across many of these acronyms and terms: SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), cloud, SaaS (software as a service), interface, SQL (Structured Query Language), database, AD (Active Directory) and so on. It's important to understand what people mean when they use these terms so that you can ask relevant questions and provide input to the conversation.

4. Social media

Understanding how the various social media platforms function is important for many in HR to understand, especially your recruitment team. This includes knowledge specific to each platform, including when you should post to reach your target audience, a basic understanding of search engine optimization -- commonly referred to as SEO -- so that your posts are noticed, and how to format images so that they appear correctly when viewed on any device.

5. Video conferencing software

Video conferencing software has grown in importance in 2020 given the recent exponential rise in remote work. However, even before COVID-19, many HR professionals used these platforms to interview remote candidates and connect with colleagues in other locations. The ability to go from one conferencing application to the next, connect with others, and get your mic and speakers working is critical. You may also want to explore additional features, such as sharing your screen, making other participants presenters, changing your background and recording the meetings.

6. Reporting

Regardless of the application you use for reporting, the ability to edit existing reports and create new ones as necessary is helpful. If you are using your HR system's reporting feature or a reporting application, consider taking a training course to learn how advanced features work so that you can go beyond the basics. If you are using Microsoft Excel, use information on the internet and courses to improve your skills. A wealth of information is available online. The key is to try the functions and features you learn about through your research until you identify the ones that meet your needs.

7. HR systems

The ability to use the features of your HR system and associated modules to their fullest extent is a skill worth developing. This includes features associated with recruiting, talent management and onboarding. Using the systems to capture data is one thing, but being able to make configuration changes to capture the new data you need, create workflows, modify forms and perform other "techie" tasks will enable you to get the best ROI from your HR software. That skill also makes you more valuable to the organization.

8. Testing

The ability to develop test cases and adequately verify that a feature is functioning correctly is a critical skill. This includes being able to identify the areas most affected by a change, determining how you will validate that the change was successful and ensuring that existing functionality was not negatively affected by the change.

9. Integration of your HR and payroll systems

Knowing if your systems are integrated and what information flows from one system to the next is important to know. With this knowledge, you can consider the impact changes will have on other systems, include it in your testing plan and provide an opportunity to use all your HR systems to automate new processes.

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