How to Future-Proof Your HR Career

Later this month, I’ll be delivering the opening keynote presentation at the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition – Australia’s leading conference for HR professionals.

Because organisations are fighting it out among themselves to attract, engage, and retain the top talent, HR is a fast-changing role in a fast-changing world. If you’re an HR professional, your role is becoming more important than ever before – but only if you change your mindset and behaviour.

The biggest change is a shift in mindset from “supporting resources” to “managing talent”.

Talented people want jobs that give them meaning, not just money. They care more about their careers than ever before, and they want their employer to care more about their careers.

They see HR professionals as a vital intermediary between them and their employer. A smart HR professional becomes indispensable to the organisation by being a talent manager rather than just somebody who manages compliance and regulation. That makes you valuable, because the future is very much about people, not just technology.

With all the talk of robotics and automation, that last statement might seem surprising. But we’re not yet at the point where most jobs are at risk. That time will come, so it’s important to be preparing for it. But don’t let that stop you from excelling at what you’re supposed to do: Look after your talent!

Here are three practical things you can do to future-proof your career.

1. Engage a reverse mentor.

In traditional mentoring, you are mentored by more experienced people; reverse mentoring turns that on its head, and you get mentored by more junior people. Your experience used to be one of your most valuable assets. It still is, to some extent, but in the future, the skills we value more than longevity and experience will be flexibility, critical thinking and taking different perspectives.

If you’re not doing this already, engage a smart, savvy younger person to be your reverse mentor for the next three months. Listen to their insights, follow their advice, and resist the temptation to think you are smarter just because you’re older and more experienced.

Then use your influence in HR to extend reverse mentoring throughout your organisation, so everybody has the opportunity to be involved in it.

2. Think like a business owner.

Imagine you are the owner of your organisation, then ask yourself: Do I have the best people right now? How can I get – and retain – the best people?

Sometimes that means changing some of the standards, policies, procedures and systems. It might even mean breaking the rules and championing the cause of your people who want to break the rules.

Most organisations don’t start out to create a system of stupid rules, processes, and procedures – but many do end up that way. This gets in the way of productive work, and generates resentment and ridicule.

Instead of policies, create guidelines, and encourage leaders and managers to build good judgement in their team members.

3. Be a lifelong learner

Every HR professional should be doing online training. This is important for your own development, of course, but it also helps you understand how training itself is changing.

In my conference presentations, I often ask how many people have done any online courses. Typically, fewer than 10% of people raise their hands. If you’re in the 90% majority and haven’t yet attended any online courses yourself, now is the time to start!

There are large online course providers like, but don’t start there. Instead, start with a smaller – but still highly reputable – provider such as, which is backed by leading Australian and New Zealand academic institutions. The courses are shorter and less intensive, but still give you a taste for online learning.

Start with a topic that interests you and might be useful as well, so you can stay motivated during the course and get something valuable from the time and effort you invest in it.

What are you doing to future-proof your career?

As an HR professional, you spend a lot of time looking after other people’s careers. It’s time to look after your own as well!


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