Expanding Your Horizons Beyond HR

Though not always apparent to the rest of the company, the job of the HR professional is a multi-faceted one.  As the HR department continues to play a larger role in key organizational decisions, we are often expected to extend our expertise beyond the traditional scope of our function. For that to happen, however, we must enhance our personal development and improve our business skills. When our knowledge and expertise are better aligned with overall business imperatives, we can lead more effectively, improve company performance and enhance our own standing in the organization.
Without seeking ways to continuously improve performance, it is easy for the HR professional to become pigeon-holed and maintain a business-as-usual approach to our jobs. If we continue to have a narrow focus, being just concerned with daily HR tasks rather than the overall business strategy, we will only remain trapped in the HR box. As such, it will be harder to gain acceptance of our ideas and strategies and more difficult to have greater influence over the direction of the company. To improve professional development, and enhance the standing of HR across the enterprise, there are several things HR professionals can do:
Attend Industry Conferences – There is an almost limitless number of professional conferences held throughout the year, in a wide variety of industries and business functions. Start by selecting an area in which you’d like to improve your acumen, whether marketing, social media, communications, branding, or any other function.  The  key is to focus on one or two areas that you’d really like to improve and pursue those conferences that address them. Attending seven different events for seven different areas won’t lead to the personal development needed to increase your value.
Join Groups on LinkedIn – As traveling to different conferences isn’t always an option, another strategy is to join professional groups on LinkedIn dedicated to the chosen subject. This allows you to network with both experts in the field and other professionals also working to gain expertise, as well as learn the latest developments and best practices emerging in the particular area.
Go Back to School – Of course, one of the best ways to improve expertise in a certain field is to go back to school to learn more about your area of interest. While working to attain another degree isn’t always the best option, local universities and other organizations may offer short continuing education programs that specialize in a certain subject, like digital marketing or social media communications.  
Connect with an Expert – Another key to expanding your skill sets beyond HR is to seek out subject matter experts in the field and mine them for information. Such individuals can be found through any of the above methods, or in your own company. Building these connections with thought leaders will enable you to access a wealth of information and ideas that you might not ever come across if you continue to focus solely on HR.
Despite the importance of what HR does, many of our colleagues still don’t acknowledge our role in the organization. Unless we can expand our expertise and prove that we have a strong understanding of other key areas of the business, HR professionals will continue to trap themselves in a box. By putting personal development into your own hands, and actively seeking ways to improve your business acumen, you can enhance your own value – and that of the HR function – to the entire company.
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