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Exploring the future of the HR profession: A Q&A with Tamika Curry Smith

Written and covered by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from Benefits Pro.  

“Business knowledge and acumen will be just as important for HR professionals as fundamental HR expertise”, says the president of TCS Group Inc.

As the human resources field continues to evolve to be less transactional and more strategic, HR leaders and C-Suite executives are partnering closely and communicating more than ever – with more and more CHROs actually having a seat at the table.

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In our latest chat in this series, BenefitsPRO caught up with Tamika Curry Smith, president, The TCS Group Inc., a Sandy Springs, Georgia-based consulting firm that provides DEI and HR solutions to corporate and nonprofit clients.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert: How has the role of HR professionals changed in recent years, and what’s driving it?

The role of HR has changed from more transactional to more strategic, as organizations have realized the importance of people and culture to driving business outcomes. I always point out that, whether simple or complex, business goals are achieved by and through people. As such, HR professionals need to have a seat at the table to think through and develop people strategies that will ultimately enable the business strategy.

KKH: How has this shift impacted the relationship between the C-Suite, HR and employee benefits consultants?

The C-Suite and HR are partnering closely and communicating more than ever. In my experience, HR professionals and business leaders are regularly discussing the business, talent on their teams, upcoming business and people needs, gaps that need to be addressed, etc. Employee benefits consultants often play a role in those discussions when organizations are considering how to attract and hire new talent, as well as retain existing talent. Compensation and benefits can be key differentiators when it comes to recruiting and retention.

KKH: How has technology changed the way you work? How has it changed your role in the company?

Technology is a game-changer in the HR space. Whether it be self-service platforms that empower employees with access to their own information, or dashboards developed by data and analytics teams to put real-time data in the hands of leaders, or a diversity sourcing tool like Talenya that leverages AI to broaden the source pools of qualified talent, technology is changing the way HR professionals work. Rather than spend time on manual work and transactional issues, technology frees up HR professionals to focus on the high-impact areas that can really move the needle.

KKH: Do you see an increasing need for specialization within the field (talent management, compliance, diversity & inclusion, etc.)?

HR has always been a field that embraced specialization. Most HR departments have talent acquisition, talent management, learning and development, compensation and benefits, etc., in addition to HR generalists and business partners. I do not see that changing, but I am seeing more HR professionals gaining a breadth of experience across different HR specialties. For example, rather than going deep and staying in one area their entire career, I am noticing more HR professionals taking roles across different HR areas to build their skillset and cross-functional knowledge.

When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I do not consider it an HR function. DEI is a comprehensive, cross-functional body of work that touches every aspect of a company’s operations – both internal and external. Without a doubt, there are workforce and workplace DEI elements that require strong partnership with HR, but I firmly believe DEI should not reside within HR.

KKH: What skills will be most important to HR professionals in the future?

Business knowledge and acumen will be just as important for HR professionals as fundamental HR expertise. That is how HR will continue to add value when at the table with the C-Suite and other business leaders.

In addition, an understanding of and comfort level with DEI topics and issues will be critical for HR professionals going forward. Given that DEI needs to be integrated into all aspects of HR functions in order to achieve lasting change, HR professionals must upgrade their skills and intentionally lean into the DEI space.

KKH: What trends, challenges or issues do you see most affecting your profession?

In a post-COVID world, HR professionals will need to lead organizations through a huge change effort when it comes to the “future of work.” It has become clear that candidates and employees have different expectations now regarding where and how they work. HR needs to help organizations re-imagine and innovate when it comes to a number of areas, such as work/life integration, flexibility, workplace design, collaboration tools, remote learning, and compensation and benefits (including non-monetary perks, employee assistance programs, wellness and mental health support, etc.)

Additionally, I see DEI topics that directly touch HR continuing to take center stage. There is increased pressure and scrutiny, both internally and externally, for organizations to make DEI a priority and to show their progress. Promoting and retaining existing talent and building a diverse bench of future leaders will make the development and talent management functions more critical. Those efforts will need to be augmented with a more robust talent acquisition strategy that brings new talent into organizations. Technology-enabled diversity sourcing solutions like Talenya will be instrumental in partnering with recruiting and DEI leaders to develop and execute strategies for building strong pipelines of external talent for organizations to tap into.

Talenya is an AI-powered diverse talent sourcing solution, powering talent acquisition teams to uncover and engage with 3X more diverse talent than any other tool.

To learn more about Talenya’s Diversity AI™ click here.

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