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There’s been a subtle yet highly significant shift in what HR professionals in APAC see as the crucial skills necessary now and for 2021 and beyond.

These are the findings from BPP’s report Skills for the future: Asia Pacific, which conducted an extended survey on busines expectations of more than 1500 professionals across a range of sectors, including HR, management, accounting and financial services.

“Businesses in the Asia Pacific region are some of the fastest-changing in the world. The demand for new future-focused skills in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia is increasing at pace. As businesses, jobs, and entire economies evolve, we need to keep track of the skills professionals will need in the future,” the report observed.

Zeroing in on HR, the report acknowledged the growing importance of people analytics in HR function.

The application of analytical and predictive techniques can be used to enhance the recruitment process to help HR more accurately select the right talent by predicting performance. It can also aid with the automation of HR solutions to make processes more streamlined both for the HR professional and for employees – both present and future.

“If HR functions are to take advantage of the improved efficiency, processes and insights that people analytics can deliver, there will need to be investment in the systems to collect and manage improved organisational data and an investment in the technical skills of HR professionals themselves,” the report stated.

In terms of what HR departments see as the most pressing needs currently, building HR capability (39%) and HR consultancy (38%) were seen as the two areas of key focus.

HR is actively engaged in equipping employees with the skills they need for the future, and building HR capability – defined as leading the improvement of people capability within the business – is the skill that helps them achieve this.

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Peering into the future, data and analytics topped the agenda – with big data and analytics fundamentals coming in first (23%), while data/people analytics rose to fifth (19%). This makes sense considering the ever-increasing amount of people data available to the employers.

Organisations gather data when they begin recruitment and at point of hire, and they record employee performance in a variety of ways. This data is also sometimes used determine which employees are best placed for succession planning and promotions.

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“The prominence of data skills in the HR future skills list tells us that skills in data analytics – and people analytics – are something we should focus on when we think about training HR professionals in Asia Pacific,” the report concluded.