HR professionals are not acquiring the right skills to deal with evolving HR operating models, research from the CIPD has found, despite restructuring in half of HR departments to support a more strategic approach in the past two years.

The institute identified a failure of practitioners to develop ‘business savvy and commercial expertise’ which would make them a more strategic contributor to their business.

The CIPD HR Outlook Survey suggests that, despite an increasing prevalence of the HR business partner role in recent years, professionals are in need of greater specialist abilities such as data awareness, data analysis and commercial acumen – skills that could bring great value to their organisation in the future.

The report asked 630 HR professionals, what the current state of the profession is and how HR professionals and employers are reacting to emerging trends.

From the report it emerged that ‘working with the organisation to drive change’ is the most important area for HR to focus on in 2015, but only 76 percent of respondents said that HR understands how the organisation works and how people practices influence the value chain.

27 percent of senior professionals said that they needed to combine commercial and HR expertise to bring value to the organisation, compared to only 16 percent of junior practitioners.

Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at the CIPD, said that the findings pointed to a lack of development of necessary skills in the early stages of HR careers.

“Regardless of the operating model an organisation chooses, HR has a crucial role to play in bringing unique insights about the organisation’s people to business debates, informing strategic decision-making,” she said.

“Action around HR analytics is an essential way in which they can develop this commercial mindset, inform the people agenda and increase visibility of HR’s impact on the business’s key performance indicators. Similarly, an awareness of the evolution of the profession is vital.”

Almost half of HR directors surveyed said their last job role was outside of HR, and seven out of 10 HR directors worked in roles outside of HR five job roles ago, which the CIPD interprets as evidence that time spent learning elsewhere in the business or rotating in and out of HR could be valuable in reaching a senior HR position.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD said “agility” had become the watchword for the profession.

“HR professionals should be constantly evaluating their job role and finding ways in which they can adapt to the evolving work environment. The CIPD Profession Map is a great place to start as it can help professionals to focus on building skills that will allow their role to evolve with the industry around them and open up all potential career pathways,” he said.