HR Leadership in 2024: Jobs, Strategies, and Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover what leadership in HR entails, including jobs that may be available and strategies you can use to succeed in this field.

[Featured image] An HR leader works on a laptop in a conference room.

What is HR leadership? 

HR leadership refers to professionals who hold leadership positions within a human resources (HR) department. Leadership in HR can also refer to the approaches any professional in this field can use to help organizations build strong relationships with employees. 

Effective HR leadership starts with understanding an organization’s priorities—such as building brand equity or responding to market shifts—and then connecting those priorities to developing talent. 

According to Forbes, some of the trends that are defining HR in 2023 include increasing services to support employees’ well-being and offering more schedule flexibility [1]. 


Keep reading to discover strategies that HR leaders are using to bring more value to organizations, jobs that may be available to you, and steps you can take to become a leader at your organization. 

HR leadership strategies

Strategic HR leadership refers to aligning the work that employees do with an organization's business goals. HR leaders or departments can take specific approaches to be more strategic, including: 

Improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs.

Creating the experience of safety and belonging within your organization can greatly impact employee performance. DE&I programs might include diverse recruitment, cultural sensitivity training, and setting up employee resource groups (ERGs) to facilitate connections among employees with common interests or characteristics.

Connect teams to an organization’s purpose.

Communicating an organization’s mission and values can inspire employees to see the societal impact of their work and, thus, be more committed to their roles. Ways to connect teams to an organization’s purpose include:

  • Updating employees on the organization’s achievements

  • Involving employees in discussions about the organization’s future

  • Making sure employees understand how their daily tasks contribute to the organization’s goals 

Improve collaboration within teams.

When teams collaborate effectively, individual members can perform better and contribute to the organization's goals.  HR leaders can foster team collaboration by implementing team-building activities, providing communication tools and technology, and facilitating brainstorming sessions. 

Design teams to match organizational strategy.

When HR leaders understand an organization’s strategic goals, they can recruit talent accordingly. This approach entails recruiting individuals with skills corresponding to a team’s specific tasks and objectives. 

Implement Agile project management. 

Agile focuses on delivering value in short iterations, with team members setting goals and offering feedback continuously. Applying Agile project management practices to HR leadership can help to foster a culture of collaboration, adaptability, and performance management. 

Read more: What Is Agile? And When to Use It

Implement data analysis. 

Data analysis can help HR leaders improve organizational processes and plan for the future. Employee data that HR leaders might collect and analyze include:

  • Engagement 

  • Performance

  • Tenure

  • Turnover rate

  • Feedback from employee surveys and interviews 

Read more: A Human Resources Department Guide

HR leadership jobs 

When considering a future as a human resources leader within an organization, take some time to investigate current job listings. Below, we explore common HR leadership roles that may come up in your job search. Salary averages represent total pay, including base salaries and additional pay such as commissions or bonuses. All data was sourced from Glassdoor as of October 2023. 

Chief people officer

Salary: $287,025

Responsibilities: Plan programs within an HR department; ensure practices with regulations; coordinate employee onboarding and training.

Qualifications: bachelor’s degree or higher in business, HR, or related field; experience developing talent campaigns; experience using HR software and data analytics methods   

Human resources manager

Salary: $88,500

Responsibilities: Evaluate recruiting, interviewing, and hiring processes within an HR department; coordinate onboarding and training; oversee benefits programs.

Qualifications: bachelor’s degree in business, HR, or related field; track record of recruiting exceptional talent; experience using HR software 

Read more: What Is a Human Resources Manager? | Your 2023 Guide

HR business partner 

Salary: $106,116

Responsibilities: Maximize employee performance; assist other leaders with hiring and terminations; investigate employee complaints; provide guidance on conflict resolution.

Qualifications: bachelor’s degree in HR or related field; SPHR or other relevant certification; experience offering training and development programs; 

Additional HR leadership job titles include chief human resources officer, head of employee success, and VP of human resources.


HR leadership skills

At all points along your HR career path, it’s important to stay abreast of the skills employers look for in HR leaders. Having in-demand skills can make you a more attractive job candidate, lead to greater success in your current role, and increase your earning potential.  

According to ZipRecruiter’s Career Keyword Mapper for Chief People Officer, Human Resources Manager, and HR Business Partner, the skills listed most often on job descriptions for these roles include: 

  • Collaboration

  • Communication skills

  • Innovation

  • HR experience

  • Talent acquisition

  • Compliance

  • Performance management

  • Recruiting

  • Customer retention

  • Employee engagement

  • Employee relations management 

  • Employment law

  • Onboarding management

  • MS Office

HR leadership development: steps to take

Now that you have a sense of HR leadership roles you might fill and the skills required, here are some actions you can take to level up your HR career.

1. Build HR leadership skills.

To prioritize which HR leadership skills to build, review ZipRecruiter’s Career Keyword Mapper periodically and read individual job descriptions on other career sites. Consider signing up for courses, seminars, or trainings to build technical skills like data-driven decision-making, organizational change management, and using HR software like Workday or Bamboo

At the same time that you build technical skills, it’s a good idea to cultivate workplace skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. These skills can help you understand employees better and create a productive environment for everyone in your organization.  

2. Obtain advanced HR credentials. 

Along with a degree in HR, HR management, business, or a related field, holding an additional credential, such as an advanced certification in HR, may enhance your application for a promotion within your organization or a leadership position elsewhere. Advanced HR certifications include: 

Credentials in other disciplines, such as project management or data analysis may also expand your HR leadership opportunities. 

Read more: How to Become SHRM Certified And Build HR Credibility

3. Take on complex projects related to organizational goals.

When preparing for HR career advancement, consider taking the lead on a more complex project than those you’ve completed before. Doing so can demonstrate your leadership potential and expertise in the field, while helping your organization achieve its goals. Here are some examples: 

  • Start a DE&I initiative. 

  • Lead HR efforts for your organization’s merger with another entity.

  • Launch a project to improve employee experience. 

  • Design a training program to help employees use new technologies.

4. Look for thought leadership opportunities. 

Thought leadership can be a great way to share your ideas about HR with an audience outside your organization. Thought leadership can take the form of speaking publicly at professional events, being a guest on a podcast, writing blog articles, or creating social media content. Topics you might cover include:

  • HR trends

  • Your take on different HR software and solutions    

  • Best practices in the field 

  • Your insights into current HR challenges and how to overcome them

  • Suggestions on how HR professionals can network more effectively 

Through quality thought leadership content, you can inspire colleagues to develop their own HR careers and add more value to their organizations. 

5. Pursue HR leadership roles. 

As you build new skills, gain credentials, and complete advanced projects underway, consider applying for HR leadership jobs. Look for job openings in industries or with organizations that interest you. For example, you might want to work for a large tech company and lead efforts to attract the best talent. 

Once you’re ready to apply, take some time to research organizations, build interviewing skills, and brainstorm specific ways you can make a difference for potential employers. 

Reading is a great way to glean wisdom for your HR career. Check out these five HR leadership books: 

• Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

• Bring Your Human To Work: 10 Surefire Ways to to Design a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World

• Irresistible: The Seven Secrets of the World’s Most Enduring, Employee-Focused Organizations 

• Built for People: Transform Your Employee Experience Using Product Management Principles 

• Rituals for Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose, and a Culture That Can Adapt to Change


Explore HR leadership training with Coursera

Taking HR leadership courses online is a great way to explore your career potential, build job-ready skills, and study for an HR credential—all at your own pace. Explore Coursera’s offerings to learn skills like hiring and rewarding employees, using data analysis to succeed, and fostering an inclusive culture. 

Article sources

  1. Forbes. “Top Ten HR Trends for the 2023 Workplace,” Accessed October 12, 2023.

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