Human Resources is an essential part of any organization. From running recruitment to analyzing compensation to running wellness programs, this department influences how every part of a company runs. HR managers have to hone a broad skill set to oversee such a diverse array of responsibilities.
Many of these important HR skills aren't necessarily ones you can acquire through certifications or a bachelor's degree alone. Instead, they are the soft skills that come from work experience and a desire to improve one’s performance. Understanding what makes up these core competencies can help any HR department set up for success.
Interpersonal Communication Skills
Person-to-person skills are essential to be effective in this role. They allow managers to gain insight into their employees' wants, needs, and feelings and make decisions that will help create a positive work environment. The pillars of strong communication are built on active listening, empathy, and cultural sensitivity.
Active listening is a key element of effective interpersonal communication. This involves total focus and attention to what a team member says, including nonverbally through body language, and responding both in what somebody says and does, such as making eye contact, nodding, and smiling. By genuinely engaging with co-workers in and out of the HR department, a manager can foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
It's important that HR managers lead with empathy. Empathy is understanding what another person might feel or think, even if you don't share the same experience. This helps build meaningful relationships that can make advising or coaching an employee more effective. For example, if an employee is having difficulty during onboarding, empathy enables an HR manager to notice their struggle and search for solutions, such as finding the new hire a mentor or onboarding buddy.
Cultural Awareness Sensitivity
Being culturally aware helps managers recognize different perspectives and values among their employees. In this way, they can effectively address any issues or concerns without offending or excluding anyone. For example, when creating a dress code, HR managers can take into account cultural or religious sensitivities and make sure that all employees feel respected.
Conflict Management Skills
Knowing how to handle conflicts and disagreements promptly and appropriately is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment. Conflict management skills enable the HR manager to recognize potential issues early on and deal with them in a constructive and solution-oriented way that prevents further escalation.
When a problem arises, the first step is engaging with all parties while remaining impartial and open-minded. This allows HR managers to provide guidance that upholds the standards of behavior and helps the conflicting parties reach a mutual understanding. For example, if two employees are disputing over project ownership, an HR manager can provide a fair evaluation and decision that meets both parties’ needs.
Problem-solving involves assessing an issue's underlying causes and applying appropriate interventions. HR managers that are good at problem-solving often pay great attention to details that help them identify solutions. Sometimes, an HR manager may need to negotiate solutions so staff can continue working effectively as a team. For example, if a team is having difficulty with the workload, an HR manager can negotiate a redistribution of tasks to ensure everyone has manageable goals.
Effective management competencies allow human resources managers to streamline processes as they oversee projects. This includes prioritizing tasks to meet deadlines and empowering their team to achieve their potential and results.
Good time management helps HR develop realistic schedules, set deadlines, and divide work fairly among team members. Managers who have mastered this skill know how much time a task typically takes and can make adjustments as needed. For example, the manager can look at ways to redistribute tasks or remove any unnecessary steps if a project takes longer than estimated.
Strategic planning skills allow managers to create a long-term plan for the organization. This includes setting goals, developing tactics that will help reach those goals, and tracking progress to ensure success. An HR manager might develop a plan to increase employee retention by allocating more resources to an employee training and development program.
Effective HR managers are skilled in overseeing team performance and delegating roles and tasks based on individual strengths and interests. As a result, each team member can contribute and collaborate meaningfully. One way to ensure team members reach their goals and contribute meaningfully is through ongoing feedback. For example, if a team member excels in customer relations, the HR manager can celebrate this strength and encourage more involvement in sales or customer support projects.
Managers with great leadership skills leverage transparency to inspire, motivate, and guide a team toward achieving its goals. Transparency between managers and their direct reports helps build mutual trust. This increases employee motivation and empowers staff members to take ownership of tasks. HR managers can, for example, provide employees with regular updates on the progress of a project and share any challenges encountered along the way.
Analytical competencies are essential for HR managers to make data-driven decisions that benefit the company. With these skills, they can evaluate performance reviews, identify opportunities for improvement, and optimize daily operations.
Having an analytical mind helps HR managers look beyond an issue's surface and discover its root cause. This allows them to come up with well-thought-out solutions that are tailored to each situation. For example, if they recently implemented a training program, they can set specific metrics to track its progress and assess areas of improvement.
Commercial awareness lets the HR manager understand the company's goals, objectives, and strategies. This helps them align their efforts and decision-making with the company's bottom line. With a solid understanding of the business, HR managers can help create a competitive edge for the organization. They can, for example, devise strategies to increase employee engagement or suggest new tactics to attract top talent.
Knowing how to create a budget and track expenses helps HR managers make financial decisions that are in the organization's and its employees' best interest. It allows HR managers to allocate funds toward programs that will benefit everyone. For example, they can allocate funds towards a wellness program encouraging employees to care for their physical and mental health.
The Skills to Build a Better Workplace
When taken together, all of these skills enable HR managers to make their organization a better place to work. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for a company with realistic timelines and a balanced budget, where they’re actively listened to and problems are solved fairly?
This gets at the core of why HR matters so much to every organization. When you take care of people’s needs, you foster a positive culture where employees know their wellbeing is a priority. And companies that prioritize worker wellness reap the rewards — nine out of 10 companies that track their spending on employee wellness programs see a positive return on investment through increased productivity, decreased talent management costs, and healthcare savings.
Speak to a Gympass wellbeing specialist today for help building an employee wellbeing program that empowers your workforce!
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.