12 Essential HR Generalist Skills in 2024

An HR generalist is an HR professional familiar with every nook and cranny of the HR department. They know how to recruit, handle employee relations, legal regulations, federal law, work environment, and salary data management. They also possess solid knowledge of HR software (HRIS).

To start an HR generalist career, a person must have at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources and a 3-year background in lower human resource positions.

Since an HR generalist is like a jack of all trades in human resources, they need to hone their skills to meet their needs. Therefore, it’s also beneficial if the HR generalist has at least one HR certification.

To help out, here are the top 12 skills any HR generalist should master in 2024.

If you’re interested in learning more via video about the HR generalist’s job, watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.

1. Master HRIS

There’s perpetual demand for human resource generalists with a great mastery of HRIS. Any organization or business with a human resource office needs someone to support HR duties across the board.

The ability to maintain uncompromised management of each of these actions is pure gold for any company.

Unlike managers, regular employees aren’t aware of new recruitment costs that fall on the company. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, average hiring consisting of conducting interviews, training procedures, and onboarding lasts around 42 days and costs about $4,129 per hire.

If an inexperienced HR generalist handles the flow, the cost can quickly increase. If the company has an HR generalist skillful at HRIS, it can save resources.

2. Administration

Similarly, a well-kept HR database means less work for the accounting department when the weekly or monthly payroll comes. One mistake can start a cumbersome snowball effect of endless paperwork and HR pothole patching.

Here are the standard responsibilities and duties of a human resources generalist who handles administration:

  • Maintain correct HRIS systems for employee payroll, compensation, employee benefits management, regulations, and employee performance.
  • Prepare confidential material for big or small business reorganizations, department administration, personnel updates, and work development.
  • Keep a constantly updated database for daily tasks.

Although a hard skill, since an HR generalist must master the software, it requires a potent mixture of disciplinary skills. The HR generalist must be self-dependent, trustful, and meticulous. Otherwise, poor performance can cost the company precious time and cripple the overall work environment.

If you are an aspiring HR generalist or want to bring your generalist skills to the next level, check our certified HR generalist course.

HR Generalist Certification

3. Performance Management

Besides keeping up with the ever-changing job data and employment law, the underlying core of any HR generalist is performance management.

This means that the HR generalist, just like the HR manager, must have the skills that allow them to fix performance issues and prevent them before they occur. If excellent HRIS knowledge is the core hard skill, then performance management is the ability that nurtures that skill.

It’s not a generalist’s full-time job to merely know their way around a computer or different departments. A human resource professional must also learn how to implement efficiency across the company.

Since the HR generalist’s job predominates with other employees, the job can be unpredictable.

Efficient performance managing skills require proactivity. This means that the HR generalist will revise the company policy manual before it needs any specific updates.

The same goes for regulating company benefits and creating employee programs, recruitment programs, and innovative employment practices that keep the human resources machine running.

4. Advising

The HR generalist position isn’t at the top of the hierarchy of human resources. Nevertheless, an HR generalist must behave like an HR manager. They must possess proper communication skills to communicate management programs to employees.

In some cases, an human resources generalist will take a manager through short training programs if necessary to upgrade the manager’s skills.

Advising is a set of multiple talents in human resource management. A single question summarizes the ability. How well can the HR generalist develop, support, and maintain the company’s efficiency through human resource management?

If an HR generalist feels uncomfortable dabbling into employee relations or fails to assert healthy dominance, just having a bachelor’s degree in human resources and certification or two won’t cut it.

That’s why advising and management is one of the most highly sought-after skills. Unfortunately, asserting how good HR generalists’ skills are is tough before starting the job.

Human resource management requires skills like employee relations management, background checks, and even analyzing other companies.

This means that potential candidates might have the right skills related to administration but lack the communication skills to pass on the information to the employees.

Finally, about 65% of companies still do annual performance appraisals. Since the likely future is continuous performance analysis, a great HR generalist will know how to adapt their job and skills to the change. But a proper management professional will establish the process before the higher-ups even ask them.

5. Communication Skills

Proper communication skills sound seem essential for any job. Communication skills are crucial, whether someone is a developer in an IT company or a student working on their bachelor’s degree.

Furthermore, it’s hard to analyze communication skills and determine which of the twenty candidates is the right fit for any job.

Nevertheless, excellent communication skills are the cornerstone of any human resources position. About 91% of 1,000 employees feel that managers lack proper communication skills. Even more concerning is that 69% of managers dislike communicating with employees, especially on topics such as payroll, job position, and general employee relations.

Since human resources generalists rarely focus on a single job, they need to multi-task. Because generalists often multi-task jobs closely related to other employees, they need communication skills not to get lost in an employee management mess.

6. Manage Professional Relationships

The better the communication, the better can generalists handle the workforce. It’s also essential to note that generalists usually find themselves somewhere in the middle of the job hierarchy. Like the center in football, they are the bridge between the quarterback and the front guard. In other words, the HR manager and other employees.

Employees might criticize the manager’s payroll decisions, while the manager might remark on employees not doing their job well. All of this can easily break on the human resources generalist’s back. In addition, if the human resources generalist can’t communicate well, the job can be too much to handle.

7. Recruitment & Training Skills

We already mentioned how essential hiring skills are. Unsurprisingly, the talent is at the top of sought-after skills.

employee recruitment process

When looking for candidates, HR generalists need to conduct interviews, correctly communicate payroll information, and create onboarding programs and other tasks related to recruitment.

Although an HR assistant will often help with the hiring, generalists usually need a complete understanding of all job recruitment duties. For example, human resources generalists might not conduct interviews with the candidates, but they need to know the procedures.

It’s possible that they don’t need to do background checks for hiring, but they must possess the ability to do it.

8. Know the Law

Besides ensuring the hiring, human resources generalists must also ensure that the hiring doesn’t break any federal laws or result in discriminatory practices. Countries have legal responsibilities for employers to treat candidates equally.

Failing to do so can trigger company background checks, legal interviews, and business data collection. In short, the benefits of following the hiring laws are substantial.

It might sound obvious, but not knowing disciplinary laws can cause heavy damage to the company.

9. Intercultural Sensitivity

Any medium to a large-size company no longer works inside the HQ exclusively. Even small businesses tend to post jobs outside their city or even country. Besides remote job management, intercultural sensitivity is another crucial aspect many human resource employees face.

Before the internet, generalists had to handle employee relations inside the company’s four walls. Today, the duties go well outside the organization’s walls.

Different cultures have different ideas. For example, although employee skills might match, candidates might have a different view of salary, employee relations, and job culture.

Employers must possess sound intercultural sensitivity, whether for current employees or job candidates.

Failure to act accordingly often doesn’t come intentionally, but it can still harm the company.

With companies getting used to remote work, human resources generalists have new skills to master.

Although it isn’t necessary to know intercultural relations from top to bottom, generalists must understand how cultural relations can harm and benefit the office.

Furthermore, proper personnel education, disciplinary support, and compliance administration can bring a company ahead of its competition.

10. Proactivity

Most jobs focus on “do what you’re told” work ethics. An average job description will explain employee requirements, such as a bachelor’s degree, benefits, and salary.

But unlike most jobs, the job of a generalist must be proactive. Although proactivity is an all-around ability, like communication skills, it has a unique role for an HR generalist.

You can recognize a great shoemaker by the quality of the shoes. For HR generalist’s responsibilities, the logic is somewhat backward. Unlike a shoemaker, whose end product is visible, a generalist’s end product isn’t.

A generalist is doing great work as long as the company functions. For that to happen, the generalist must be highly proactive.

11. Commercial Awareness

Hr generalists should know how the company makes a profit. Since an HR generalist offers support across the board, they can’t be effective if they don’t know what keeps the business alive.

Although commercial awareness falls in the finance and accounting departments, you should understand how to fill out any possible payroll duties.

For example, it’s possible that the most significant profit doesn’t come from the product but from business relations that arise from the product. By having the understanding, the generalist can come up with much better tactics and strategies.

12. Active Listening

Human resource management is all about understanding employees. While knowing the employment law is essential, it’s only half the story.

Human resources generalists must be active listeners who use regulations as the foundation for employee welfare.

This means that you can listen to employees or job candidates without prejudice. While easy on paper, it can be challenging to leave your troubles at home when there’s a deadline looming over your head. The same goes for employee training, payroll management, etc.

It isn’t difficult to communicate about a positive topic such as a 5% compensation increase. But in cases where you need to bare bad news, you need to listen first and then act.

Finally, here’s an overview of the required skills.

HR generalist skills


This concludes the article on the top generalist skills. The training process can seem daunting since a generalist handles many human resources duties.

Like an HR manager, a professional HR generalist has both solid hard and soft skills. Since HR professionals hone soft skills through experience, entry-level generalists feel stuck.

You should improve your skills further and ensure you don’t stagnate. That way, you can lead not just the HR department but the company’s work environment in general.

If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR Generalist role, we recommend taking our HR Generalist Certification Course, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft a great HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.