2022

5 Best HR Skills You Need to Know

Pursuing an HR career is an endless journey, whether you are an HR assistant or an HR manager. HR roles are unique since you rely more on your soft skills, such as conflict resolution than technical skills.

Whether you’re a seasoned HR professional or an intern, your HR skills such as communication skills, employee relationships, decision-making, performance management, and organizational skills need to be sharp.

But it’s easier said than done. It’s one thing to list a specific skill set and a whole other bag when putting the know-how into practice.

Everybody can fire somebody, but only a great communicator can make the process go well for both sides.

To ensure you’re always ready, here are the most important HR skills employers seek when onboarding HR professionals.

Human resources skills

1. Communication Skills for HR Professionals

The foundation of any human resources management is communication. Although excellent communication skills are essential everywhere, being a great communicator is critical for HR managers, specialists, and other HR professionals.

survey done on 400 companies with 100,000 employees shows that a company can lose up to $62.4 million annually due to poor communication between employers and employees.

You interact with people every day, both verbally and through writing. This isn’t an issue for human resource managers when they have good news, such as a 5% salary raise.

But what happens when you need to let ten people know that their salary is getting cut? Your job isn’t just to tell the news but also to maintain a productive work environment through active listening and engagement. Imagine it like securing a domino tower during an earthquake. You want the earthquake to cause as little damage as possible.

It’s communicating sensitive information like that where your human resources skills shine. HR professionals need to have empathy and maintain authority and respect.

The same goes for good writing skills. The information you present in a business email must be clear to avoid misused company policies. What you write is what you’ll be using as a backup whenever someone questions your organization or information.

How to Improve Communication Skills

Here’s what you should focus on to improve your communication skills:

  • Listening – Communication starts with listening. If you focus too much on how you’ll sound, you’ll ignore what others say and thus fail your employee relations.
  • Understanding – Remember that as an HR professional, it’s seldom about you. Even if an employee insults you, it’s because they are angry at the company. A great mediator puts others first and avoids bias as much as possible.
  • Teamwork – Great conflict management isn’t just for HR managers. Your HR team members rely on you to point them in the right direction, even by sending a daily metrics report.
  • Nonverbal communication – Experts agree that 70% to 93% of communication is nonverbal. Even how far you’re standing from a person can impact how they perceive you as a communicator.

Check our certified HR courses if you’re unsure where to start honing important HR skills. Our online courses will teach you all the crucial HR skills and competencies needed to boost your career.

Human Resources Certifications

2. Organizational Skills in Human Resources

HR professionals are the glue that keeps the puzzle from breaking into countless tiny pieces. But, instead of paper cutouts, you’re working with human beings. And just like you, every single employee has a bad day, gets lazy, or comes to work without knowing where they left off yesterday.

But, unlike others, you need to stay at the top of your game. If you can’t organize yourself even on a bad day, everything else starts crumbling.

Your organizational skills go hand-in-hand with performance management. Imagine it like preparing a kitchen for dozen of cooks before they start to work. If ingredients are missing or the pots are messy, dinner will be late, resulting in unsatisfied customers.

But instead of handling carrots, potatoes, and knives, part of your HR job is juggling numbers, time, and overall work experience.

How to Improve Organizational Skills

If you’re struggling with organizing, there are numerous ways to improve:

  • Track performance – How long does it take you to create an outstanding job posting for Linkedin? What about preparing a metrics presentation for the weekly meeting? You’ll manage personal time better by tracking personal performance and finding more room for other work.
  • Recognize task importance – The most complex task doesn’t have to be the most important one. For example, it’s easy to fixate on a half-done job, but it’s possible that social media posts can wait.
  • Master human resources management software – Your organizational skillset is excellent, but there’s only so much an individual can do. Don’t just stretch the surface of your applicant tracking systems. Explore the software’s nooks and crannies to keep your HR department together.

HR teams are responsible for respecting deadlines and storing records in systems such as HRIS. Not recording a payroll date today might not sound like a big deal, but that’s like ignoring a leak under the sink. Leaving something for tomorrow is one of the most significant pain points in human resource management.

HR professionals aren’t always here to fix problems. Instead, your job is to ensure the issue doesn’t happen in the first place. Having excellent organizational skills means keeping the engine running without hiccups.

3. Decision-Making: Hiring, Onboarding & Termination

Although mastering technical skills comes with unique difficulties, for HR professionals, making the correct decisions in a second is a whole other beast. And nowhere is that more prominent than talent management, onboarding new hires, and terminating underperforming employees.

Employee engagement and the quality of employee experience start when you make the first contact with top talent as a recruiter. Furthermore, it reflects on creating a healthy organizational culture.

Although you’ll have the time to assess the candidate after the interview, decisions you make during the interview will decide how much valuable information you collect.

The same rule applies to firing an employee or an HR team member.

Terminating an employee might seem like bad news for the employee only. But research shows that employee turnover can cost a company as much as 150% of the annual salary for more significant job roles.

This means that just because, at the moment, it sounds right to terminate somebody, if you don’t use critical thinking in your decision-making, it’s easy to make a wrong move. So a decision that looks right now can be terrible tomorrow.

True human resources professionals can see the big picture before a new employee starts working.

Onboarding is one of the three most straightforward HR practices, but that still doesn’t mean it’s easy How a recruit adjusts and reaches their performance potential relies on how good your key HR skills are.

Although decision-making skills branch well outside hiring and terminating an employee, it is the recruitment arena where your HR skills shine.

4. Conflict Resolution & Employee Relations Competencies

HR skills and HR tasks aren’t tied. For example, you don’t use decision-making just in hiring. HR professionals must also make correct decisions in conflict management, employee retention, writing, etc.

All of this reflects a healthy work environment and corporate culture.

Conflict can arise on any side for HR managers, and it can feel like fighting on multiple battlefronts.

You can have unsatisfied employees on one side and a CEO waiting for that 15% MoM work performance increase on the other. But, more importantly, sometimes, you need to forfeit one match to win the other.

Although you can never know where the next conflict will happen, you can be sure there will always be one. And it’s up to you and your human resources soft skills to create a favorable conflict resolution and address organizational challenges.

To maintain healthy employee relations, there are several things you should know.

  • Accentuate clarity and consistency – Going back to your HR skills and competencies. You maximize clarity and consistency through proactivity and keeping everything in place. The result is less chance of a conflict.
  • Everyone is accountable – Although, as an HR professional, you’re the accountability ringleader, everyone else needs to be aware of their accountability. If an employee is part of a problem, they need to be part of the solution.
  • Resolve minor conflicts right away – Where there’s a spark, there’s fire. It might not sound like a big deal that Mike dislikes how Jane presents data. But ignoring the conflict is a fire waiting to happen. Don’t ignore, resolve.
  • Practice unbiased and critical thinking – Recognizing what’s happening is step number one. Step number two is figuring out who’s to blame. Emotional intelligence plays a huge role here, and you need to prevent your feelings from getting in the way.

5. Master Adaptation & Continue Learning

You’re dealing with human resources, and if one thing is sure, it is that humans are unpredictable. And yes, that goes for you too.

You heard it countless times and might think it sounds corny, but it is true: never stop learning. That especially goes for adaptability skills since human behavior can be so obscure.

No matter if you’re a seasoned HR professional or you’re just starting, there’s always room to get better and also to fail.

People often fool themselves that it gets harder to master cognitive skills as you get older. But neuroscience research shows otherwise.

Failure to learn is more often the result of creating and maintaining a bad habit for an average adult.

In HR, how you communicate with employees can change. You might be a face-to-face communication expert, but a sudden shift to remote work can nullify everything you thought you knew about communicating.

The same goes for new software. Getting too attached to the software that you know like the back of your hand can cost you work and new job opportunities.

Overconfidence leads to failure and refusal to change. On the other hand, adaptation and learning guide to always being ready and at the top of your human resource management.

Conclusion

Human resource professionals depend on various essential skills and competencies ranging from technical to interpersonal skills.

This was a quick overview of the five important HR skills, but remember that every human resources department is different. Meaning, the top 5 important skills are the foundation on which you build other abilities.

Required leadership skills in one company might be different in another. The same goes for task management or time management skills.

To reach the top, ensure that you always improve, and you grab every chance you get to become better. That way, you’ll be ready for every challenge in your career. Good luck.


If you are inexperienced in Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR Intern role, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources internship, build your human resources network, craft an excellent HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy that lands you a sought-after HR Internship.

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.