6 Essential HR Generalist Skills in 2021

Updated on June 22nd, 2021
6 Essential HR Generalist Skills in 2021

Whenever a company starts an HR department, an HR generalist is their first full-time hire. An HR generalist is an HR professional who's familiar with every nook and cranny of the HR department. They know how to hire the right talent, handle employee relations, legal regulations, federal law, work environment, salary data management, and 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 constantly need to hone their skills to meet their needs. Therefore, it's also beneficial if the HR generalist has at least one HR certification.

Similar to 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. To help out, here are 6 top skills and duties any HR generalist should master in 2021.

The first two will be the core skills any human resources generalist should have. The following skills will be skills that make the job easier.

Master Human Resources Information System (HRIS)

There's substantial perpetual demand for human resource generalists with a great mastery of HRIS. Any organization, company, or business with a human resource office needs someone to act as support that ensures practices such as recruitment, performance management, employee training, and education flows smoothly.

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 each new recruitment's 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 go up. Equally, if the company has an HR generalist who's skillful at HRIS, it can save time and money.

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 most standard responsibilities and duties of a human resources generalist who handles human resource management via HRIS:

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

It's easy to see why an experienced HR software vendor is the backbone of any HR department.

Although dominantly a hard skill, since an HR generalist needs to 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.

Performance Management - Human Resource 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, needs to have the skills that allow not just to fix performance issues but also 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 HR generalist's job to merely know their way around a computer. A human resource professional must also learn how to implement efficiency across the company.

Since the HR generalist's job is predominately working with other employees, the job can be quite unpredictable and even frustrating.

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.

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 and other HR professionals such as HR analysts or HR coordinators.

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

Performance management is a set of multiple skills that boil down to a single ability. 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 top-tier performance management is one of the most highly sought-after skills. Unfortunately, it's tough to assert how good HR generalists' skills are until they start the job.

Human resource management requires several skills like employee relations management, doing background checks, and even analyzing other companies. Meaning, potential candidates might have the right skills related to administration but lack the communication skills to pass on the info 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.

Communication Skills in Human Resources

Having proper communication skills sounds like the essential skills employees need for any job. Communication skills are crucial, whether someone is a developer in an IT company or even a student working on their bachelor's degree.

Furthermore, it's hard to analyze communication skills and determine which one 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. What's even more concerning is that 69% of managers dislike communicating with employees, especially on topics such as payroll, job position, and general employee relations.

In comes the HR generalists. 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 a mess.

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. Just 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.

Recruitment, Selection, and Training Skills

We already mentioned how essential hiring skills are, why it's no surprise that the skill set is at the top position of sought-after skills.

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

Although an HR assistant will often helping 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. Similarly, it's possible they don't need to do background checks for hiring, but they need to possess the ability to do it.

This again goes to the jack of all trades logic mentioned previously.

Besides ensuring the hiring, human resources generalists also need to ensure that the hiring doesn't break any federal laws or experience discriminating practices. Many 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.

Intercultural Sensitivity Skills in Human Resources

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 becoming 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 walls.

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

Employers need to possess proper intercultural sensitivity, whether it's for their current employees or job candidates.

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

With companies still getting used to remote work with people worldwide, human resources generalists have a new set of skills to master.

Although it isn't necessary to know intercultural relations from the bottom to the top, generalists need to have the knowledge of how cultural relations can both harm and benefit the office. Furthermore, proper personnel education, disciplinary support, and compliance administration can bring a company ahead of its competition.

Proactivity in Human Resources

Most jobs base on "do what you're told" work ethics. An average job description will explain employee requirements, such as a bachelor's degree. The job description will also explain the responsibilities, duties, benefits, and salary.

But unlike most jobs, the job of a generalist entails that the individual acts proactively. Although proactivity is an all-around ability, just like communication skills, it has a special role for an HR generalist. As such, the ability needs emphasizing.

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. Meaning, as long as the company is functioning properly, a generalist is doing great work. For that to happen, the generalist must be highly proactive.