Pursuing an HR career is an everlasting journey, no matter if 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.
No matter if you're a seasoned HR professional or an intern, your HR skills such as communication skills, employee relations, 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 flow smoothly for both sides.
To ensure you're always ready, here are the top human resources skills employers are looking for when onboarding HR professionals.
1. Communication Skills & 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, HR specialists, and other HR employees.
A survey done on 400 companies with 100,000 employees shows that a company can annually lose up to $62.4 million due to poor communication between employers and employees.
You interact with people every day, both verbally and through writing. This isn't an issue when you 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. 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 communication skills truly shine. You need to have empathy but also maintain retention on your authority and respect.
The same goes for writing skills as well. 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.
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 are saying and thus fail your employee relations.
- Understanding - Remember that as an HR professional, it's rarely about you. Even if an employee insults you, it's likely 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 team members rely on you to point them in the right direction, even if it is only through sending a daily metrics report.
- Nonverbal communication - Experts agree that from 70% to 93% of communication is nonverbal communication. Even how far you're standing from a person can impact how they perceive you as a communicator.
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, that means everything else starts to crumble.
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.
If you're struggling with organizing, there are numerous ways to improve:
- Track your 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? By tracking personal performance, you'll manage personal time better and find more room for other work.
- Recognize task importance - The most complex task isn't necessarily the most important one. For example, it’s easy to fixate on a half-done task, but it's possible that social media posts can wait.
- Master human resource management software - Your organizational skillset is great, 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. It's only a drop, but give it enough time, and it becomes a liquid catastrophe.
HR professionals aren't necessarily 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 its unique difficulties, for HR managers, making the correct decisions in a second is a whole other beast. And nowhere is that more prominent than with talent acquisition, onboarding new hires, and terminating under-performing employees.
Employee engagement and the quality of employee experience start from the moment you make the first contact with top talent as a recruiter.
Although you'll have the time to assess the candidate after the interview is over, decisions you make during the interview will decide how much valuable information you collect.
The same rule applies to firing an employee.
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.
Meaning, just because in 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 turn out to be terrible tomorrow.
True human resources professionals can see the big picture before a new employee even starts to work.
Onboarding is the most straightforward HR job of the three, but that still doesn't mean you should take it lightly. How quickly a recruit adjusts and reaches their performance potential relies heavily on the decisions you make.
Although decision-making skills branch well outside hiring and terminating an employee, it is the recruitment arena where your HR skills genuinely shine.
4. Conflict Resolution & Employee Relations Competencies
Hopefully, it's clear that HR skills and HR tasks aren't tied exclusively. For example, you don't use decision-making just in hiring. HR professionals also need to make correct decisions in conflict management, employee retention, writing, etc.
Conflict can arise on any side for HR managers, and it can feel like fighting on multiple battlefronts at once.
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.
To maintain healthy employee relations, there are several things you should know.
- Accentuate clarity and consistency - Going back to your organizational skills. You maximize clarity and consistency by proactively keeping everything in place. The result is less chance for a conflict.
- Everyone is accountable - Although as an HR professional, you're the accountability ringleader, everyone else needs to be aware of their accountability as well. 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 doesn't like the way 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 going 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 notoriously unpredictable. And yes, that goes for you too.
You likely heard it countless times, and you might think it sounds corny, but it is true: never stop learning. 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.
Meaning, failure to learn is more often the result of creating and maintaining a bad habit for an average adult.
In the HR field, the way you communicate with employees can change rapidly. You might be a face-to-face communication expert, but a sudden shift to remote work can nullify everything you thought you know 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 lead to always being ready and at the top of your game.