Few terms can describe all humans, with their innumerable and glorious differences. One such term is “dynamic.”
Humans are always changing how they think, live, learn, and work. That’s why the art and practice of excellent human resources management (HRM) require adaptability. To keep up with the people they serve, human resource (HR) professionals must adapt as quickly as humans change.
Particularly dynamic eras demand rapid adaptations. The 2020s will likely be one of those eras.
“Human Resources has always been a challenging field, fraught with new laws to follow, interpersonal drama to solve, and organizational ebbs and flows,” says ThinkHR’s Senior Legal Editor. “But we’ve learned that there’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to shake up business as we know it, and make the day-to-day of HR look like child’s play.”
The takeaway: the HR role is getting more challenging by the second.
Keep up with the changes by diversifying your portfolio of human resources skills and competencies like the ones below. Each one has the potential to strengthen and enhance your HR practices, whether you operate solo, sit on a mid-sized HR team, or collaborate with a massive HR department.
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HR In 2023: What You Should Know
2020 created a laundry list of nightmares for those working in nearly every job function and industry imaginable: health care, administration, tech, public relations, and of course, the HR field.
Human resources professionals saw their roles grow more complex in spectacular ways. And while 2020’s events — including a global pandemic and widespread social justice movements — spurred uncommonly rapid changes in the way we work, many of those changes will not fade rapidly. Many will become permanent.
- A trend toward more robust benefits programs that cover mental health support and other quality of life resources
- A need for sophisticated technology to keep up with repetitive tasks and compliance responsibilities
- Demand for companies to address and influence social issues
- An opportunity for HR professionals to step into visionary leadership roles in employee relations, engagement, and culture
SHRM captured a quote from an employment attorney that gets to the heart of the changes:
“I would say [HR is] moving from processing paper to making sure individuals feel valued in the organization. The work is much more personalized than it has ever been before.”
In other words, boasting a varied and robust set of core competencies will be critical to navigating these more personal, and therefore more complex, HR challenges. We pulled together this list of skills to help you get started, and even created a guide on some helpful HR newsletters to support your efforts.
Here are just a few examples of what you’ll learn from the article below:
- Why you need soft skills to optimize your functionality in light of current demands
- How technological tools will help you streamline your work
- Why tapping into your inner cross-cultural intelligence is more important than ever
- Why approachability and leadership go hand in hand
- How honing your strengths in ethics and integrity, timeless HR competencies may future-proof your career
Communication Skills For HR
1) Mastering Truthful, Yet Still Appealing, Communication
The HR professional’s definition: The thoughtful, outcome-driven exchange and/or delivery of information designed to help employees do their best work.
HR-specific communication skills help professionals take into consideration all the nuances of the situation and the potential consequences of the messaging to avoid confusion and negative emotions.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Many employees look to HR as the source of truth. They turn to this office when they’re confused by a departmental message or upset by an issue. HR professionals owe it to these concerned parties to deliver effective communication. By communicating with thoughtful clarity, HR professionals can provide invaluable benefits to employees: answering questions, resolving problems, and making people feel grounded by honesty.
Additional Reading: Check out #12 in this article to read even more about honing your communication prowess and expertise.
2) Making Remote Collaboration Feel Collaborative
The HR professional’s definition: Helping remote employees complete work together while also feeling the connection of working together.
This art requires robust interpersonal skills — like listening to people to see how current tools and processes are serving them — and also strategic skills — like proactively vetting new tools and strategies with the potential to keep teams glued together.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? When so many people in remote companies are grasping for time, the dominant focus tends to be on productivity and task management. HR professionals have the opportunity to layer on the human focus, which may otherwise go unnoticed, and cultivate that special something that makes companies great places to work.
Additional Reading: Put these skills to action by first bringing everyone together on a robust remote work platform such as monday.com. And if you don’t already have a policy in place, then you might like these tips for getting your work from home policy on lock.
3) Having A Solid Set Of Soft Skills
The HR professional’s definition: The ability to do all the undefinable and constantly changing things that help employees do their best work and companies operate efficiently.
From critical thinking and decision-making to sweeping change management and work environment sustainability upgrades, the random and unpredictable yet high-priority projects that fall to HR are countless. Developing a comprehensive arsenal of soft skills — from organizational skills to a capacity for positive thinking — is really the only way HR professionals can be ready for all the things that could come their way.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? It keeps them adaptable and also prepares them for upward mobility. A variety of soft skills complement area-specific skills and specializations to make HR professionals well-rounded company leaders and in-demand generalists.
Additional Reading: Stay apprised of new skills, trends, and ideas in your profession by following these HR blogs.
4) A Referee’s Knack For Conflict Resolution
The HR professional’s definition: Healing the root cause of conflict, issues, and disagreements, usually without the benefit of complete context and objectivity.
Almost all conflicts, the big and the small meet their ends within an HR professional’s capable hands. Like mediators in the legal world, HR professionals listen to both sides of the conflict and objectively decide on agreeable, viable resolutions.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Even if “conflict management” isn’t a line item on your official job description, you can bet you’re going to face it, probably more often than you might like. Having the skills to deal with it when it inevitably arises will make dealing with it far less painful.
Additional Reading: Discover specific strategies in this journal article on evidence-based conflict management practices.
5) Knowing Active Listening Is The Only Kind Of Listening
The HR professional’s definition: Hearing what’s said, reading between the lines to perceive what wasn’t said, and applying what was heard toward corrective action.
Most people choose to escalate issues to HR when they’re frustrated. They want change, and they want it now! While they will enjoy venting, they’re also hoping their HR saviors can follow up with action.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Unfortunately, most employees don’t approach HR just to announce that everything is fine. They come to HR when they’re facing problems and issues. They’re emotional, and as a result, they’re less likely to be as clear as they think they’re being. Active listening helps HR professionals understand even the most emotional individuals.
Additional Reading: Brush up on your active listening skills in the most appropriate way imaginable: listening to some fantastic podcasts.
Pro-tip: Complement your empathetic words and actions with a tangible token of your appreciation — a care package from Caroo.
Engagement Skills For HR
6) Putting The Relationship In Employee Relations
The HR professional’s definition: Making every employee feel like you’re their BFF and that they can talk to you about anything.
HR professionals are employees’ allies: the people they know and also feel that they can turn to for anything. Employee relations, which includes everything from talent acquisition to talent management, is the ongoing process of feeding those warm, trusting feelings.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? To be truly effective in their roles, to enhance the work experience your organization offers, HR professionals need to know the truth — how employees really feel, how things are really going, what areas could really be improved. Solid employee relations skills will make it easier to earn that perfect honesty.
Additional Reading: Want to offer employers a service that you just don’t have time to give? Find out how Bambee’s services can help you meet your goals.
7) Treating Teamwork As A Way Of Life
The HR professional’s definition: Acknowledging that, although your job is to help others, you can also get help from your amazing teammates.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Teamwork is about support, understanding, listening, camaraderie, and idea exchange — all things HR professionals very often spend time helping other people accomplish. But when they also engage in teamwork for the benefit of themselves and their own work, they’ll find they have plenty of goodness left to pass on.
Additional Reading: Curl up with the best-selling leadership rulebook, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick M. Lencioni.
8) Finding Technology That Helps People
The HR professional’s definition: Finding ways to use tech to improve service to humans.
Having a solid command of not only what technology and HR tools are out there but also how to use them can help HR professionals conduct advanced operations like data-based recruiting, gathering employee insights, administering personalized benefits, and more.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Taking care of people requires a lot of work. Technology holds the key to lightening the load and even freeing up some time for more strategic actions. When you have the right tools set up in the background, automating some repetitive tasks or even gathering data to inform your decisions, you’ll feel like you actually have the time you’ve always wanted to dedicate to caring for the people.
Additional Reading: Check out the Nectar recognition platform to get inspired by all remarkably human-centric tasks technology can help with
9) Making Employee Engagement And Team Building Natural
The HR professional’s definition: Making everyone feel they belong.
HR professionals have a talent for making people feel included, so, in a way, they’re team building 24/7 simply by offering people the caring smiles and thoughtful support they crave.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? When you’re in HR, you may sit on the HR team, but you’re co-workers with everyone. When you can bond with multiple teams, you can develop a deeper sense of what everyone wants. You can serve up more authentic employee engagement ideas and develop policies that truly champion everyone’s interests.
Additional Reading: Visit Outback Team Building to find ideas for engagement and team building that speak to your sense of fun.
10) Making Time Management Look Like Time Bending
The HR professional’s definition: Finding strategies that make it seem like you’re actually making more time.
HR professionals face an endless to-do log. Any time they think they’re almost done, they’ll remember a variety of blue-sky goals and projects waiting on the back burner.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Even the best time management skills won’t allow HR experts to do it all, but these skills will help them boost the portion of it all that they are able to do and do well.
Additional Reading: Part of a small business? These HR tips and tricks may help you optimize time, which, if you’re like most small businesses, you always want more of.
Intelligence Skills For HR
11) Lead With Empathy
The HR professional’s definition: The ability to understand where everyone is coming from regardless of personal experience.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? HR professionals deal with all things people, and naturally, those “things” will be as varied as people are. No HR manager could possibly have personal experience in everything they’ll encounter. Having a strong sense of empathy will help these professionals approach issues as if they had personally experienced them. Looking at things through a lens of empathy ultimately leads to responses full of caring and compassion.
Additional Reading: Pick up a copy of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It by Roman Krznaric.
12) Make Decisions No One Questions
The HR professional’s definition: Peering into the future to choose the course of action that’s best for the people.
Unlike other business leaders, who might use factors like profits of long-term growth as frames for their decisions, HR leaders must make their decisions with people, and all their complexities, in mind.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? An HR professional’s day will include a series of decisions, each of which will impact employees to varying degrees. Modeling pros and cons at a moment’s notice will help them make decisions that are good for everyone.
Additional Reading: Immerse yourselves in all things decision by listening to the Choiceology podcast with Katy Milkman.
13) Exert The Emotional Intelligence Of A Therapist
The HR professional’s definition: Expertly navigate the complex realms of emotions.
HR professionals practically have an emotional scanner in front of their eyes at all times. They need to know not only how people are feeling, but also how those feelings will interact with the feelings of others, what may happen when they do, and so on.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? The ability to understand and manage emotions will help HR professionals — who deal with humans and their emotions pretty much 24/7 — deal with situations that may seem impossible to those less emotionally adept.
Additional Reading: Read about a variety of habits that can boost your overall emotional intelligence.
14) Embodying Integrity
The HR professional’s definition: Being exactly as caring, forward-thinking, and scrupulous as everyone thinks you are.
HR professionals are the face of the company. They are the chief policy communicators, the ones who do the interviews, the ones who make you feel inspired after 6-month check-ins. As such, HR professionals face a higher standard than those in other roles. Any perceived failing of authenticity or integrity in them could alter someone’s view of the entire company.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Integrity is the foundation on which employee trust stands. HR professionals need to cultivate trust to do their jobs, to access sensitive information, to hear the issues employees don’t want to tell anyone else, to be the source of safety employees need.
Additional Reading: Dive into this article to learn more about integrity’s role among leaders.
15) Cross-Culture Intelligence
The HR professional’s definition: Serving all employees, regardless of identity or background, with equity and respect.
Many HR pros, even if they assume they operate without bias, will still pursue the training and development necessary to identify and deal with any subconscious biases or attitudes that may be compromising their management and relations with employees.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? While this skill has always been essential, it is absolutely critical for leaders who want to have a positive influence on their organizational culture. And it doesn’t just lead to more compassionate interactions; it also leads to the development of more equitable policies and processes.
Additional Reading: Get ideas and inspiration from your colleagues at these HR conferences.
Management Skills For HR
16) Managing With Authority With Approachability
The HR professional’s definition: Striking a perfect balance between authority and approachability.
Skills in HR management and also general human capital management supplement softer skills like authenticity, caring, and approachability to help HR pros become authority figures whose advice, guidance, and occasional disciplinary actions are taken seriously.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? To achieve their goals, HR professionals need to be heard by employees and leaders alike. By owning their roles as supervisors and business partners, HR managers can cultivate the influence they need to get things done.
Additional Reading: Find plenty of strategies and ideas in the Random Acts of Leadership blog.
17) Onboarding To Make An Impact
The HR professional’s definition: Giving new hires a welcome that matters.
As the people who probably know the most about the ins and outs of the business, HR professionals are well equipped to design and implement a comprehensive onboarding process.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? Onboarding deeply impacts retention metrics, with some statistics suggesting a good program can offer a boost of over 80%. HR professionals can help create a thriving workforce by handling onboarding programs that seamlessly transition new employees from recruiters’ hands and into the company’s open arms.
18) Leading The Leaders
The HR professional’s definition: Inspiring company leaders while also being a leader in your own right.
As with many other skills in the field, this one highlights how HR professionals must develop their business acumen and strategic prowess while simultaneously coaching others to do the same.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? HR, by its very nature, is about leadership. HR professionals develop initiatives that affect day-to-day lives, they recruit the people who make key decisions, they decide how to respond to crises and issues. These massive responsibilities require a strong foundation in the core tenets of leadership.
Additional Reading: Learn how you can connect with a coach without wrecking your schedule.
19) Inspirational Performance Management
The HR professional’s definition: Help employees reconnect with their inspiration and drive.
An employee’s direct manager often turns to HR if things aren’t going well. These corrective moments can be opportunities, not burdens. An employee might not be willing to open up the “boss,” but they might be willing to have candid conversations with HR, conversations that may reveal the root cause of performance issues, and also paths to help them get “back on track.”
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? HR professionals often end up with the trickiest performance management cases. Having finesse in this area will help them come up with solutions, such as training programs or one-on-one mentorship, that benefit the employee and the company.
Additional Reading: Everything, including performance management, can be improved with a little swag. Browse SwagUp’s selection of custom goods to find the perfect incentives and rewards for achieving goals.
20) Uncompromising Ethics
The HR professional’s definition: Having a moral compass so ingrained in your psyche that you need not consult it to let it guide you.
It doesn’t matter if you were born with this built-in moral compass or if you developed it with time and care as long as its influence shows in your day-to-day decisions.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? HR professionals have to make snap judgments. Their codes of ethics must be strong enough to guide their decisions without active effort (e.g consulting a manual or pondering matters for several hours).
Additional Reading: Pick up a go-to copy of The Business Ethics Field Guide.
21) Understand The Impact Of Change
The HR professional’s definition: Understanding how changes in an organization, such as new systems, policies, and procedures, impact employees and then taking deliberate actions to address those impacts.
It focuses on minimizing resistance, facilitating acceptance, and maximizing employee engagement during times of change.
Why is this skill important for a human resources professional? In today’s dynamic business environment, organizations frequently undergo changes such as restructuring, mergers, or technological advancements. HR professionals with change management skills can help employees navigate these transitions by providing support, communicating effectively, and managing resistance.
These human resource professionals understand the impact of change on individuals and can develop strategies to minimize disruption and maximize employee engagement during periods of change.
Additional Reading: Check out this toolkit from SHRM about Managing Organizational Changes.
People Also Ask These Questions About HR Skills & Competencies
Q: What skills are required to be an HR professional?
- A: The skills required to be an HR professional include decision-making, communication, and management prowess. Find a comprehensive list with resources in this post.
Q: What HR skills and competencies are most in-demand?
- A: The HR skills and competencies in the highest demand as offices navigate from the new normal and into the next era of work include empathy, cross-cultural intelligence, and active listening. Find other skills essential for navigating the current HR climate.
Q: What are the most important skills for HR?
- A: The most important skills for HR include conflict resolution and integrity. Read about these and other skills and also how to develop them in this article.
Q: What competencies should every HR professional possess?
- A: Integrity and an ethical sensibility and are a few of the practically timeless competencies every HR professional should possess.
Q: How has HR evolved over the past 5 years?
- A: In the last 5 years, HR has evolved along with technologies. Tools to automate and streamline processes, such as recruiting and benefits administration, have allowed many HR positions to become less tactical and more strategic and relational.