HR professionals need different skills to do their work well. We’ve analyzed dozens of HR generalist vacancies and listed the 12 most important Human Resources skills and competencies listed in those. This article will provide you with an overview of the most sought-after skills in HR. The skills are listed in no particular order!
1. Communication skills
The most often mentioned skill in HR job openings are communication skills. Communication is essential in Human Resource Management, as the HR professional is the link between the business and the employee. On the one hand, you are an activist for employees, and on the other hand, you represent the employer.
This requires great communication skills.
In addition to this role, you are also a source of information for employees. When they have questions regarding taking a day off or any other employment issue, they will come to you. Being able to efficiently handle their questions and complaints is key to most generalist roles.
2. Administrative expert
Administrative tasks remain a major part of the HR role. Administrative duties involve areas like employee leave, absence, absence files, the in- and outflow of employees, payroll and other topics.
Despite the rise of digital HR and the increase in automation of HR tasks, administrative duties still haven’t disappeared (yet). They are mentioned as an integral part of the job in many of the job postings. Being an administrative expert helps in entering data in a precise manner.
3. HRM knowledge and expertise
Unsurprisingly, HRM knowledge and expertise is also mentioned as an essential HR skill. Previous work experience, or an educational background in Human Resource Management or Industrial- and Organizational Psychology are very helpful.
HRM knowledge helps in doing most of the other skills and competencies mentioned in this article. It helps to understand recruitment, selection, absence procedures, data reporting, and other personnel processes.
An educational background in psychology or HRM often also helps to develop the soft skills that are helpful in communication and coaching.
Proactivity is often considered more of a personality trait than a skill. However, it is certainly something you can develop over time. As an HR professional, you are the connection between the employer and the employee, therefore proactivity can help you in spotting potential problems early and preventing them from escalating.
In line with this, proactive Human Resource Management is preferred over reactive HRM.
Proactive HRM helps to plan and align the core HR tasks in a way that offers the most value to the business. We recently published an article about this called Strategic Human Resource Management.
One of the key HR skills is advising different stakeholders. You need to able to advise both employees, line managers, and senior managers on personnel issues.
These issues can be very operational, for example creating a re-integration plan for an employee or helping a senior manager with the formulation of an email to the department. More tactical issues are the organization and advising in restructuring efforts. Strategic advice involves the alignment of HR practices to align more with the business.
This advice also has to be communicated. This is where the previously mentioned communication skills and coaching skills come in.
Coaching skills are helpful when it comes to one-on-one or group sessions to spread information or train people. This happens in training and development situations, but also in onboarding, re-integration, conflict resolution, and in assisting frontline managers with people issues.
These coaching skills are most often developed on-the-job or in external coaching training.
7. Recruitment and selection
Another often mentioned HR skill (obviously) involves recruitment and selection. Finding qualified candidates, selecting the best, and exploring if there’s a match between the candidate, the company (culture), and the manager is one of the most important HR tasks.
8. HRIS knowledge
Human Resource Information Systems are the digital counterpart of the soft-side of Human Resource Management. Most information regarding hiring, performance evaluation, payroll, rewards and benefits, and more are registered in one or more HRIS.
Large organizations usually have standard providers like SAP (with SuccessFactors) or Oracle. Smaller companies work with smaller providers. Knowledge of an HRIS is a prerequisite for most senior HR jobs and one of the top technology skills HR professionals need today.
It’s hard to understand these systems without having hands-on experience in them. They are, however, relatively simple and intuitive to work with.
9. Intercultural sensitivity and language skills
This HR skill depends on the specifics of the organization. Especially for larger multinational companies, intercultural sensitivity is a must. When you’re in touch with managers and employees in different countries, you need to be aware of intercultural differences.
For example, practices for managing and retaining people can differ tremendously between cultures. In India, it is common to get a promotion every single year, while in the Western world this happens on average every 3-5 years.
Similarly, it is not uncommon for Chinese workers to travel to their birthplace for Chinese New Year and – unannounced – never come back to your factory in the new year because they are now working somewhere else.
These cultural differences will impact how you try to hire, retain, and promote people. There are also communication differences with regard to evaluating people. Israelis, Russians, and the Dutch are very direct whereas Japanese and South East Asian countries are much more indirect.
Using the wrong communication style may result in your message not being perceived as important – or risks offending people from more indirect cultures.
10. Analytically driven and oriented
Skills related to data-driven working and analytics have emerged rapidly in the last five years. Most HR generalists are now required to be analytically-driven and oriented.
There’s a push through all departments to leverage the power of data analytics to make better decisions. This can involve the use of complicated predictive analytics on HR data, or the much simpler use of data to make better decisions. The latter is often referred to as evidence-based HR.
11. HR reporting skills
As part of being more analytically driven and oriented, HR reporting skills are increasingly required too. These skills include the ability to create, read, and interpret HR reports using data coming from different Human Resource Information Systems.
Reporting on key metrics is key to advising managers and employees, create better people policies, and make otherwise more evidence-based decisions.
Teamwork is one of those HR skills that is impossible to avoid. As an HR professional, you’re expected to work together with your colleagues in HR and with managers in the organization. Working together internally by actively aligning HR activities benefits both the organization and HR.
Well, there you have it, a concise overview of the 12 most sought-after HR skills. Of course, if you think we missed one, please do share them with us in the comments below
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