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10 Essential HR Skills Every Professional Should Master

Human resources (HR) have dramatically transformed over the last decade, taking new and great strides to expand their remit the context in which the industry operates.

Because of this, HR professionals have had to focus significantly on continuing professional development (CPD), unlearning, relearning, and upskilling to keep up with shifting workplace trends, as the industry demands and more diverse set of skills now to what it did ten years ago.

To give you more insight, we delve into the ten essential HR skills that every professional should master.

#1) Communication

While communication is seen as an essential skill across every profession, in the HR industry, good communication is critical. Communicating well is often underrated and most feel that if you can communicate clearly, then you’re a good communicator. However, good communication requires much more, like:

Adaptability

Being able to adapt how you communicate based on who you are communicating to is crucial as a HR professional. You wouldn’t speak to an employee who has reached out to you in a vulnerable state of mind the same way you would speak to someone who is feeling mentally well - be as personable as possible.

Listening

Actively listening with an open and judgement free mind, without thinking of how and when you are going to respond. Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand.

Time management

Communicating isn’t a one-time thing and to reap the benefits of it, regular, effectively communicate is best. For instance, giving yourself an allotted amount of time each day to respond to phone calls, emails and other correspondence is great for staying organised.

Variety

In a remote world heavily reliant upon multimodal communication models, HR professionals have a responsibility to ensure the way in which they are communicate is clear, professional and easy to understand for those working in-office, remotely or under a hybrid model.

#2) Change Management

Change in business is inevitable. Whether it be redesigning workforce structure, investing in digital transformation or imbedding new diversity, inclusion and cultural policies, employees will require HR guidance as change occurs. This can happen in the form of:

  • Delivering regular communications (via email, phone, or text – as needed)
  • Tracking the impact of the change through employee feedback
  • Managing resistance and helping employees overcome barriers
  • Providing external support services such as employee assistance programmes and counselling

 

#3) Technology Proficiency

79% of HR teams working in medium sized companies say that more of their HR processes could be automated, with the aim to improve overall business efficiency. Because of this, software, automation and technology proficiency is a skill that HR professionals are now focusing on, ensuring businesses are operating to their full capacity and are remaining profitable.

HR professionals should focus on:

  • Social media platforms and digital content creation: for candidate searching, communicating with talent and creating branded job descriptions.
  • Data analysing and reporting: pulling employee metrics and reports to help inform business decisions.
  • HR software implementation and use: many companies use HR software like Oracle, Sage and SenseHR.
  • Cyber security and data privacy: with advancements in technology, it’s vital that users know how to protect themselves.

#4) Conflict Management

Conflict management resolution is an opportunity to understand, reduce and solve workplace problems and issues.

Research says that one out of five hours a week is spent on workplace conflict resolution, which only reiterates how important it is that HR managers are not only trained in conflict management but feel confident and assured in their ability to follow through with it.

The role that HR will commonly play is both reducing and finding a solution to workplace issues before issues escalate or become considerably worse. This is done through:

  • Making space and opening the dialogue between the parties involved
  • Providing a neutral and objective perspective on said incident
  • Effectively investigating to find the root of the problem
  • Creating an improvement plan of action through a mediation session

Additionally, HR professionals can act as mentors when it comes to ensuring staff are equipped and confident on implementing conflict management solutions for themselves.

Not only will this make for a fairer and smoother running business, but it will also provide autonomy amongst employees and an opportunity for individuals to solve their problems in the first instance.

#5) Emotional Intelligence

Going hand in hand with good conflict management, emotional intelligence, especially in 2024, is a vital skill of any HR professional.

Emotional intelligence is described as our ability to be able to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control and evaluate emotions, specifically when it comes to communicating and empathising with others.

Good emotional intelligence will aid HR professionals in their ability to influence, connect and build solid relationships with their employees. With the goal to foster environments of open dialogue, trust and motivation, HR professionals who show signs of good emotional intelligence tend to be more collaborative by nature, confident and reliable.

Emotional intelligence isn’t built overnight but instead formed through:

  • Self-awareness: recognising your own emotions and how you react to certain situations.
  • Building empathy: actively listening to what your employees are saying and genuinely trying to understand their thoughts and opinions instead of your own.
  • Emotional regulation: being able to better control your emotional state, knowing your own triggers and having self-coping mechanisms as a way of not negatively impacting others.

#6) Cultural Awareness

To create a renowned company culture, space must be made for all cultures, and this is where HR professionals can really make a difference.

With a focus on championing  workplace diversity, having cultural competence as an HR professional allows employees to feel included, heard and correctly led, no matter their background or cultural background.

With legal requirements for workplaces to create safe, discrimination free environments, HR professionals play a pivotal part in leading proper DE&I efforts, which requires commitment to both equality and diversity.

Competence cultural training is becoming increasingly popular amongst HR professionals and workplaces, as a way of equipping them with the right skills and knowledge required to steer and promote the differences within the modern world of work.

 

#7) Confidentiality and Sensitivity

It’s no secret that discretion as an HR professional is incredibly important, as a way of respecting individuals’ privacy, acting sensitively and practising good moral standards. HR professionals will deal with many confidential matters throughout their careers, both in the workplace and in some cases, in relation to an individual’s personal life.

Where confidentiality can be difficult to maintain in modern workplace, especially as we further champion transparency, communication and collaboration, it is a vital skill of any HR professional and one that requires a specific set of standards, including:

  • Discretion: being mindful of surroundings, conversations and environments.
  • Ethics: maintaining professionalism around contracts, budgets, salaries and recruitment.
  • Trust: helping employees to feel that they can trust that you won’t disclose information without their consent and proving so throughout the HR process.

#8) Coaching and Advising

Advising and helping employees is a day-to-day part of an HR professionals’ role. Whether it be junior employees, managers or more senior members of staff, HR professionals must be able to coach and advice employees on their workplace matters, while adapting their perspectives and viewpoints to each individual situation.

To be able to coach and advise, HR professionals must know both their company and general workplace policies and procedures inside out, as individuals trust and expect HR managers to have their best interests at heart.

While advising in more common, HR professionals do often coach managers on how to correctly deal with unique situations occurring in with their own teams. For example, a manager may go to an HR professional with a problem that is occurring within their own team of three of four individuals, and with this, HR professionals have a responsibility to ask further questions, prompt thoughts and explanations and most importantly, help the manager to arrive at a conclusion or solution themselves.

#9) Organisation and Time Management

There are many moving parts to a HR professionals’ role, covering everything from employee recruitment and onboarding to the implementation of new workplace policies and procedures.

The variety of responsibilities means it’s even more vital that HR individuals are organised and have good time management skills. This will boost productivity, ensure the business is running smoothly and ensure employees receive the information and support they need to do their jobs.

If you aren’t naturally organised, however, why not try:

  • Utilising your calendar: to schedule meetings and plan your daily workload.
  • Time tracking tools: helping you monitor how long it takes you to do each task so that you can time block.
  • Prioritising your workload: try methods like the decision matrix or pareto principle.
  • Investing in HR industry tools and software: to manage employee data and files.

#10) Analytical and data driven

Being skilled analytically or confident working with data doesn’t always come naturally to people professionals and is a skill that is often learned over time.

As an HR professional, being able to analyse HR or people analytics will allow you to:

  • Make better business decisions shaped on employee feedback, data and requirements.
  • Identify areas of improvement amongst the business, both in terms of people and process.
  • Create business cases to advocate for change and improvement.
  • Cement areas that are doing well for business e.g., company skills, operations and communication.

Less operational and now more strategic, HR as a discipline requires a high level of strategic planning, which means industry research skills, handling data and analysing insights are all vital for business success.

HR: An Industry of Skill and Variety

We believe these ten essential skills to be vital for any HR professional in today’s job market.

Whether these skills be gained or expanded upon through a CIPD qualification, continuous professional development or workplace experience, they are perfected over time, resulting in a successful career in both a varied and rewarding industry.

 

Take the next step in your career and gain an industry recognised CIPD qualification with DPG today.

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