Historically regarded as a back-office function, the concept of an HR department initially revolved around transactional operations. Its primary emphasis was handling the day-to-day administrative responsibilities associated with recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits management, and terminations. Now HR’s role is changing, though—and so are the skills HR pros need to succeed. 

Today’s HR Department 

Workplaces have digitized, diversified, and globalized, and the talent market has grown increasingly competitive. These changes have propelled HR departments into a strategic role where they actively handle the following responsibilities: 

  • Formulating HR strategies and tactics that align with the organization’s overarching goals 
  • Effectively handling employee relations in the workplace. 
  • Advocating for both the organization and its employees, ensuring their best interests are represented 
  • Promoting a healthy work environment and cultivating a respectful and inclusive workplace culture 
  • Serving as a mediator between the organization and the employees. 

As the role of the HR department has evolved, so have the skills HR pros need. Although the exact skills will often vary depending on the role, let’s delve into four must-haves:

Skill 1: Effective communication

Vital to all aspects of a business, effective communication is an especially imperative skill HR pros need, particularly when it comes to talent management. They must make sure the right people are in the right roles at the right times. This requires communicating adeptly with candidates at the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding stages and beyond.

HR pros are also responsible for creating a wide variety of workplace policies and procedures and ensuring they’re properly communicated to new hires, existing team members, and leaders. 

Skill 2: Relationship Management

Strong relationships between employers and employees create stronger organizations. They can improve employee satisfaction and loyalty, increasing productivity and the bottom line. 

HR plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining several relationships, including, but not limited to: 

  • Employee-employee. 
  • Employee-customer. 
  • Organization-employee. 
  • Manager-employee. 

HR pros can use relationship management strategies such as active listening, bias elimination, advocacy, culture development, and conflict resolution. Relationship management in HR also entails knowing how to collaborate with other departments, especially those closely connected to the HR department, such as finance and payroll.

image of person using Inova HCM on computer promoting the all-in-one HR and payroll platform to meet needs of today and demands of tomorrow

Skill 3: HR Technology Knowledge

High-performing HR pros recognize the importance of technology in HR service delivery. They should be able to leverage technology effectively to enhance workforce management, facilitate strategic planning, and optimize overall operations. HR pros should also possess sufficient HR technology expertise to adapt to new HR technology tools and platforms as necessitated by evolving business requirements.

Skill 4: Business Acumen

Business acumen combines knowledge and skill and is essential to achieving positive HR outcomes.

The significance of business acumen one of the key skills HR pros need is highlighted in an article titled “HR’s Secret Weapon? Business Acumen” published on workforceinstitute.org.

The article states, “HR professionals may possess traditional and trending HR skillsets such as people analytics, strategic workforce planning, design thinking, consulting and stakeholder/change management.” However, “it’s not just about the skill you’ve got, it’s how those skills will drive outcomes that make a difference in what matters.” 

To gain a better understanding of the skills HR pros need and can also greatly benefit from, connect with peers in the HR industry or seek guidance from mentors who possess a comprehensive understanding of what HR entails. 

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