When interviewing a potential new hire, it’s standard procedure for a Human Resources professional to assess the candidate as compared to a list of key skills and personal characteristics needed for the job.
In considering ideas to start our new HR Daily Advisor service, some at BLR thought it might be interesting to turn the tables on the profession, and come up with a list of such attributes for Human Resources professionals themselves.
In no way is this authoritative, but it is the opinion of people, including BLR Founder and Publisher Bob Brady, who’ve spent decades meeting with HR professionals, supporting their goals and reporting their achievements. You may agree or not with our assessments, but either way, we’d like to hear about it via the “share comments” link on this page.
That said, here goes:
Human Resources management requires an orderly approach. Organized files, strong time management skills and personal efficiency are key to the Human Resources function. You’re dealing with people’s lives and careers here, and when a manager requests a personnel file or a compensation recommendation that lines up with both the organization and the industry, it won’t do to say, “Hold on. I’ll see if I can find it.”
On any day, an HR professional will deal with an employee’s personal issue one minute, a benefit claim the next and a recruiting strategy for a hard-to-fill job the minute after. Priorities and business needs move fast and change fast, and colleague A who needs something doesn’t much care if you’re already helping colleague B. You need to be able to handle it all, all at once.
Human Resources professionals are the conscience of the company, as well as the keepers of confidential information. As you serve the needs of top management, you also monitor officers’ approaches to employees to ensure proper ethics are observed. You need to be able to push back when they aren’t, to keep the firm on the straight and narrow. Not an easy responsibility! Of course, you always handle appropriately, and never divulge to any unauthorized person, confidential information about anyone in the organization.
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HR professionals need to consider the needs of both employees and management. There are times you must make decisions to protect the individual, and other times when you protect the organization, its culture, and values. These decisions may be misunderstood by some, and you may catch flak because of it, but you know that explaining your choices might compromise confidential information. That’s something you would never do.
Employees expect Human Resources professionals to advocate for their concerns, yet you must also enforce top management’s policies. The HR professional who can pull off this delicate balancing act wins trust from all concerned.
Successful HR professionals demonstrate fairness. This means that communication is clear, that peoples’ voices are heard, that laws and policies are followed, and that privacy and respect is maintained.
HR professionals need to help managers coach and develop their employees. The goal is continued improvement and innovation as well as remediation. And looking to their own houses, the HR professional also uses technology and other means to continuously improve the HR function itself.
Forward-thinking HR professionals take a leadership role and influence management’s strategic path. In gauging and filling the labor needs of the company, devising compensation schemes, and bringing on board new skill sets leading to business growth, they provide the proof for the often-heard management comment, “People are our most important asset.”
Once, companies were organized into hierarchies of workers headed by supervisors. Today, the team is king. HR managers must consequently understand team dynamics and find ways to bring disparate personalities together and make the team work.
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As we listed these skills, one thing we didn’t do was try to prioritize them. Because no general list of skills can take into account the business strategy at your particular organization.
Which leads to the caveat we mentioned, as expressed by Bob Brady.
“HR is a creature of, and serves the business strategy,” Brady says. “It’s important for HR people to know what that strategy is and what makes the business tick so the approach to HR can be tailored accordingly.
“Never think of HR in isolation,” he advises. “Because if Human Resources professionals think of themselves as ‘just HR,’ that’s what the rest of the organization will think too.”
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