HR Management & Compliance

The 9 Key Skills of HR Management

Today and tomorrow we revisit the most popular article of our sister publication, the HR Daily Advisor, in which Jay Schleifer and Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR, present nine essential skills of human resource (HR) management. Which of these skills do you already have, and in which areas could you use some training?

When we interview a potential new hire, HR professionals assess the candidate against a list of key skills and personal characteristics needed for the job. Let’s turn the tables and see what that list of key attributes would look like for an HR professional.
In no way is our list authoritative, but it is the opinion of people who’ve spent decades meeting with HR professionals, supporting their goals, and reporting their achievements.

You may or may not agree with our assessments, but either way, we’d like to hear about it via the "Share Your Comments" link at the end of the article.

That said, here goes:

#1: Organization

HR management requires an orderly approach. Organized files, strong time management skills, and personal efficiency are key to HR effectiveness. You’re dealing with people’s lives and careers here, and when a manager requests help with a termination or a compensation recommendation or recognition program, it won’t do to say, "I’ll try to get to that if I have time."


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#2: Multitasking

On a typical day, an HR professional will deal with an employee’s personal issue one minute, an intermittent leave question the next, and a recruiting strategy for a hard-to-fill job the minute after. And, that’s to say nothing of social media, wage and hour, engagement, retention, and a whole host of other things, every one critical to someone.

In HR, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Priorities and business needs move fast and change fast, and Manager A, who needs someone hired, doesn’t much care if you’re already helping Manager B, who needs someone fired. You need to be able to handle it all, all at once.

#3: Dealing with Gray

A surprisingly large percentage of the issues HR managers face are in "the gray area." Is it discrimination? Is it harassment? What’s a "reasonable" accommodation? How far over backward do you have to lean to approve intermittent leave? HR managers have to be able to act with incomplete and "best available" information, and they have to know when to seek the professional help of colleagues, attorneys, and other experts.


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#4: Negotiation

Along with the gray area comes the need to negotiate—there are often two or more opposing views, and the successful HR pro can find an acceptable middle ground. Remember, the goal of negotiation is to end up with two parties that are satisfied with the outcome, and that’s not often easy to achieve.

#5: Communication

HR professionals have to communicate up to management, over to managers, out to potential employees, and down to all levels of current employees. And, they have to do it in writing, while speaking to large and small groups and, increasingly, through social media. They have to be convincing, caring, and believable.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we reveal Schleifer and Bruce’s final four essential HR management skills.