HR Management & Compliance

Characteristics of Successful HR Managers

Filling the shoes of a successful HR manager is a tough task; after all, HR managers are responsible for keeping the company in legal compliance on an array of complex topics and keeping the peace by fairly and consistently implementing and communicating all company policies, and more. It’s a difficult and often underappreciated job that takes a lot of skill and perseverance to do well.

If your organization is looking to add HR managers, or if you’re an HR manager looking for areas you can utilize to gain a competitive edge, read on for some characteristics of successful HR managers.

Here are a few of the many characteristics an HR manager needs for success:

  • Comfort with ambiguity. In an ideal world, every HR scenario would be black and white and have an easy answer that could be universally applied. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and HR managers are tasked with interpreting the same rule, policy, or regulation as it applies to any number of differing scenarios. The answers aren’t always clear, and the HR manager needs to be able to not only cope with this ambiguity but also do so in a way that still manages to be legally compliant, fair to employees, and to uphold the organization’s goals and values. It’s no small task.
  • Excellent communication skills. Often HR managers must walk a fine line in how a new policy is communicated—communicated in such a way that preserves the integrity of the policy without compromising the organization’s goals, yet comes across as employee-friendly when appropriate, and adequately outlines how the policy will impact employees—all while managing expectations along the way. This is definitely a skill that not everyone possesses.
  • Thorough knowledge in HR law and HR management principles. This one may seem obvious enough, but it cannot be understated how important it is for an HR manager to be well versed in a wide array of HR and employment law topics. It’s also critical that this individual is simultaneously able to understand people management and how to implement regulations and company policies effectively.
  • Ability to view issues objectively. Given that HR managers are often tasked with workplace investigations and conflict resolution, the ability to view a given situation with an impartial lens is crucial. There’s no room for favoritism, discrimination, or any other form of partiality. Impartiality must then be balanced with the fact that it’s not always possible to literally treat every person the same way; context matters, too.
  • Consistent display of impeccable ethics and integrity. HR managers will often be faced with dilemmas and must be able to consistently display ethics that are not compromised, even when it means having uncomfortable conversations or even costing the company money to retain appropriate standards. Additionally, many legal standards are built around ethical obligations, such as nondiscrimination and adherence to wage laws. Yet another aspect of upholding ethics is the fact that HR managers typically have access to personal information and salary information—none of which can be compromised.
  • Remaining organized with multiple complex issues. The job of an HR manager is never simple. Whether it’s intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave administration, dealing with disciplining or terminating an employee, implementing a new policy, or ensuring the organization is in compliance with an array of legal needs, there’s no shortage of issues to contend with—sometimes all at once. The ability to stay organized and work on multiple tasks at once will allow an HR manager to be successful.

What do you think? This list is surely a starting point; what other characteristics would you deem to be critical to HR managerial success?

*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.

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