As an HR manager, you’ll be many things to many people. Keeper of records and secrets. Translator of cold and distant (and important to be followed) policies. Easer of tensions among employees and between leadership and their reports. You’ll be a safe place for team members to discuss concerns and voice complaints; a beacon who attracts the best and brightest to your organization. And when changes need to happen to attract the best and brightest or to keep them happier for longer periods of time, you’ll be the messenger of change.
Hone Your Communications Skills
To wear these hats with grace and charisma, you’ll need some serious communications skills. You need to be eloquent and concise, an active listener and a persuasive speaker. And, you need to be a part of the family that is your organization—if it bears no resemblance to a functional family, note that you must add that to your goals.
Pay attention to public speakers who inspire and engage you, whether it’s a keynote speaker at a conference, a religious speaker, or someone doing a Ted Talk. Take notes on what they do, and practice doing it, too. If you live in a metropolitan area, there’s a solid chance that you can regularly attend Toastmasters meetings, which can give you some low-pressure practice and exposure to public speaking.
Communication isn’t just about speaking, though—something we hinted at above. You want people to speak to you, and to keep the lines open, they need to feel that they are being heard. Learning and practicing active listening skills is an invaluable tool for executing an effective open-door policy and creating a safe and harmonious work environment that also promotes productivity and progress.
Know Your Resources for Continued Learning
The workplace is constantly evolving, and with that, the necessary skill set of an HR manager. You’ll need to be the expert in employment laws, so sign up for the e-newsletters, attend continuing education seminars, join your professional organizations—do all the things to make sure you’re staying abreast of changing legislation.
But, of course, change doesn’t end there. If you can become a key player in keeping your company relevant and competitive, you’ll be an invaluable resource. You’ll want to be out front of recruiting and applicant management trends and on the cutting edge of workplace environment shifts so that you can keep processes and work products lean and mean. By “lean and mean,” we mean that we want you to be efficient and single-minded in your objectives.
Buy Comfy Work Shoes
OK, we’re not really going to tell you what kind of shoes to buy. But you need to be prepared to walk. A truly effective HR manager gets out of the office. Yes, you’ll have lots of data and paperwork to handle, but with your tech savviness, you will have processes to make that more efficient so that you can mix and mingle with the rest of the team. Traditional HR managers can sometimes be thought of as just the policy person, the one who explains the rules to people who have broken them.
You don’t want to be the principal who’s calling kids down to the office. Instead, go where the employees and the leaders are working so that you can (a) stay out in front of problems and be proactive regarding policy, instead of being the “uh-oh” person; (b) keep those walls from being built between you and everyone else (see Michael Scott’s opinions on Toby); and (c) take opportunities to share your ideas and experiences in your role. You’ll likely find a much clearer path to your goals in the future because you’ll be that much closer to having the crew on board.
Get Tech Savvy
It’s highly (read: 100%) likely you know someone whose job is wholly unsatisfying because he or she spends most of the time buried in paperwork and data, leaving very little opportunity to practice the more rewarding aspects of the role. Let that be motivation for you to get technology on your side. Be aware of the resources out there, and as you learn more about the processes currently in place at your company, be smart about utilizing software to streamline clunky systems, pare down time doing paperwork, and organize a large and constant stream of data.
And you don’t have to tackle this on your own. Sometimes you won’t know the best way to implement technology to solve your problems. Put on your comfy shoes and get out of your office, find the IT department or another member of management, and kill two proverbial birds with one stone—you’re building bridges and solving problems.
Study the Company
To know what you want to bring to your role as HR manager, you must know what you need to bring. Beforehand, and as you enter into your HR position, research the answer to these questions about the organization:
- What are the company’s mission, vision (goals fall under this umbrella), and values?
- What has employee retention looked like in recent years?
- What would an accurate Employee Value Proposition (EVP) look like?
- How is the company’s work environment and morale?
- What is the financial bandwidth of the company as it relates to employee recruitment and pay, work environment, and return on HR investments in general?
The answers to these questions will largely shape your daily objectives and long-term goals as the HR manager. Research them before the interview, ask for more details in the interview, and seek to learn more and, if needed, to change the future answers to those questions as an effective HR manager. Remember, you’ve trained for this.
Kristen Cherry is a freelance writer from Nashville, Tennessee. When not writing business, education, or parenting-related content, she can be found writing songs (because Nashville) and teaching her three daughters to learn and attempt new things daily.