Effective Human Resource departments are not necessarily noticed when operations go well. Some of the best HR managers can influence corporate culture without having a direct hand in the daily goings-on.
That doesn’t mean that HR managers and personnel aren’t involved; it simply means their positive influence can be hard to observe. They have a lot to do with a company culture that develops within an organization. Certainly, when things go wrong, and HR teams need to stand up and take charge, you see and hear from them constantly.
The unfortunate part is that HR is incredibly vital to all businesses, but many regard it as the opposite—unnecessary. HR teams have their hand in a lot of duties, including budget control, employee satisfaction and benefits, training and development, conflict resolution, and performance improvement and promotions.
HR handles most internal employee-centric activities, which help to ensure people behind the scenes are happy, healthy, and productive.
It helps to know some of the more important traits successful HR managers have, as it lends credence to the fact they are needed within any business operation. Here are three things the best HR managers have in common.
1. They Function as ‘Connectors’ in Their Teams
“Connector managers provide targeted feedback when appropriate, and they focus on connecting their direct reports to other individuals on their teams or across the organization who have needed expertise and experience for development. Most importantly, they realize that they are not always the best source for coaching and feedback across all skills and needs.”
Wilde says Connector managers generally possess these five important traits:
- Connectors are curious about people and ideas.
- Connectors act with courage in challenging situations.
- Connectors are transparent and self-aware.
- Connectors are diverse learners—they seek learning from any source.
- Connectors are judiciously generous—they share power, credit, information, beliefs, and time.
It’s important, Wilde says, that HR managers have these skills so that they can expand upon the capabilities of what the HR department can do.
“[HR managers] must realize that all of the skills their teams need now—and in the future—may not always exist within the HR function” she says. “They must be transparent about their own strengths and development areas and be willing to connect their teams to others across the organization. For example, one of our HR clients connected his team with individuals in the business analytics function, in an effort to improve HR’s skills in data management and analytics.”
Vibhas Ratanjee, a senior practice expert at Gallup, has a similar view of this personality trait through what he calls “boundary spanning.”
“Great HR managers are boundary spanning,” Ratanjee says. “They don’t just remain within the confines of their functional responsibilities. They are always thinking about how the focus on people and talent can advance the organization’s business agenda. They are always working to elevate the strategic importance of talent, advising business leaders to make the right strategic choices around talent deployment, long term succession planning quality and business growth.”
If you want to be a good HR manager then, it seems one of the best personality traits you can develop is the willingness to span boundaries and connect individuals to other experts and resources that can deliver the best results.
2. They Don’t Marginalize
The best HR teams do not use racial or ethnic slurs, make gender-based judgments, nor speak about generational myths. Why not?
You would be wasting time believing certain myths and rumors and you would be alienating a large part of the potential talent pool. Thinking that all Millennials are lazy and unmotivated, for example, cuts you off from a huge swath of the current workforce. The same is true if you avoid hiring women simply because you regard them as flighty or disloyal.
A good HR department helps fight these kinds of myths and judgments, ensuring that a workforce is diverse and filled with incredibly talented individuals from all walks of life.
Matthew Griffith, Creative Content Manager for Rewards Network, said it best.
“An easy rule of thumb: if you can swap out “Millennial” in any of these statements for the name of another marginalized group and it sounds bad, don’t say it. Also, be aware, whether you realize it or not, many Millennial stereotypes are specifically aimed at young women (being flighty, taking selfies, being into frivolous trends). This kind of generalization can easily overlap with (or lead to) sexist or harassing behavior among your staff, if not careful.”
3. They Use Innovative Hiring Techniques
In today’s landscape, a business needs to stand out and that happens by sourcing incredibly talented and dedicated team members. That’s a tough thing to discern, though, without working with people directly. You can’t predict if new hires will take to their job and perform their duties as expected.
But the best HR managers can help eliminate such problems; in fact, that’s a large part of what they do when sourcing talent and coming up with training strategies. All HR managers are different, but the one thing they all share in this department is their unique yet successful way of vetting potential talent.
One might deliver a skills assessment, and another might come up with a proprietary test of their own. Further still, they might incorporate a training and development regimen that helps look for a candidate’s top qualities to weed out the less serious candidates.
Disrupting, or taking innovative approaches, is another trait that Gallup’s Ratanjee believes many of the best HR managers do possess.
“Great HR managers are disruptors,” he says. “They are constantly challenging the traditional ideas and norms of what employee development should look like. They are constantly looking at picking up the pace on HR processes and systems which are conventionally seen as slow paced. They are comfortable with analytics and use workforce analytics and advise to drive seed, performance and innovation.”
Kayla Matthews, a technology journalist and human resources writer, has written for TalentCulture, The Muse, HR Technologist, Inc.com and more. For more by Matthews, follow @KaylaEMatthews on Twitter or visit her blog, Productivity Bytes.
In part 2 of this article we’ll look at three more things that great HR managers have in common.