I was interviewed the other day as an HR “expert.” Naturally I was flattered; I am a sucker for an ego play. They wanted to talk about what it is like to be an HR Professional and what does it take to get there. They asked a number of questions, and I talked for almost 45 minutes on a variety of questions. But, one stuck with me and that was the area of “skills” that go beyond HR knowledge and needed to be a great HR professional.
The Top Five Skills Necessary for the Successful HR Professional
Number 1: Speaking Ability
The ability to speak in front of a crowd is a key HR skill for a successful HR Professional. In fact this skill can probably do more for you career than almost any other. To be able to make a presentation or speech with confidence and minus all the “ums” and “likes” and “ers” will set you heads above the others around you. It is well worth time, money and effort to learn how to do it well. Even the ones who are good at it realize that time needs to be put into the craft of making a good presentation. So get yourself to a Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie or some other professional coach and learn how to do this well and in turn you boost your personal marketability in an HR Career.
Number 2: Reading people
The ability to “read” people is another key HR skill. Most of us who have been around have developed an ability to read people. We acquire the ability to sense if someone is lying to us or trying to hoodwink us. We have a feel for “body language” and what it may be telling us about attitudes. This, however, is something we can all get better at with training. You can learn to notice and understand some universal expressions, postures and micro-expressions that reveal subtleties about an individual that will then allow you to better understand how to deal with them.
Number 3: Backbone
The ability to have a “backbone” and not be intimidated is a key trait. Too often HR professionals are seen as being weak because they back down when intimidated by a controlling manager or executive. A “backbone” comes from the strength of your convictions and the strength of your knowledge of your “craft.” The more knowledgeable you are the more confident you will be in your encounters with managers. With that knowledge comes strength. Although age plays a factor it is not sufficient. I have known my fair share of weak HR managers who have been well into their 50s.
Number 4: Empathy
Empathy is the fourth soft skill I consider key to being an HR professional. Without the ability to see another point of view or to understand the nuances of a situation you will be robbed of the ability to make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time.
Number 5: Listening
The HR skill that I consider the last of my list is “listening.” You must have the ability to put aside you agenda and to listen and “hear” what someone is saying and how they are saying it. You must be able to make the person understand that you have heard what they are trying to say in addition. Generally this requires a focused mind and a disengaged mouth.
Being in HR and doing it well is a tough job. To be a true HR Professional you must have the foresight of Nostradamus, the vision of Issac Asimov, the wisdom of Solomon, the courage of David, the speaking ability of Cicero and the brashness of Theodore Roosevelt. Piece of cake!
What “HR skill” would you add to my list? Please make a comment below.
Tagged as: career in Human Resources, how to work in Human Resources, HR, HR Career, HR profesional, HR professional, HR Skills, human resources, Human Resources Training, Human Resources Training and Development, Mike Haberman, public speaking, Successful HR
Article by Mike Haberman
Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, writer, speaker and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. He has been in the field of HR for 30 years as both practitioner and consultant. He specializes in compliance issues for his small business clients. He is the author of the blog HR Observations which can be found at www.omegahrsolutions.com and he has been writing blog posts on a full spectrum of HR topics for almost seven years. He is an active user of Twitter and can be found at @mikehaberman or @HRComplianceGuy. He has been an instructor in HR for 14 years and has helped many people achieve their PHR or SPHR during that time.
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