Skills Every HR Manager Needs

Do you like people? Do you like knowing confidential information? Well, that’s nice, but not what you need to be a successful HR manager. Liking people isn’t really necessary (although it can help) and really, knowing confidential information isn’t as much fun as it’s cracked up to be because you can’t talk about it.

So, if those skills aren’t they keys to success, just what are? Over at The Balance I share 10 skills that you really do need to be a successful HR manager. This is not a comprehensive list, but they are a good set. What skills did I leave off? Leave them in the comments and I’ll love you forever.

Why? Because I do like people. Honest.

To read, click here: 10 Skills Every HR Manager Needs to Succeed

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9 thoughts on “Skills Every HR Manager Needs

  1. I would also add that sometimes you need to be a good actor. When the person in the lunch line mentions buying a new house and you know she is going to be laid off, you have to be able to compartmentalize and act as if you don’t know that information since it’s not your place to tell. If an employee is on a PIP, if you know of a health condition but haven’t been the HR rep speaking with the person, etc., you have to be able to treat that employee as you would any other, as if you have no knowledge of their situation.

  2. Great article Suzanne, and I would add the ability to be radically (yet empathetically) candid with people about their strengths and areas of opportunity, no matter their level in the organization. Giving feedback to a senior leader who is behaving badly or making a bad decision is not easy, but often necessary for the health of the organization.

  3. The one thing I think should also be mentioned to anyone wanting a career in HR is that, although you need to be on good terms with other staff, the HR manager has no friends at work. Lots of interaction with staff at many different levels but you cannot show favoritism, tell secrets or talk about your job with people outside your department. And, if you’re a HR team on one, you will probably want to eat lunch alone most of the time.

  4. Agree 100% with the need for math skills.

    Some years ago I worked for a company that calculated salary increases in a unique way. The process was a bit complicated. Depending on a combination of performance, growth potential, and compa-ratio, there were 48 possible percent salary increase ranges for employees.

    Making the math work so the salary increase budget made sense required that employees’ salaries were a normal distribution within job grades. They weren’t, they were closer to a chi-square distribution. The result is that between 60% and 70% of the employees were due an above median salary increase. This result greatly exceeded the salary increase budget. Executives shrieked in dismay and the HR heads once again appeared flummoxed that the policy didn’t work as needed.

    Year after year, we managers dutifully followed the policy only to have the executives throw out the results. Much wasted time.

    While satisfying my bosses and the inflexible HR practitioners, in parallel I followed my own methodology. My bosses and the HR team invariably accepted my recommendations for salary increases without comment, and were pleased that I delivered them on time. Employees working for me seemed satisfied with their increases.

    1. Agree about the math skills. I can’t tell you how many discussions there have been about how to calculate a retention rate. Our HR Director had some bizarre method that guaranteed that the retention rate never dropped below 100%. Yep, the whole company could leave, but her special math would still show a 90% Retention Rate.

  5. I agree with Jeanne. I have seen many HR people simply be yes-people in a toxic work environment. This might be a wise career strategy for the HR person, but it lets down employees.

    Where I used to work, a senior HR person was supposed a chair a grievance meeting. A woman came, ran the meeting, wrote the report and drafted a resolution while the secretary took notes. I found out later that the woman who was taking notes of the meeting was the HR officer. The woman setting the agenda and running the process was the support person of the alleged senior workplace bully.

    Another senior HR guy at the same place had pre-written minutes and directives summarizing the outcome of the meeting before the meeting took place. IMO based on this toxic university workplace, GOOD HR people need to have the level of integrity and assertiveness to say “no” to illegal/unethical requests from management.

  6. Communication is missing. A strong vocabulary and the ability to communicate effectively to a diverse audience (i.e. culturally, levels of the org chart, etc.) has been very important in my career. As a developer and interpreter of policy HR needs the ability to craft succinct messages, anticipate and answer questions in their communications and leave little to the imagination when they write or speak especially considering messages may be delivered to an entire organization. I like individuals but not necessarily people…

  7. I don’t know if it’s considered a skill, but consistency is a critical need in HR. Consistent behavior, decision making, and actions are key to a strong HR presence.

  8. I definitely agree with the notion that an HR manager needs to have compassion. I also agree with another commenter that mentions having the guts to say no to unethical management requests. In my experience many folks are fired not because they’re bad workers, but because they crossed the wrong person. It’s inevitable, there’s a lot of at-will employment out there. The things an HR manager says during a final meeting with a fired employee can potentially be the catalyst for a lawsuit. The same can be said for unethical management decisions. HR can be a real minefield for professionals to walk through.

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