Are you starting out in HR or transitioning into it from another area of specialisation? Whichever the case, you’ll want to think carefully about how to prepare yourself to be effective in the field.
Tons of books and articles will provide you with specialised tips you’ll need to effectively carry out HR functions. Before you get into that level of nitty-gritty, take a moment to zoom out and understand the broader skills you need to develop to succeed in HR.
Look at the five clusters grouped together here to consider where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Do you come from a marketing background, but you haven’t devoted time to developing your interpersonal skills? Strategically plan how you can augment your skills in your weakest areas.
Here are the five clusters of skills you’ll want to hone to move into HR:
Moving into an HR career requires a thorough grasp of effective people practices. Do you know how to successfully resolve conflict? Can you provide an employee with constructive feedback? How strong are your negotiation skills?
Working in HR means you’ll need to be able to work with people in volatile emotional spaces as you carry out HR functions such as hiring, firing, recruiting and promoting.
As much as you can ready yourself for a situation like a strike or a lockout by studying the procedural do’s and don’ts, only strong interpersonal skills can prepare you to deal with the emotions of your colleagues in that scenario.
Key takeaway: Even though they’re called “soft skills” it’s these interpersonal competencies that will determine how effective you are in HR.
Analytical and strategic skills
As much as you’ll be dealing with interpersonal issues, you’ll need to engage your critical thinking abilities. A core responsibility of the HR department is finding solutions to business problems based on the resources you have on hand: the people that make up the organisation.
To help your company achieve its goals, you’ll need to consider how the staff can be best deployed to align their personal goals with the businesses long-term objectives. This is a highly analytical task because you’ll need to research and comprehend your company’s current and potential skills’ gaps, trends in the workplace, and forecast your company’s needs as it evolves.
Once you have a clear picture of the lay of the land, you’ll need to define a strategy that can be realistically implemented, taking into account factors like time and budgetary constraints. As you construct this strategy, you’ll need to plan how you can measure the results of your scheme so that you can demonstrate to your company that your strategy worked.
Key takeaway: HR demands a high level of analytical and strategic thought.
Marketing and branding
Have you ever seen those lists that come out every year profiling the best companies to work for? Many people base their decision to pursue a career in an organisation based on such profiles.
As a result, companies focus more and more on how they are perceived to potential employees, in a similar fashion to how brands endeavour to position themselves in the mind of the consumer.
To attract top talent, businesses must market themselves to indicate why they’re a desirable place to work. Most companies have a marketing department that will assist with communicating your company’s brand, but it’s the HR department that articulates the ethos, culture and vision of the organisation.
Leadership doesn’t just mean being in charge; it also refers to personal leadership. To move into an HR career and succeed, consider the ways in which you’ll approach your personal leadership goals.
Have you articulated your goals so that you can channel your efforts in a direction that works toward accomplishing those goals? How can you use your unique talents in a way that benefits both your career and your life?
These may sound like highly personal questions that have nothing to do with your work. On the contrary, once you’ve figured out the answers to these questions you can align your actions with your vision, making you more effective in the corporate world.
Develop a horizontal view
HR departments are not islands. More so than most other areas of a business, HR needs to have a global understanding of how the different arms of the company function together.
It’s easy to become embroiled in the day-to-day details of working in HR but to be effective you’ll need to master the ability to take a step back and observe the business from a distance, with a bird’s eye view.
This cross-sectional view enables HR to make recommendations and implement strategies that ensure the well-functioning of the business.
Ready to take the next step in your HR career?
HR is increasingly a core business function with people moving into the field without HR qualifications. Consider the five clusters outlined above, identify your weak areas and then seek to strengthen those skills.
If you’re still unsure how you can strategically move forward in HR, take a look at some of the courses you can study that’ll put you ahead of the pack.