14 Crucial HR Skills & Competencies

Home » Resources » HR SkillsUpdated: July 15, 2021

You found our list of top HR skills & competencies.

HR skills are capabilities that help human resource professionals carry out key responsibilities. Examples of human resource competencies include interpersonal skills, recruiting, and effective communication.

Reading HR books, recruiting books and change management books can help professionals develop these skills.

This list includes:

  • HR soft skills
  • Resource management skills
  • HR supervisor skills
  • HR core competencies

Here is everything you need to know.

List of HR skills & competencies

From emotional intelligence to conflict resolution, here is a list of key competencies for human resource professionals.

HR Skills Infographic

1. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the most important HR soft skills. After all, the first part of human resources is “human.” The bulk of a human resource officer’s job is interacting with employees. Often, HR staff are the first company representatives potential employees meet during the hiring process, and making a positive impression is important. The department serves as a voice for the organization and an employee advocate. They greatly influence the company culture, and can help employees feel safe and welcome within the organization.

Human resources should be professional, yet approachable. These individuals should be able to chat with coworkers about non-work topics while not prying too far into colleagues’ personal lives. HR professionals should show genuine interest and concern for colleagues and build rapport. Interacting with staff is a major part of the job, so HR employees should possess strong social skills.

2. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, or the ability to accurately identify and respond to emotions, is one of the most valuable HR competencies. Exercising a high EQ enables HR professionals to better understand and bond with employees. Recognizing and acknowledging feelings and experiences often earns HR staff the trust and cooperation of colleagues.

Not to mention, workers are often hesitant to admit their true feelings, or may not even be self-aware enough to recognize them. An emotionally-savvy HR professional can pinpoint the emotional drivers behind behaviors and get to the root of the issue quickly. Also, emotional intelligence makes professionals more mindful of their own reactions and feelings, and helps them respond to situations more level-headedly.

HR teammates can use online personality tests to get a baseline reading of their emotional intelligence.

3. Confidentiality

Maintaining confidentiality is one of the most important HR skills. The human resources department is privy to sensitive information like employees’ personal records and details, performance evaluations, and payroll information. Employees sometimes confide personal issues such as medical problems, family disputes, or unstable living situations. Plus, HR is often the first department to know about major organizational changes.

Most conversations that occur in the HR department are private and should stay private. Guarding secrets builds trust and confidence, enabling human resource officers to continue serving their organizations effectively.

4. Active listening

The HR department are the ears of the organization. Human resources hears employees’ questions, and concerns. These team members solicit feedback from staff through employee engagement surveys. When personal or professional problems arise, teammates seek HR’s council.

There are two main reasons human resource staff should employ active listening. First, HR often needs to document conversations, and paying close attention helps them write detailed reports. Second, the practice makes employees feel heard and valued. Workers will respect HR more if they feel that human resource officers care about their problems.

Being fully present in the conversation can also help human resource staff pick up on nonverbal cues. By reading between the lines of a conversation, HR pros can more quickly diagnose and treat problems.

5. Event organizing

Since HR professionals tend to be in charge of employee engagement campaigns, event organizing skills come in handy. Human resources plans company programming such as:

  • Holiday parties
  • Onboarding
  • Trainings
  • Lunch and learns
  • Health fairs
  • Team building activities and outings
  • Company retreats
  • Staff appreciation days
  • Recruitment fairs

HR should know how to organize vendors and materials, design a schedule, build buzz and solicit signups, and run the show. Proactive event planners also gather feedback from staff post-event and use the information to improve the process.

You can use event management software to assist you.

6. Recruiting

Recruiting is a specific skill set, not just a job. HR professionals know how to write compelling job postings, attract and screen qualified candidates, conduct interviews, and make hiring decisions. Good recruiters collaborate with the hiring department to create solid hiring criteria. These individuals build pools of promising applicants by leveraging social media, company events, and referral networks. HR professionals know how to use tools like applicant tracking systems and understand hiring best practices. These individuals have honed timing down to a perfect science. The best HR managers know how to pace the interview process and when to extend an offer. Talented recruiters know how to evaluate candidates on multiple levels such as technical prowess, attitude, and culture fit.

You can use applicant tracking systems to assist the process.

7. Conflict resolution

One of human resource’s main functions is to resolve company disputes. The department often mediates arguments between teammates. HR’s responsibility is to give employees a safe space to work through issues and to help staff find workable fixes. The human resources crew should know how to de-escalate tension, encourage active listening, steer the conversation towards solutions, and negotiate compromise. HR fosters dialogue and gives each party ample time to explain their case. Effective mediators stay alert for underlying causes of disagreement and explore those points as they arise.

8. Communication

Communication skills are one of the HR core competencies. Human resources speaks to every member of the organization. These individuals take part in the interview process and welcome employees during orientation. HR professionals send mass emails about health insurance enrolment, cultural events, and wellness initiatives. These team members answer questions and mediate conflicts. Human resources also gives presentations and workshops. Having good conversational, public speaking, and written communication skills is key. HR professionals should know how to communicate professionally with empathy and warmth.

9. Objectivity and critical thinking

Workplace conflicts cause strong emotions, especially when threats to livelihoods are present. The involved parties usually feel justified in their actions, and both will claim that they are right. As humans, we are all subject to assumptions, biases, and feelings. In fairness to all employees and the organization, human resource professionals must overcome these urges. It is important not to jump to conclusions, and to make judgments based on evidence rather than claims. Human resources should present a neutral front and avoid projecting any hints of favoritism.

Objectivity and critical thinking are one of the most important HR supervisor skills. Directors must often make tough decisions, such as disciplining employees or creating company wide policies. The HR officer’s duty is to remain calm, think clearly, and approach the problem from a solution-oriented standpoint. This team member’s decisions happen on a macro level, and they must consider multiple perspectives and factors and imagine long-reaching consequences.

10. Analytical capabilities

When thinking of careers that crunch numbers and study data, human resources probably ranks low on most folks’ lists. Actually, HR has many analytical components. The ability to collect and analyze data is one of the most important resource management skills. HR needs to anticipate hiring needs, monitor employee attribution, and develop employee retention strategies. HR managers need to strike a balance between staffing needs and budgets. Also, human resources should be able to measure employee engagement and optimize organizational performance. All of these tasks require the ability to gather and interpret information.

There are many metrics HR staff can use to measure the health of their organization and the results of their efforts. However, these tools are only useful if HR has the know-how to read and react to the data.

11. Research and continued learning

The human resources industry involves various laws and best practices. These regulations and standards change as corporate culture and society evolve. HR staff who want to remain at the top of their field must have research skills and the desire to keep learning. Human resource professionals of all levels should keep updated on industry trends and shifting regulations. As leaders, it is especially important for human resource managers and officers to stay informed. Keeping current with industry knowledge helps HR professionals manage compliance and better serve their organizations.

12. Team building skills

Human resource folks are connectors. These individuals foster workplace friendships by planning fun socials and bring different departments together by hosting company wide events. The human resource department is responsible for company culture and unity. To achieve these goals, HR professionals must have great team building skills. HR has the task of transforming employees into teammates. When planning events, HR encourages interaction and teamwork. These team members know how to navigate conflicts and create accepting and empowering environments.

While department and project managers oversee individual teams, HR has the role of making the entire company feel like teammates. Not to mention, HR often coaches managers in the art of team building. Supervisors might be knowledgeable in their areas, but new to team management. HR are experts that can teach leaders the skills needed to form and guide strong teams.

For more information, check out our guide to team building skills and this one with tips for team building.

13. Administrative skills

HR is an administrative-heavy job. The HR department is responsible for collecting and storing vital employee information such as contact information, social security numbers, banking information, health insurance information, payroll data, and performance reviews. Not to mention, there are many compliance requirements departments must meet. Human resource management requires good organizational and filing skills and data entry and management skills. Precise records prevent delays and discrepancies that inconvenience employees. Maintaining accurate systems helps the company function smoothly and avoid penalties or fines.

14. Technical skills

Technical skills are increasingly important for HR managers. You may need to use online communication platforms, or tools for tracking employee performance or engagement. The best way to learn technology is to actually use it.

Here is a list of common HR software tools.

Conclusion

Most HR jobs ask for a degree in a related field. However, a human resources degree is not the only requirement for performing the role effectively. Human resource professionals also need a special set of skills to excel in their roles. By honing these abilities, HR professionals can better serve organizations and employees. While these traits come naturally to some folks, skills are buildable and there is room for continual improvement.

Next, see our similar list of executive assistant skills.

We also have a list of human resource outsourcing companies.

FAQ: HR skills & competencies

Here are answers to common questions about HR skills and competencies.

What are HR skills and competencies?

HR skills and competencies are capabilities that enable human resources professionals to complete their duties effectively. Examples of HR abilities include active listening, event organizing, objectivity, and team building skills.

What are the top HR competencies?

The top HR competencies include interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, communication, and administrative skills.

What are the HR skills of the future?

HR automation and software are becoming more commonplace, and technical skills are in high demand. At the same time, while HR is more digital, empathy is still important. Among calls for better diversity and inclusion at work, the ability to consider and reconcile differing perspectives will be a valuable commodity in the HR field in coming years.

How can I improve my human resources skills?

On-the-job experience is the surest way of developing human resources skills. As you navigate day-to-day responsibilities, you will grow more confident and adept. Other means of improving HR areas include taking courses, reading books and articles, using HR tools and software, and practicing conversational skills with coworkers, family, and friends.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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