10 Crucial HR Skills and Competencies in 2024
HR skills and competencies lay the foundation in a world where HR professionals stand as the architects of organizational success. HR professionals with the right capabilities can attract top talent, foster employee engagement, drive continuous learning, and align individual aspirations with organizational goals.
- Concept of HR skills and competencies for employee engagement
- Importance of HR skills and competencies in the workplace
- 10 key HR skills and competencies and steps to improve them
- Examples of HR practice in the real world and lots more
What are HR Skills and Competencies?
HR skills and competencies encompass a broad range of essential abilities, behaviors, and knowledge. These are the foundations upon which HR professionals build their expertise.
With these organizational skills at their disposal, they have the ability to transform organizations, enhance employee engagement, and create an inclusive and forward-thinking work environment.
As per Linkedin 2022 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn members’ skills for the same occupation changed by about 25% from 2015 to 2021. At this pace, Linkedin expects members’ skills will change by about 40% by 2025.
This figure here shows a visible growth in the member skills owing to the upskilling training provided and adopted by many companies regarding Hr skills and competencies.
Importance of HR Skills and Competencies
HR skills are an important contributor to the pool of management skills required to run a successful business. They are instrumental in seamless operations between employees and management while keeping them aligned with the company’s goals.
By investing in HR skills, businesses can build high-performing teams, create a positive work environment, and ensure a sustainable talent pipeline. Today's businesses are marked by technological advancements and data-driven decision-making.
Thus, HR professionals need to embrace the power of analytics and technology. By developing competencies in HR analytics, they can leverage data to make informed decisions, identify trends, and predict future talent needs.
By prioritizing the development of HR skills and competencies, organizations can position themselves for sustainable success and navigate the complexities of the ever-evolving world of work.
Let’s look at 3 scenarios that illustrate the importance of HR skills and competencies.
A. COVID Pandemic:
HR skills are very important during times of crisis. This was one such period where HRs became the guiding light for many organizations. As businesses worldwide struggled amid the COVID pandemic, business leaders depended on human resource professionals to tackle various complex issues. These include -
- Ensuring compliance with vaccine regulations,
- Implementing hybrid work models, and
- Supporting employees' physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
- Navigating the return to the workplace,
B. The Great Resignation:
An HR professional needs to be able to track the wave their employees are following. The Great Resignation has brought forth a seismic shift in the employment landscape, underscoring the immense importance of HR skills and competencies.
A study done by Deloitte revealed that HR business partners that tracked employees' behavior were able to bend the curve of resignation and bring down the annual turnover to 9%.
C. Rise of Automation:
The rise of automation is changing the functionalities in HR management. Automation streamlines time-consuming administrative tasks, such as data entry, benefits management, and payroll processing, allowing HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives.
Automation will lead to a decline in the number of HR generalist positions. HR generalists must adapt to become more analytical. But some core skills of the HR role will always remain critical for every HR professional.
Nearly 1 in 4 organizations use automation and/or AI to support HR-related activities.
10 Must-Have HR Skills And Competencies
Great HR professionals possess the invaluable skill of balancing compassion and objectivity, enabling them to connect with employees on a human level while still upholding the best interests of the organization.
– Richard Branson
In the fast-paced world of HR, mastering a set of core HR skills and competencies is crucial for success.
These ten must-have HR skills are vital in driving organizational growth and shaping the employee experience.
From strategic thinking and effective communication to data analysis and change management, these competencies empower the human resources department to navigate complexities, attract and retain top talent, and foster a culture of innovation.
So, let's glimpse into each of these in detail.
1. Effective Communication
Communication skills are the most sought-after HR skills. HR professionals act as the bridge between the employees and the employer. They must voice the employees’ concerns while maintaining the employer's authority. Let's look at some sub-skills to understand how you can develop effective communication.
One of the core elements of effective communication is to have excellent writing skills to avoid miscommunication. For example, excellent writing helps in -
- Reducing the time wasted in back-and-forth emails and meetings
- Drafting company regulations and policies.
As an HR professional, you may not be a pro at writing. So, let’s look at some steps that can be taken to improve your writing skills.
- Read, read, and read. You must read a lot about what you want to write. Whether to write company policies, emails, reports, or job descriptions, you can learn the writing style only by reading.
- Request your company to provide a workshop session on writing. Companies can organize workshops and training sessions on various writing techniques and etiquette.
- Pay more attention to the proofreading and editing process of writing. You can use tools such as Grammarly and Hemingway to check grammar, clarity, spelling, readability, etc.
- Encourage your peers to collaborate while writing. Ask them to review your work and vice versa. You can also request an experienced peer to mentor and guide the inexperienced writers in your team.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
– Stephen R. Covey
Another important element is active listening skills. A good listening strategy can help you handle organizational issues without preconceived notions. It is a handy skill to have while conducting interviews, dealing with employee grievances, evaluating the performances of employees, and many more managerial aspects.
Let’s look at ways you can improve your active listening skills -
- Pay attention to the speaker without getting distracted by your own thoughts.
- Ask questions to clarify if you didn’t understand the speaker’s message.
- Develop empathy by putting yourself in the speaker’s shoes to understand them better.
- Pay attention to the nonverbal cues. For example, in a direct conversation, you can detect if someone is getting bored from their facial expressions and tone of voice.
Now that you know how to improve your active listening skills, let’s discuss how you, An HR, can improve your employees’ active listening skills -
- Promote a culture where employees actively listen to their peers, superiors, and subordinates.
- Provide resources such as books, articles, and podcasts on active listening.
- Conduct training sessions with practical scenarios and techniques to develop their listening skills.
Conflict resolution as a core skill is crucial for HR professionals in effectively managing and resolving conflicts that arise within the workplace.
Let’s look at some ways to improve your conflict resolution skills.
- Proactively communicate with your employees to understand the heart of the problems.
- Active listening skills can help you here to build a mutual understanding.
- Asking the right questions will help you to assess the situation and take appropriate action.
Read More: You can learn more about Conflict Resolution Skills
2. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills are soft skills that hold great value to HR professionals. These are also known as “people skills.”
They help interact, communicate, and build positive relationships. Interpersonal skills can be developed by developing the below-mentioned sub-skills.
Empathy helps an HR professional to create a safe space. A safe space is important for the employees to express their concerns and grievances. HR can better understand employees' well-being by empathizing with their emotional state. This can help to improve work-life balance and employee engagement.
As an HR, how can you develop empathy in the workplace? Let’s look at some ways.
- The first thing you should try while developing empathy is to keep an open mind. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes when encountering their issues.
- Be aware of your own biases. For example, in similar situations, you might react differently to different people.
- An open-door policy can show your employees that they work in an empathetic organization.
- Help your employees by providing resources such as books, articles, or videos that give insight into the importance of empathy in the workplace.
- Provide employees with empathetic benefits such as flexible working hours, working from home, or paid time off to demonstrate an empathetic work culture.
96% of employees say flexible working hours is the most empathetic benefit an employer can offer.
An organization should be able to depend on HR teams during times of crisis. Employers and employees depend on the Human Resources Department for many important things. Some of these are -
- To maintain fair employment practices,
- Resolve conflicts,
- Maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information, etc.
But how do you improve dependability at work?
- Be punctual. Showing up on time allows others to admire your time and encourages them to work on time management.
- Be detail-oriented while working on any project.
- Follow the company policies and encourage your employees to do the same.
Patience is a key element of success.
– Bill Gates
Patience is a virtue that every HR professional requires. It helps to handle sensitive issues within the company. An HR professional must practice patience by -
- Accept what cannot be changed and adjust your expectations accordingly. For example, expecting employees to follow a new company policy immediately will make you impatient. Instead, lower your expectations and allow them some time to adjust.
- Identify impatience triggers. Think about what makes you impatient, write down the instances when you grew impatient, and find the common themes in those instances.
- Be optimistic. Finding positivity in daily negative situations will teach you to become more patient.
Building relationships between the HR group and other departments is very critical. HR professionals who excel in relationship-building possess the ability to establish meaningful connections with employees, managers, and stakeholders at all levels of the organization.
Communication and Interpersonal skills are two crucial components in building relationships. Apart from those two skills, the sub-skills mentioned below are also some of the essential components.
Trust is the foundation for building relationships. HR professionals must be trustworthy - from handling confidential organizational information to handling employee payroll and appraisal. Also, HR should develop a work culture where employees can trust each other.
So, what measures can you take to build trust in the workplace? Let’s look at some of them -
- Harvard Business Review suggests acknowledging your coworker's emotions can improve relationships at work. Asking something as simple as “Hey, is something bothering you today?” can signal that you care enough to invest in that relationship.
- Taking accountability for your work, even when you make a mistake, can build trust.
- Be transparent while communicating. Do not hide bits of information while sharing it with your colleagues.
HR professionals must own emotional intelligence. It helps to make sound decisions.
Emotional intelligence is useful for navigating social dynamics and building strong relationships.
There are many ways to develop emotional intelligence. Let’s look at some of them -
- Be aware of your emotions. Understanding how you feel about work or your coworkers can help you to track (anger, frustration, joy, etc) emotions.
- Avoid reacting during a conflict. Instead, try to respond calmly.
- Conduct assertiveness training for employees to help them learn how and when to handle emotions in difficult situations.
- Allow employees to share their emotions. Help them to separate their emotions from their personality.
Appreciation and Recognition:
HR professionals should promote a culture of appreciation and recognition. Rewarding employee performance and teamwork helps build a cohesive, healthy work environment. However, rewarding each employee in a large organization is not an easy task.
That's where Vantage Circle, a game changer in the field of rewards and recognition solutions, steps in. The platform serves as a catalyst for enhancing employee recognition, team collaboration, and overall productivity.
HR professionals must be attentive to the worries of other departments. They should act as a binding force, keeping the departments united. Workplaces have individuals from diverse backgrounds. HR professionals must introduce inclusive policies so everyone feels welcome.
4. Adaptability skills
Adaptability in HR professionals enables them to effectively manage and support employees through times of change. They anticipate and address resistance, proactively communicate changes, and provide the necessary resources for employees to adapt and thrive.
Adaptability is not just a skill but a fundamental mindset that distinguishes exceptional HR professionals.
So, how can an HR professional improve adaptability in the workplace? Let’s look at some important sub-skils that contribute to improving adaptability.
24% of companies currently use AI for recruitment, and 56% plan to adopt AI in the coming years.
- BW People
Learning and Improving:
Learning and improving are very important factors in developing adaptability skills. Masaaki Imai, a Japanese management consultant, first introduced The Kaizen. This approach talked about continuous improvement. The same process is applicable in HR to learn and continuously improve their skills. Some ways to build a habit of learning are -
- You can maintain a “To-Learn” list. It is just like a to-do list but with a small change. Here, you can write down things you want to learn, books you wish to read, thoughts you consider worth exploring.
- Dedicate some time (an hour, a day) to learning.
- Encourage your colleagues to learn. You can share articles, ideas, news, etc., via email or on the office messaging group.
- Learn about new HR technologies. For example, tools like PathSavvy or Talent Guard are used for employee learning and development.
- You must gain academic knowledge of Human Resource Management and psychology.
HR professionals must prioritize tasks and responsibilities based on employee and organizational needs. This helps in allocating time and resources to various important projects. These projects then improve HR processes, policies, and practices. Here are some tips for prioritizing tasks at work -
- Maintain a list of all the tasks
- Identify which tasks are important and highlight them
- Sort the tasks based on urgency and importance
- You can also sort the tasks based on the effort required to complete them. This way, you can either get over with those tasks at first or keep them for last, depending on their urgency.
Resilience empowers HR professionals to effectively navigate setbacks, overcome obstacles, and maintain a positive and productive mindset amidst adversity.
Let’s have a look at some tips to boost your resilience.
- Practice compassion. Being compassionate to yourself and your colleagues can increase positivity in the workplace. This leads to increased resilience.
- A healthy work-life balance contributes toward increasing resilience
- Reset your energy by taking a break for a few minutes every 90-120 minutes of working. This increases focus and mental clarity leading to a growing capacity for resilience.
5. Technological skill
Technological skills have become integral to HR core competencies in today's digital era.
By embracing technological tools and platforms, HR professionals can optimize their operations, streamline processes, and improve the overall employee experience.
Having technological proficiency empowers HR professionals to stay ahead of the curve and drive organizational success.
The post-COVID period has presented opportunities for HR professionals to develop their technical skills while adapting to new tools for remote work and virtual collaboration. Some examples include,
- Trello and Asana for project management and team collaboration
- Slack and Microsoft Teams for messages
- Zoom and Skype for video conferencing
So, what can you do to improve your technology skills?
- Read news, articles, and blog posts about the latest HR trends and software.
- Research the tech-related media outlets that provide useful information about HR technologies. Examples include SHRM, TLNT, Spiceworks, etc.
- Keep an eye out for digital tools that make your work more efficient. For example, you can use Google Keep or Apple Notes to sync your notes between your computer and phone.
- You can arrange a training workshop to help your employees learn about the latest technologies.
A study done by Oracle revealed that 50% of workers currently use some form of AI at work, compared to 32% the previous year, with workers in some countries adopting AI over 2x more than others.
6. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is an important skill for HR professionals. It allows you to analyze and evaluate information, situations, and problems to make informed decisions.
It involves employing logical reasoning, sound judgment, and evidence-based evaluation to assess complex issues and arrive at well-reasoned conclusions.
Critical thinking helps to build analytical expertise by breaking down complex situations. It also helps to split information into smaller components that are easy to navigate.
Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.
– Dr. Linda Elder, Foundation for Critical Thinking
Below are some strategies for HR professionals to develop and strengthen their critical thinking skills -
- Active listening skills can come in handy while developing critical thinking. Pay close attention to what someone is saying and ask relevant questions to understand their point of view.
- Verify the sources of information whenever you are gathering information for your work. Check whether the information is upto date and has come from a trustworthy source.
- Introduce HR professionals to decision-making frameworks such as SWOT analysis, cost-benefit analysis, or the 5 Whys technique.
- For better critical thinking, introduce the Paul-Elder Critical Thinking Framework at work.
These frameworks provide a structured approach to problem-solving and aid in critical thinking by considering multiple factors, assessing risks, and weighing potential outcomes.
7. Analytical and Reporting skills
Data has become the new currency in the business world. So, the functions of HR have also adopted the data-driven decision-making process. Merely gathering the data is not enough to create an effective report. HR professionals with strong analytical skills possess the ability to interpret and analyze data accurately, extracting meaningful insights that drive strategic decision-making.
Let’s look at some sub-skills to improve your analytical and reporting skills.
Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.
– Robert Collier
HR professionals must be able to visualize the data to make it easy to understand. Visualization can be in the form of Pivot tables, Line graphs, Bar charts, Pie diagrams, etc.
Expand your knowledge on the topic or data you are trying to visualize. Do the necessary research, and ask your colleague to mentor you if necessary. You can opt for an online data analytics course like CareerFoundry or Springboard.
Additionally, HR professionals also must have business acumen. Understanding how the business functions and makes money is crucial. It allows for making tailored reports and decisions that affect the business.
So, how do you improve your business acumen? Here are some tips -
- Understand the business model of the company you are working for.
- Know your target customers and how the HR department can help the company to serve them.
- Observe how different departments function within the company.
- Take an online business class to expand your knowledge of different functions of business.
Once you have a decent understanding of analytics, practice analytical thinking by considering opposing viewpoints, looking at data from different angles, and coming to a conclusion based on the data.
There are some fun ways of practicing analytical thinking -
- Playing games like chess and sudoku can help you to look at situations from different angles
- Reading mystery novels can help you visualize relationships between variables
- Solving logic puzzles helps you to engage with your analytical hat for a longer period without losing focus.
8. Diversity & Inclusion
The 2018 Gallup Report describes 'diversity' as the “full spectrum of human differences.” It encompasses the distinct characteristics of individuals. Examples include gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, age, ethnicity, race, geographical location, culture, socioeconomic status, physical abilities, and more.
Diversity and inclusion form a major part of organizational culture. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, you create an environment that values and embraces your workforce's unique experiences and perspectives. This attracts top talent and fosters innovation, collaboration, and creativity.
However, the major challenge in diversity and inclusion in the workplace is overcoming systemic biases and creating an inclusive environment where individuals from all backgrounds feel valued, respected and have equal opportunities for growth and advancement.
Creating an all-inclusive diversified workforce is, however, a challenge. To tackle these challenges, organizations must
- Implement diversity and inclusion training programs for all employees.
- Review and revise recruitment and hiring practices to ensure diverse candidate pools.
- Foster inclusive leadership by promoting diverse individuals into leadership positions.
- Make employees feel included. For instance, accepting and celebrating employees’ religious beliefs can make them feel included.
- Introduce the Diversity & Inclusion Officer role in the Human Resources Department to specifically focus on implementing the D&I policies and practices.
Related Article: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace: A Complete Guide
9. Legal and Ethical Skills
A grasp of labor laws, regulations, and compliance requirements is essential for HR professionals. Those with extensive legal knowledge play a vital role in ensuring that organizational practices conform to legal obligations and effectively reduce potential legal risks.
AIHR’s study revealed that ethics and privacy concerns jeopardize 81% of people analytics projects.
Another study revealed that 41% of U.S. workers observed unethical or illegal misconduct on the job.
Reasons like this make legal and ethical compliance essential for an organization.
Example of HR Compliance Gone Wrong: Uber 2017 Scandal
Uber faced several legal challenges in 2017. These were related to workplace culture and employee relations. There were allegations that the company fostered a toxic work environment. This enabled harassment and discrimination against female employees.
Susan Fowler, who used to work as an engineer at Uber, reported a case of sexual harassment to the HR department. She complained about her team manager's behavior. But the department ignored her complaint. She found that the department wouldn’t give the offender anything but a warning.
The HR department gave her two options.
(i) Either move to a different team where her work experience and projects may not match or
(ii) Stay in the same team with the same manager and probably receive a lower performance rating.
They even told her they would ignore her retaliation against a lower performance rating.
This was a clear case of the HR department lacking legal and ethical knowledge. Later Susan Fowler published a blog narrating her story. Soon, several other scandals came to light resulting in the resignation of Uber’s CEO.
As an HR professional, you wouldn’t want negligence of legal and ethical compliance within your organization. So, what can you do as an HR professional to improve legal and ethical skills at the workplace?
- The first and wisest thing would be to read and expand your knowledge on HR legal and ethical compliance required in an organization. You can encourage your team to do the same.
- Keep an eye out for the changes in laws and regulations applicable to your company.
- Regular HR audits can help in identifying the gaps in policies. These gaps can be fixed by implementing compliance programs that monitor adherence to legal and ethical standards.
- Implement a code of conduct in the organization that expects certain standards of behavior from their employees.
The penalties for breaching European Union’s GDPR can be very strict. According to the law, “companies who fall foul of the regulation and are found to be misusing personal information face stiff fines of up to €20m or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is the greater of the two.
10. Advising and Coaching
HR leaders must be competent to empower employees through coaching. They can guide employees in handling tough conversations with their colleagues and managers. Additionally, HR leaders can foster a positive work environment. This helps in creating a supportive and encouraging atmosphere for everyone involved.
54% of the organizations with a strong coaching culture are also classified as high-performing.
-Human Capital Institute
HR can develop a coaching culture to help employees grow personally and professionally. During these coaching sessions, employees receive guidance on
- Setting goals: Guide employees in setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals. You should discuss their short-term and long-term objectives. Also, ensure their personal aspirations and the organization's vision are aligned.
- Mapping their career path: Have a discussion with your employees about their career aspirations. Help them assess their strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities for improvement.
- Developing new skills: Help your employees develop new skills that complement their career aspirations as well as support their current work responsibilities.
- Performance management: Discuss performance goals, and provide feedback to enhance your employees’ performance.
- Succession planning: Work closely with the talent management team to identify potential candidates for leadership positions in the company. Then guide those candidates towards the positions that align with their aspirations and development plans.
HR skills and competencies are the superpowers that empower professionals in the field to thrive. HR practitioners become catalysts for positive organizational change by mastering effective communication, adaptability, technological prowess, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Not only do these skills enhance relationships, streamline processes, and embrace innovation, but they also create an environment where everyone feels valued and included.
To create such an inclusive and engaging environment, you can use Vantage Circle’s employee engagement platforms. These platforms allow you to analyze your employees’ concerns, address their well-being, reward their performance, and many more factors that help to engage them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What are some essential HR skills?
Some essential HR skills include communication skills, interpersonal skills, analytical skills, legal and ethical skills, etc.
2. Why are communication skills important in HR?
HR professionals with strong communication skills convey ideas, policies, and initiatives effectively, ensuring alignment and engagement throughout the organization.
3. How can HR professionals develop their skills and competencies?
HR professionals can develop their skills by continuously learning and developing new HRM technologies and worldwide trends. They also must gain academic knowledge of Human Resource Management and psychology.
4. How can HR professionals demonstrate their skills and competencies?
HR professionals can demonstrate their skills and competencies by showcasing successful HR projects, retaining top talent, training employees, and mitigating risks by ensuring legal compliance.
5. What are the key responsibilities of HR professionals in terms of legal and ethical compliance?
HR professionals play a vital role in developing and implementing policies and procedures that adhere to legal requirements, promoting ethical behavior, and handling employee concerns or grievances fairly and unbiasedly.