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HR skills: top skills for 2020

There are numerous roles within the HR field, ranging from HR Administrators to HR Directors, but all of them require the same core set of HR skills in order to succeed. We review the top skills that those currently working in HR as well as those aspiring to join the field should look to possess and hone in 2020 and beyond.


Communication skills

At the very core of any HR role is the need to be an effective communicator. HR professionals spend a great deal of their time meeting, emailing and calling colleagues and executives within their business, as well as drawing up company policies and employee contracts, amongst other material. It’s therefore highly important that you possess strong verbal and written communication skills in order to come across in a professional, concise and informative manner. Furthermore, HR professionals are often required to present to company stakeholders and should therefore possess strong presentation preparation and delivery skills. HR team members must be great listeners and demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence in order to support colleagues and executives with any people-related issues and concerns they might have. Strong problem solving and mediation skills are therefore also a must, particularly when dealing with conflict management, salary negotiations and grievances. Empathy and compassion are traits that are frequently required within any HR role when supporting employees. More senior HR professionals should possess advocacy skills in order to garner support and gain buy-in at Board and executive level. Ideally, they should also be comfortable coaching their business leaders.

How you can improve your communication skills

  • Be aware of other effective communicators and how they approach certain situations e.g. sales people and their influencing/negotiating skills and marketing professionals and effective written/visual communication.
  • Build up a network of other HR professionals through attending relevant HR events/seminars or connecting with them on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Share best practice and case studies on effective communication.
  • Ensure you’re communicating with a diverse range of people, both in your personal and professional life, in one-on-one situations and well as small and large groups. This will allow you to build up a repertoire of different communication techniques depending on the individual(s) you are communicating with.
  • Pay attention to body language including facial expressions, gestures and eye contact and match these up with the person’s tone of voice, language and the context of the conversation to piece together how they may be feeling.
  • Sign up for training sessions and courses that specialise in how to improve your negotiation, conflict management and presentation skills.


Organisation skills

An HR professional has a myriad of different tasks to perform within any given day and it’s important that they are able to prioritise and turn their attention to more pressing matters if needs be. Having a client-focussed approach to work, coupled with an ability to deliver will ensure that those working in HR give company stakeholders the best support and advice that they can. Organisation is therefore a key HR skill that any HR professional must possess in order to draw up employment contracts, manage payroll and insurance plans as well as meet deadlines, comply with relevant regulations, manage employee records, meet with colleagues and executives and set up onboarding and training and development sessions. HR professionals often deal with materials and situations that cannot be overlooked or forgotten and it’s therefore key that they are able to make use of organisational tools and techniques. Working environments are ever-changing and therefore HR professionals must be capable and willing to deal with change as and when it occurs. Resilience and resourcefulness are needed in abundance to manage and maximise the potential coming out of these changes.

How you can improve your organisational skills

  • Use time management and organisational tools like TrelloEvernote and Wunderlist. These can ensure that you don’t lose track of tasks that need to be addressed and make it easier to prioritise so you don’t lose sight of what’s most important or pressing.
  • Use HR management software to help streamline administrative processes as much as possible as well as applicant tracking systems to collect and sort CVs for internal roles.
  • Use a calendar that is accessible to those within your company to schedule appointments and meetings, such as Google Calendar or Outlook.


Teamwork and collaboration skills

A crucial HR skill is the ability to work as part of a team and collaborate with colleagues across a wide range of departments. HR professionals work alongside other hiring managers within a company to attract, choose and retain candidates for numerous roles. They also work with executives and senior team members to instigate and carry through change within the business, be it new processes or more radical cultural changes. HR professionals will work alongside finance teams for payroll purposes, IT teams to implement new HR software and processes and marketing teams to build an employer brand, amongst others. Within an HR team itself there will also be a need for frequent collaboration on a range of tasks and day-to-day activities. Whilst teamworking skills are essential, HR professionals must also be prepared to challenge decisions with strong counter-arguments.

How to improve your teamwork and collaboration skills

  • Be sure to ask for help if it would be more efficient and effective to do so. Use other colleagues’ skillsets and experience when necessary and this will provide many opportunities to collaborate on new ideas and implementing new processes.
  • Recognise good suggestions and ideas as they’re brought to you, or when already working as part of a team, as this will encourage others to be more open to collaborating on an ongoing basis.
  • Attend HR events and seminars to share knowledge and collaborate with industry leaders.


Critical evaluation skills

Just like any other area within a business, HR should make informed decisions based on data that has been collected through various means, be it via an internal employee survey, HR management software, applicant tracking systems or feedback on a more individual basis. It’s down to HR professionals to identify trends, back up suggestions they make with data and act on these accordingly with leaders and managers to provide a happier, more satisfied and more productive workforce. All HR professionals should have a keen commercial awareness and understanding of the inner workings of the business in which they work. Stakeholder management skills will also be required in order to identify which stakeholders might be affected by change (and how). It will also be necessary to consider how to develop effective communication plans to engage with and influence these stakeholders.

How to improve your critical evaluation skills

  • Keep notes on any processes or techniques that you follow during data analysis work. This will allow you to refer back to how you did something if a similar instance crops up in the future.
  • Draw on the experience of other data-driven professionals in your company such as digital marketers, IT analysts or the finance/accountancy team. They can give you tips on how to get the best out of your data analysis, as well as help to identify trends and points of interest within your data set.
  • Use search engines to answer any questions you might have around using data analysis software such as Microsoft Excel, as well as viewing online tutorial videos.
  • Make use of data visualisation and think through how is best to present your findings so that other decision makers within the business can easily understand your analysis.

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