Given the many sub disciplines of HR, each area will have different specific requirements, so rather than trying to capture every skill these are the five that I believe all Human Resource Professionals must have (presented in no particular order):
Numeracy: Regardless of being an Analyst, Change Manager, Employment Relations Specialist and anything in between, if you fear numbers you’re in for a long drop with a sharp stop. The practice of HR is based on numbers, specifically the ability to interpret raw data through to complete reports. While historically there may be an argument that HR is about people, the world has changed, most of us will be employed by large corporations where knowing every employee or even every manager is impossible – except for those practitioners who can sort through the data and make sense of it all.
Communication: In HR we often have the term ‘consultant’ in our titles for a reason, we advise and consult with our clients. It’s more rare than people outside the profession think that we actually tell managers or employees they must so something. We’re employed to work and consult with adults, people are often able to ignore our advice – hence why we need to be able to communicate that advice in ways which is palatable to others, basically we need to be able to make the sale.
Forgivable: Make no mistake, within your HR career you will be asked to do things that you would not otherwise chose to do, hence you need to be able to forgive yourself. Already in my career I’ve fired a good friend, sat around the table discussing where to make staffing cuts, and implemented program’s with the stated outcome of reducing staff numbers. All this can be dressed up as corporate life, necessary changes to ensure fiscal credibility of the organisation etc, but really it’s just a shitty thing to do to someone who in many cases is performing well in their job.
Hungry: If you’re not highly motivated then a career in HR is not for you, and if you’ve lost that motivation, find another vocation as both yourself and everyone else will be happier. You need a strong sense of internal motivation to survive in HR some might call it a ‘thick skin’, you need to understand your sense of motivation intimately as often that’s the only thing that will get you to turn up the next morning at work.
Absolute: HR Professionals attend to many different duties during the day, the morning might start with change management, turning to evaluating the human resources plan around midday, and then conducting exit interviews in the afternoon, intermixed with phone calls and emails. You need to be able to focus on the task at hand, you need to be absolute, focused on the task at hand. Regardless of what advice you are giving to managers or employees, they deserve your attention.
Potentially a very different list from what others would write under the same or similar heading, but one which is nonetheless valid in my considered opinion. I have perhaps focused on the unpleasant duties and functions of HR, and rightly so I believe, if you can get past the bad you will find enjoyment in the positive. While conversely if the unpleasant tasks hold your attention, you will never see the joy when it is present in your work.