Five skills to develop to progress your career in HR

As a seasoned Human Resources professional, you’re probably used to looking at candidates’ key competencies during the recruitment process. So what skills and competencies do you need in your own career, and what can you do to improve them?

5 key skills for HR professionals

1. Communication

The range of communication that HR people need to do is vast. You need to speak with authority to CEOs and senior management, and with confidence and reassurance to lower level employees. You also need to be able to sell the company to potential candidates and recruitment targets. And you have to do it all in writing and in person, both to large groups and individuals.

If you struggle with communication, remember that preparation is often the key – by knowing the key messaging you need to communicate, you will find you can get your message through more succinctly.

2. Organisational skills

As an internal service provider to your organisation, your range of daily responsibilities are numerous, so you need to make the time and space to get things done. Time management and an ability to prioritise tasks are  vital skills.

When you need to juggle the competing demands of internal customers who want to fire and hire, and the distress of an employee having difficulties, you need to make sure you balance your attention and time with each issue.

By prioritising your tasks and responsibilities you can improve your level of organisation on a daily basis and give yourself flexibility to respond in times of unexpected activity or crisis.

3. Integrity & Discretion

Handling confidential information like salaries, medical information and personal issues is a regular part of many HR roles so integrity and confidentiality are key when handling sensitive information. Not only do you need to act correctly, you need others to have the confidence in you that you can act with integrity.


"Advice is often the most important part of the job"


You must also be able to make the right decisions, which may not be easy when faced with situations like a senior executive who wants to cut corners. Understanding how to manage these situations while maintaining people’s trust is integral to being successful in your role.

4. Assertiveness

In line with having great communication skills, being able to get your point across to colleagues at all levels is critical to your success. This extends to dealing with more difficult situations like negotiations with union representatives and disciplinary proceedings with employees. Learning to communicate in a polite, but firm way that respects others and leads to productive conclusions and outcomes is a skill that can take time to develop.

5. Influence

The HR function is a support function which means that providing high-quality, timely (and sometimes legally binding) advice is often the most important part of the job. You’re there to support other managers in getting their teams and employees to work effectively.

By being authoritative and knowledgeable, you’ll gain influence with your stakeholders and they’ll take your advice. Preparation is key – to be influential you need to know your subject matter and communicate it in an authoritative way.

By focusing on improving these key skills, you’ll find yourself with the confidence to take on more senior responsibilities and grow your influence within your organisation. As colleagues and organisational leaders notice your ability to lead and communicate more effectively, opportunities to progress through your organisation should open up. 


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