Five in-demand HR skills every HR manager needs

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In the fast-moving and volatile world of business, HR professionals must adapt and upskill to meet the changing needs of employers and their workforces.

In this blog, we reveal five hard and soft HR skills HR managers should master, and how courses like our online MSc International Human Resources Management can set them up for success.

What HR skills are most in demand?

1. HR analytics

In 2022 and beyond, HR professionals without demonstrable data analysis skills risk becoming obsolete.

Understanding how to source and interpret key HR metrics relating to recruitment, performance, employee engagement and retention, can unlock essential insights that can be used to improve talent management processes and save the business time and money.

Where HR departments of the past might have relied on historic human resource management (HRM) methods or ‘instinct’, a move towards an evidence-based HR approach grounds strategic decision-making in facts rather than assumptions.

As well as benefitting businesses and their bottom line, ‘people data’ and analytics can also empower HR managers professionally. In a 2020 survey by the CIPD, 24% of HR professionals said they didn’t have clear ways to measure their impact.

This shows the value of data in enabling HR staff to very clearly demonstrate their value to senior stakeholders and their contribution to business successes.

2. Communication

While ‘good communication skills’ features as a requirement on almost every job description, these are critical in an HR role.

HR managers interact with stakeholders at all levels in many different capacities, from on-boarding new starters to coaching senior leaders in people management strategies.

Wearing so many different hats makes communication an essential skill for success in the role. HR managers must understand the most effective way to communicate in varied scenarios to earn trust, mitigate confusion, and ultimately ensure the smooth running of the business.

While excellent verbal and written communication skills are a must, an aptitude for listening is just as important.

HR managers who employ active listening in their role demonstrate respect and consideration to employees and team members by taking the time to truly hear and understand their views without judgement or interruption. Doing so requires advanced emotional intelligence and is particularly important to use in sensitive situations relating to redundancies or internal conflicts for example.

3. Coaching

From building inclusive and equitable work environments to managing and motivating hybrid/remote teams, senior leaders across all industries are dealing with challenging issues that HR specialists can support with.

Coaching involves training managers and business leaders in essential people management skills, helping them to optimise the employee experience and lower turnover rate.

In a recent report by Deloitte on Driving Business Imperatives Through HR, coaching is identified as one of four key actions HR business partners must take to create value for organisations, their customers and employees.

The 10 most common areas HR professionals currently coach business leaders on are:

  1. Developing a growth mindset
  2. Building resilience
  3. Creating an inclusive culture
  4. Leading change
  5. Motivating others
  6. Dealing with low performers
  7. Infusing agility in talent and teams
  8. Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues
  9. Helping others grow
  10. Leading teams

Of course, communication skills are necessary to the success of coaching and critical listening in particular helps HR managers develop tailored training solutions.

While linked to active listening, critical listening involves analysis and evaluation while taking in the thoughts and feelings of the speaker. This means that, while HR professionals will listen intently to the person they’re coaching and the problems they’re describing, they will also employ critical thinking and refer to facts rather than taking all information at face value. Doing this allows HR coaches to offer unbiased advice and to deliver effective training backed by evidence.

4. Stress management

Covid-19 changed the world of work, ushering in the dawn of remote and hybrid working, and sparking The Great Resignation – a term coined in 2021 to describe the swathes of people leaving their jobs since the start of the pandemic.

For many, burnout was a key driver of their decision to quit. Psychology Today describes burnout as a state of prolonged or repeated stress, generally caused by problems at work. While remote working and the loss of long commutes opened some people’s eyes to the burnout they were previously dealing with, others started to experience greater stress when working from home as the boundaries between their personal and professional lives blurred.

Of course, HR professionals themselves aren’t immune to stress and burnout – particularly as they’ve been shouldering complex personnel challenges triggered by the pandemic for over two years. In fact, when senior HR leaders were recently asked what the most significant barrier was to their HR department’s ability to deliver on strategic objectives, 60% cited ‘burnout of HR employees’ (Institute of Corporate Productivity, HR Capability and Design survey).

Therefore, while HR managers are typically concerned with developing wellbeing initiatives and stress management strategies for others, they must also prioritise these for themselves in order to handle the demands of their role and protect their mental health.

5. Cross-cultural skills

For human resources professionals managing a global workforce, cross-cultural or intercultural skills rank especially high on the list of required competencies.

Cross-cultural skills refer to an ability to understand different cultural norms, communication styles and practices and to adapt accordingly when interacting with people from different countries and backgrounds.

Challenges arise when people lack this cultural fluency and misunderstand others’ behaviours and intentions. At best, this lack of awareness causes confusion between colleagues and at worst, it causes offence, damages trust and impacts business performance.

Navigating these differences and communicating appropriately is essential in international human resource management.

Research carried out by the CIPD in 2021 proves that multi-cultural teams present major opportunities for businesses including boosting creativity levels. Therefore, HR managers in multinational corporations must hone their cross-cultural skills and awareness – and provide the necessary training for employees – or face fractured working relationships at a huge cost to the business.

How to improve HR skills

To thrive in the ever-evolving field of HR, professionals must adopt an ‘always-learning’ mindset, refreshing their HR skills to meet the modern demands of employers.

Investing in further education offers a great way to do this.

Our masters course in International Human Resource Management has been designed with career development in mind, with units covering contemporary topics and equipping students with the in-demand HR skills explored above through practical exercises and case studies.

Learn more about the course units.

Importantly, our CIPD-accredited course is 100% online and part-time, meaning you can study around your current schedule with no need to stop work or sacrifice other important commitments.

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Ready to reach specialist status in international HR?

Visit our course page for full details and register your interest via the form.
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