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Human Resources: Skills and Talents

You'll need a wide range of skills for most HR professional jobs. A broad base of business knowledge and background in the social sciences are helpful. The best HR professionals have excellent written and verbal skills, as well as proficiency with computers. Each specialty has its own specific requirements beyond the general background and skill set. Someone taking an entry-level job in HR may not be expected to already have all the specific knowledge described below, but must be ready to learn it quickly on the job or in targeted training courses.

Selection, Recruiting, and Placement Managers -- good judge of character; tact; self-confidence; excellent verbal and presentation skills; ability to sell the organization and make cold calls; ability to build a network of relationships within the organization as well as with other organizations and prospective employees.

Development and Training Specialists -- excellent interpersonal and verbal skills; good writing skills; good sense of humor; imagination; leading edge knowledge in training areas; understanding of the organization's future knowledge needs.

Compensation and Benefits Specialists -- strong quantitative and analytical skills; knowledge of statistics and ability to communicate the meaning of the numbers in plain English; verbal skills; comprehensive understanding of how the whole organization works; knowledge of local, state, and federal laws and regulations concerning areas such as comparable worth, fair labor standards, and affirmative action.

Employee Relations and Labor Specialists -- integrity; sense of fairness; ability to converse comfortably with people of all education levels; communication skills; negotiation skills.

Health, Safety, and Security Specialists -- excellent attention to detail; honesty; communication skills; knowledge of the various local, state, and federal laws and regulatory agencies dealing with health, safety, and security.

Key Skill Area Requirement
People skills: High
Sales skills: Low
Integrity: High
Leadership skills: Medium
Communication skills: High
Analytical skills: Medium
Tech skills: High
Writing Ability: High
Creative ability: Medium
Initiative: Medium
Work hours: 35-55/week

People, Paper, and Data.
Human resources work is office work. While most people think that "people" skills are the key to being a successful human resource professional, in reality you need a mix of people and technical skills. You collect data, deal with complex paperwork, analyze information, and present finding to top management. For example, benefits specialists may conduct sophisticated actuarial analyses.

From the Boardroom To the Shop Floor
HR resource managers must be able to help top managers mold employees to effectively achieve strategic goals in the organization. Thus they must be able to give polished presentations. Simultaneously they need to be able to present human resource policies to and gather information from shop and factory workers who may be hesitant or unable to speak up, and they need to discuss issues and problems with employees one-on-one. Thus HR professionals must be able have conversations with employees at all levels in the firm from assembly workers to top executives.

No Water Cooler Gossip
HR professionals deal with sensitive information concerning compensation, employee performance and productivity, performance appraisals, problems at work, etc. Thus integrity and extreme discretion are absolutely mandatory in this job.

Rapidly Changing Issues
Local, state, and federal regulations about critical business-policy issues change rapidly, and keeping up with them is one of the central struggles of the HR profession. If you take a job in HR, you will need to help your organization deal effectively with issues including: changes in minimum wage that can have complex implications for how the company deploys its labor force; recent changes in the law regarding equitable pay and gender discrimination (for example, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay law of 2009); health care costs and and ongoing government policymaking on this issue; changes in labor relations law; evolving standards for how employers must deal with disabilities and medical conditions; shifting affirmative action laws, and so on...

Establish and Maintain Relationships
HR professionals must be able to establish relationships throughout the organization and maintain those relationships. Managers in the other functional areas of the company must rely on you to supply and care for their most important strategic asset: their people. Therefore, you need their trust. HR professionals who have a strong network of relationships across the organization can more effectively perform their jobs and and can gain the necessary credibility.

Nine Key HR Skills

  1. Organization
  2. Multitasking
  3. Discretion and Business Ethics
  4. Dual Focus
  5. Employee Trust
  6. Fairness
  7. Dedication to Improvement
  8. Strategic Orientation
  9. Team Orientation

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