The 12 HR Skills Every HR Generalist Needs

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HR professionals need different skills to do their work well. We’ve analyzed dozens of HR generalist vacancies and listed the 12 most important Human Resources skills and competencies listed in those. This article will provide you with an overview of the most sought-after skills in HR. The skills are listed in no particular order!

Contents
1. Communication skills
2. Administrative expert
3. HRM knowledge and expertise
4. Proactivity
5. Advising
6. Coaching
7. Recruitment and selection
8. HRIS knowledge
9. Intercultural sensitivity and language skills
10. Analytically driven and oriented
11. HR reporting skills
12. Teamwork

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1. Communication skills

The most frequently mentioned skill in HR job openings is communication skills. Communication is essential in Human Resource Management, as the HR professional is the link between the business and the employee. On the one hand, you are an activist for employees, and on the other hand, you represent the employer.

This requires great communication skills. You will be communicating with different stakeholders, and at different levels of authority and influence. How you communicate with the CEO of your company, and with junior staff would be very different. However within the competencies of a good HR manager, is the ability to connect well with all kinds of people, leaving a professional and positive impression. 

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In addition to this role, you are also a source of information for employees. When they have questions regarding taking a day off or any other employment issue, they will come to you. Being able to efficiently handle their questions and complaints is key to most generalist roles. The ability to communicate formally and informally, and in different ways – such as written, electronic and oral communication, is essential.

12 HR Skills

2. Administrative expert

Administrative tasks remain a major part of the HR role. These duties involve areas like employee leave, absence, absence files, the in- and outflow of employees, payroll, and other topics.

Despite the rise of digital HR and the increase in automation of HR tasks, administrative duties haven’t disappeared (yet). They are mentioned as an integral part of the job in many of the job postings. Being an administrative expert helps in entering data in a precise manner.

3. HRM knowledge and expertise

Unsurprisingly, HRM knowledge and expertise are also mentioned as essential HR skills. Previous work experience or educational background in Human Resource Management or Industrial and Organizational Psychology is very helpful.

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HRM knowledge helps in doing most of the other skills and competencies mentioned in this article. It helps to understand recruitment, selection, absence procedures, data reporting, and other personnel processes.

An educational background in psychology or HRM often also helps to develop the soft skills that are helpful in communication and coaching.

4. Proactivity

Proactivity is often considered more of a personality trait than a skill. However, it is certainly something you can develop over time. As an HR professional, you are the connection between the employer and the employee, therefore proactivity can help you in spotting potential problems early and preventing them from escalating.

In line with this, proactive Human Resource Management is preferred instead of reactive HRM. To be proactive as an HR professional you must stay informed about current and emerging trends across not only HR but also technology and work culture. Additionally, HR skills training should be a continuous part of your career development.  

Proactive and strategic HRM helps to plan and align the core HR tasks in a way that offers the most value to the business.

5. Advising

One of the key HR skills is advising different stakeholders. You need to be able to advise both employees, line managers, and senior managers on personnel issues.

These issues can be operational, for example creating a reintegration plan for an employee or helping a senior manager with the formulation of an email to the department. More tactical issues are the organization of and advising in restructuring efforts. Strategic advice involves the alignment of HR practices to align more with the business.

This advice also has to be communicated. This is where the previously mentioned communication skills and coaching skills come in.

6. Coaching

Coaching skills are helpful when it comes to one-on-one or group sessions to spread information or train people. This happens in training and development situations, but also in onboarding, re-integration, conflict resolution, and in assisting frontline managers with people issues.

These coaching skills are most often developed on-the-job or in external coaching training.

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7. Recruitment and selection

Another often mentioned HR skill (obviously) involves recruitment and selection. Finding qualified candidates, selecting the best, and exploring if there’s a match between the candidate, the company (culture), and the manager is one of the most important HR tasks.

A substantial part of recruitment and selection is interviewing candidates. One of the competencies of an HR manager is ensuring that the recruitment and selection process is fair. In many countries, there are legal requirements for employers to treat all candidates equally. For example, in Britain, the Equality Act (2010) seeks to prevent discrimination across a range of factors including age, gender, and sexuality. Many companies will also have internal targets for diversity across the workforce. 

8. HRIS knowledge

Human Resource Information Systems are the digital counterpart of the soft-side of Human Resource Management. Most information regarding hiring, performance evaluation, payroll, rewards and benefits, and more are registered in one or more HRIS. It is essential that HR skills training includes guidance on HRIS navigation and how to understand and interpret the data, within.  

Large organizations usually have standard providers like SAP (with SuccessFactors) or Oracle. Smaller companies work with smaller providers. Knowledge of an HRIS is a prerequisite for most senior HR jobs and one of the top technology skills HR professionals need today. 

It’s hard to understand these systems without having hands-on experience in them. They are, however, relatively simple and intuitive to work with.

9. Intercultural sensitivity and language skills

This HR skill depends on the specifics of the organization. Especially for larger multinational companies, intercultural sensitivity is a must. When you’re in touch with managers and employees in different countries, you need to be aware of intercultural differences.

For example, practices for managing and retaining people can differ tremendously between cultures. In India, it is common to get a promotion every single year, while in the Western world this happens on average every 3-5 years.

Similarly, it is not uncommon for Chinese workers to travel to their birthplace for Chinese New Year and – unannounced – never come back to your factory in the new year because they are now working somewhere else.

These cultural differences will impact how you try to hire, retain, and promote people. There are also communication differences concerning evaluating people. Israelis, Russians, and the Dutch are very direct whereas Japanese and Southeast Asian countries are much more indirect.

Using the wrong communication style may result in your message not being perceived as important – or risks offending people from more indirect cultures. Employees from nations that favor indirect communication, will require contextual clues within the communication. 

10. Analytically driven and oriented

Skills related to data-driven working and analytics have emerged rapidly in the last five years. Most HR generalists are now required to be analytically-driven and oriented. The competencies of an HR manager must include being able to understand key HR metrics. This includes metrics such as recruitment, engagement and retention, and employee value and performance. Having some knowledge of Excel will be of great advantage. 

There’s a push through all departments to leverage the power of data analytics to make better decisions. This can involve the use of complicated predictive analytics on HR data, or the much simpler use of data to make better decisions. The latter is often referred to as evidence-based HR.

11. HR reporting skills

As part of being more analytically driven and oriented, HR reporting skills are increasingly required too. These skills include the ability to create, read, and interpret HR reports using data coming from different Human Resource Information Systems.

Reporting on key metrics is key to advising managers and employees, creating better people policies, and making otherwise more evidence-based decisions.

12. Teamwork

Teamwork is one of those HR skills that is imperative. As an HR professional, you’re expected to work together with your colleagues in HR and with managers in the organization. Working together internally by actively aligning HR activities benefits both the organization and HR.

Wrapping up

Well, there you have it, a concise overview of the 12 most sought-after HR skills. HR generalists should not let these crucial skills become stagnant. To stay at the top of your performance, you should be continually seeking to improve your skills. This will equip you to lead your HR department, and organization, to excellence.

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