The most important qualities of a great HR professional in summary…

  • Becoming an HR professional can provide both a fulfilling and dynamic career path – one that has ample opportunities for advancement.
  • HR professionals are instrumental in recruiting, developing, and supporting employees, as well as ensuring their wellbeing, growth, and overall job satisfaction. As such, HR teams are now influential voices at the highest levels of business, and must have a strategic mindset.
  • Working in HR can also be incredibly demanding. As such, HR professionals must possess a diverse set of skills and qualities that enable them to excel in their roles and make a positive impact on their organisations.

HR professionals are in demand! In fact, the profession has grown four-times faster in the past decade than the rest of the UK workforce.

The reason for this astonishing growth? Well, the simple fact of the matter is that HR teams are now influential voices in the C-suite. As organisations increasingly recognise the importance of human capital, the demand for HR professionals rises accordingly. This translates into a stable and promising career path with ample opportunities for advancement – if you want it, of course.

HR is also an incredibly diverse field. As modern HR departments touch virtually all aspects of the employee experience, there’s a wide variety of specialisations HR professionals can choose to work in. From recruitment and talent management, to training and development, benefits administration, and organisational development. This wealth of career diversity provides people professionals the chance to find their niche and pursue their passions within the field of HR.

What are the most important qualities of a great HR professional? Cezanne HR blog

In short, there’s never been a better time to become an HR professional. It’s a remarkable career choice for those seeking a fulfilling and dynamic path in the business world. People professionals sit at the heart of forward-thinking organisations, and play a critical role in shaping positive work environments, fostering workplace satisfaction, and driving business success.

“Financial Resources may be the lifeblood of a company, but human resources are the brains.”

What are the key qualities of a great HR professional?

Given its widespread remit, HR departments can be fast paced and challenging environments to work in. Great HR professionals must successfully balance the needs of employees with those of the organisation, striving for fairness and compliance with relevant employment laws. Plus, HR teams must also deal with difficult workplace situations – including mediating conflicts, managing employee relations, and addressing sensitive issues like terminations or redundancies.

As a result, the qualities of a great HR professional must include wide range of skills and capabilities to excel in their roles and support organisational success. These include:

Strategic thinking

Great HR professionals will truly understand their organisation’s overall goals and can align HR strategies with these objectives. In addition, they’ll truly know the business inside-out, its culture, its challenges and what makes it tick. A strategic mindset ensures HR activities support the company’s mission and vision, and can help keep HR’s seat at the boardroom table.

“… Strategic thinking will help you stand out to senior-level decision-makers and become more valuable. Your decisions and recommendations will be recognized and appreciated as the foundation for organisational efficiency. Strategic thinking will help you make the most of your time at work.”

  • Jill Fowler, SPHR, and Jeanette Savage writing for SHRM

Excellent communication skills

As HR is an inherently people-orientated profession, effective communication – both verbal and non-verbal – is a vital quality for a great HR professional. They should be skilled at both listening and conveying information clearly, whether it’s during interviews, conflict resolution, or delivering company policies.

If you want to fine tune your own communication skills, check out this article featuring some brilliant TED Talks on the subject.

Being people-centric, empathetic and approachable

To be effective in their roles, HR professionals need to understand and relate to the concerns and needs of employees. This empathy will help build trust within a workforce, resolve conflicts more readily, and create a positive work environment for all.

Demonstrating empathy — a key part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness —improves human interactions and can lead to more effective communication and positive outcomes. Obviously, this is a vital skill for great HR professionals. This is because the average HR department will often have to deal with difficult situations that require both understanding and compassion.

Also, HR must also be seen as approachable by the wider business. HR professionals regularly interact with people as part of their day-to-day duties. So, making yourself available, approachable and prepared to get to know people on a more personal level will help develop more meaningful engagement – a vital part of successful cultures.

Being able to adapt quickly to change

The world of HR is incredibly dynamic. Regulations, HR technology and best-practices rarely stand still. And, as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, the role of HR must often pivot to overcome unforeseen challenges.

Another quality of great HR professionals are being adaptable and open to change. They’ll also be staying up-to-date with industry trends, be open to getting ‘stuck in’ with any area of a businesses’ operations, and not afraid to take on responsibilities outside their usual day-to-day routines.

Being natural problem solvers

Even great HR professionals will face a variety of workforce problems on a regular basis. This could include conflicts between employees, new employees not understanding certain policies, or difficulties hiring the right people at the right time. Regardless of the issue, any problems involving your workforce will fall at HR’s door.

As a result, HR professionals should be adept problem solvers, comfortable with analysing data, and confident with proposing effective solutions for virtually anything: from addressing employee concerns, improving HR processes, to enhancing the workplace and its culture.

Having ethical integrity

HR personnel often handle sensitive and confidential information on a day-to-day basis. So, it’s crucial every HR professional maintains the highest ethical standards, ensuring that all interactions and decisions are fair and just, and that all personal information is handled with confidentiality and care.

A data-driven mindset

Businesses produce huge amounts of data, and that data plays a significant role in HR. Data – when used in conjunction with powerful HR software – enables HR professionals to analyse workforce trends, make intelligent data-driven decisions and develop strategic initiatives that optimise all aspects of workforce management, including talent acquisition, retention, performance, and engagement.

Brilliant HR professionals are comfortable working with that type of data and the tools required to analyse it effectively. This allows them to make informed decisions, track progress, and optimise their HR initiatives.

“Today’s HR pros must be able to apply data to help their organizations effectively manage their people. And they must be adept and up-to-date on the technology that can automate work roles to ensure ongoing productivity and efficiency.”

Being a team player

Modern HR teams don’t work in isolation. Collaboration with other departments, management, and employees is essential – especially when it comes to rolling out major people initiatives. So, being a team player and building positive relationships throughout the organisation is a key quality.

Having cultural awareness

Diversity and inclusion are hugely important topics right now. In fact, it’s predicted by the CIPD that DE&I initiatives will be at the top of HR’s agenda for many years to come!

With that in mind, great HR professionals must understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They must actively work to create workplace cultures that respects and values differences, and help foster a more equitable workplace for all. To learn more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, check out these thought-proving TED Talks on the subject.

Comfortable resolving conflicts

Conflict is inevitable in any organisation. However, unresolved issues can lead to unhappy employees, lower productivity, and even legal trouble for the business. Great HR professionals need to be comfortable and reliant when stepping in to mediate conflicts, make peace, and prevent things from getting out of hand.

In addition, HR professionals must be cool under pressure, good at talking to people and know the rules inside out. This means the can keep the peace, prevent bigger problems, and make sure everyone can work together without drama or disruption.

Highly organised and timely

HR teams will often have to juggle large and varied workloads: from hiring new staff and completing day-to-day workforce administration, to managing compensation and rewards and resolving employee issues. No two days are often the same!

Being highly organised and timely helps keeping those plates spinning. Great HR professionals will know where everything is, when deadlines are, and who needs what and when. Being organised means they can respond quickly, keep things running smoothly, and ensure employees get the support and resources they need.

Committed to continuous learning

As mentioned earlier, the world of HR is forever changing and rarely stands still. This means it’s essential HR professionals must keep up-to-date with HR laws, regulations, and best practices is essential. Brilliant HR professionals are committed to lifelong learning and professional development.

Strong sense of leadership

Last – but by no means least – on our list is a sense of leadership. Some HR roles require leadership skills to manage HR teams and influence organisational decisions. However, strong leadership qualities are valuable for HR professionals due to the number of interactions spent with employees, team members and senior leaders within the business.

Author bio

Kim Holdroyd has an MSc in HRM and is passionate about all things HR and people operations, specialising in the employee life cycle, company culture, and employee empowerment. Her career background has been spent with various industries, including technology start-ups, gaming software, and recruitment.

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