Human resource management requires a variety of skill sets and aptitudes that draw on all areas of the brain. If you think HR managers crunch data all day, you’re right…but that’s not the only thing they do. Not even close. At the core of their responsibilities, HR managers help the company gain the highest possible return on every human asset (aka person), who enters the workplace and receives a paycheck.  

But in order to do this, successful HR managers don’t just treat people like cattle with numbers instead of names. And they don’t just complete forms related to medical benefits, performance reviews, and disciplinary reports. Instead, great HR managers constantly look for ways to maintain a pleasant, healthy, and profitable balance of giveoftake between managers and workers. To do this, they need to demonstrate soft skills like these, every single day.  

Listening skills.  

HR managers are not therapists, and they aren’t there to counsel employees through their personal problems. But they ARE responsible for listening and taking action when the employee problem extends to the workplace and interferes with the function of the company. Worker-boss conflicts, fairness issues, acts of discrimination or harassment, or issues with workplace safety are all under their purview, and they need to listen carefully before they can develop a solution.  

Thinking ahead.  

HR managers won’t thrive if they can’t think a few moves ahead and implement strategies that work over the long term, not just the present moment. Often, a workplace solution that benefits one party comes at the expense of another, and HR managers have to stay on top of every implication and recognize every flaw in a potential plan—legal, practical, or safety-related.  

Recognizing humanity and individuality.  

Sometimes dress codes are violated, new employees struggle to adjust, bosses are too demanding or not demanding enough, expectations are poorly communicated, contracts contain errors, and fair policies turn out to be less than fair when enacted. HR managers recognize the value of treating every individual and every situation as unique, which can be hard to balance with a strict by-the-book approach.   

Negotiation and conflict resolution.  

Some problems can’t be easily solved by a third party, and they have to be faced and resolved by primary participants. If two coworkers have a conflict that seems unresolvable, it falls on the HR manager to help them come together and arrive at workable solution. HR managers also sometimes need to play a role in salary or benefit negotiations, the reporting of complaints, or the investigation of bad behavior.  

HR managers help employees feel welcome and respected, they put a face on the company, and they help the social fabric of the workplace stay strong so the company can stay profitable. For more on how to launch a career in HR, talk to the experts at Extension.  


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