HR Insights 5 min

7 Soft Skills HR Personnel Must Possess In 2020

December 15, 2018
Updated April 15, 2020

HR personnel are critical in developing a positive business culture and increasing employee productivity, both of which are important to business success. They play a vital role in managing and developing the employees of an organization. To be successful in your duty as an HR personnel, there are certain skills you need to possess. 

These skills are divided into two types: Hard Skills and Soft Skills

In this article, we would be looking at the difference between hard skills and soft skills, and then, we would concentrate on 7 soft skills HR personnel should possess in 2020 that can help them efficiently perform their duties in an organization. 

Difference Between Soft Skills And Hard Skills

Hard skills are teachable abilities. These skills are easy to measure or quantify. Hard skills are taught in classrooms, or learned through books, training materials (like webinars and online courses), and can also be gotten on the job. 

When you apply for a job, your hard skills are usually what the employer or recruiter uses to decide whether you are fit for the position. It is these skills you list in your cover letter or resume. Example of hard skills are:

  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Proficiency in a foreign language
  • Computer programming
  • Product knowledge
  • A degree or certificate
  • Typing speed
  • Marketing Skills
  • Phlebotomy

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are not easy to quantify. They are subjective skills and can be called interpersonal skills or people skills. Soft skills are abilities that are not unique to any job, instead, they determine how well you connect, relate, and interact with other people.  

While your hard skills might get you the job, soft skills are the traits that make you a good employee. Even though soft skills might be difficult to measure, they are still integral to your success as an HR personnel.

Importance Of Soft Skills

Human resources personnel deal with employees on a daily basis. They are in charge of handling employee relations, benefits, payroll, and training. Soft skills improve your ability in resolving employee conflicts, maximizes your productivity, and also leads to a stronger relationship with your colleagues. On the other hand, a lack of soft skills can limit your ability to perform your duties.

By developing good organizational skills, communication abilities, strong leadership, and teamwork, not only would you deliver your duties effectively, but you would also positively influence your personal life by improving how you interact and connect with others. 

Now, let’s look at 7 soft skills HR personnel should possess.

Soft Skill #1: Communication

The ability to communicate properly is an essential skill that a HR personnel should possess. One of the roles of the HR department is to manage humans and this cannot be done without interaction. To interact effectively, communication – both verbal and nonverbal is needed. 

Every communication would involve at least a sender, a message, and a recipient. Effective and unambiguous communication is difficult because people neglect a huge range of things. These would include emotional cues, the medium used for communicating, cultural situation, and even the location. 

In many instances, being an effective communicator would help you solve problems or stop them from happening in the first place. For example, communication skills are vital when hiring a new employee. By asking the right questions, you would be able to gauge which candidate is right for the job. 

How to become a better communicator

The key to any successful relationship (whether it is personal or work-related) is knowing how to communicate effectively. Whether you are solving conflicts at work, listening to an employee complaint, interviewing a candidate, knowing how to communicate your thoughts – and listening to others – is very important. 

Just because you are talking to someone does not mean you are communicating. 

Practice active listening

You need to actively listen to what the other person is saying. Do not enter conversations simply to reply but also to understand. If you aren’t paying close attention to what the person is saying, you won’t be able to respond effectively. 

Pay attention to body language

It is important that you read the body language of the person you are conversing with. Watching out for body cues would help you understand how to drive the conversation.

Is the person yawning? It might mean he/she is bored or tired. 

Is the person fidgeting or breaking out in sweats? It might signify nervousness. 

A person folding their hands might mean that they aren’t receptive to your message.   

Paying attention to your communication partner’s body language would help you have productive conversations. For example, if the person is folding their hands, you can ask – “don’t you agree with what I am saying”? This would ensure that you have a productive conversation that benefits both parties. 

Ask Questions

It is important that you ask questions. Not only does this show your communication partner that you are paying attention, but it would also ensure that you understand what the person is saying so that there won’t be room for doubt.

Soft Skill #2: Confidentiality

On a daily basis, HR teams deal with confidential matters related to both employees and the business. Sensitive information such as employee compensation and personal data (such as medical history) should be handled with discretion. 

Without this skill, you can put employees in an uncomfortable position. Professionalism is very important. Since HR personnel have access to corporate information such as salaries, budget, and offer letters, it is important that they refrain from disclosing this information to a third party. 

How to improve confidentiality skills

Here are some steps you can take to demonstrate confidentiality:

Be upfront with your privacy policy

It is your duty as an HR personnel to be completely transparent. It is important that the employees you work with know your privacy policy – including what kind of information will be kept private, and what kind of information you are mandated to share, and with whom.

You should display your privacy policy in a place that is easily visible. In addition to this, personally go over this privacy policy with employees on their first visit. Explain to them that they may be times that you would be mandated by law or company policy to share information even without their consent. This would build trust between both parties. 

Soundproof your office

One of the best ways to improve confidentiality is by soundproofing your office. This would ensure that no one else can listen in on your conversation either intentionally or accidentally. 

If your company cannot invest in fully soundproofing your office, you can make use of a background music player or a white noise machine. Place this machine outside the waiting area of your office. It would make it difficult for people outside the office to listen to the conversations happening inside. 

Protect your records

Where do you keep your records? And most importantly, who has access to these records. Your records serve as a form of reference and also to protect yourself. 

If you make use of a filing system, ensure that you put it in a locked cabinet. Control access to this cabinet. Also, make sure that your computer is password protected. 

Soft Skill #3: Organizational Skill

HR teams have a lot of duties they perform in an organization. Their functions are not limited to recruitment, employee relations, performance appraisals, and employee training. To be effective in these tasks, it is important that you have a system. This is where organizational skill comes into play. 

Being organized reduces the chances of making errors and also increases your productivity. For example, you should have a standard employee training manual for each role in the company. That way, you do not have to create a training plan for every new employee. 

How to improve your organizational skill

Here are some steps to take to help you improve your organizational skills:

Make a schedule

To increase your efficiency, make a list of all the tasks you have for the day and give each task a prescribed time to complete each one. This would ensure that you meet all your deadlines and don’t neglect any tasks.

Establish a filing system

Even though most of your files might be in a digital format, you need to easily identify where everything is stored. If your files are not labeled or stored in the right folder, you would waste valuable time looking for misplaced items.

Minimize interruptions

You can waste a lot of time when there are a ton of interruptions and distractions at work. Even when you have created a schedule, you won’t be able to keep to it if you are getting distracted regularly. Simple steps such as turning off your personal mobile phones and shutting your office door can help minimize interruptions. 

Organize your workplace

You need to organize your workplace so that you can be more efficient. You get things done faster if everything is in their right places. The less clutter there is the higher your productivity.

Soft Skill #4: Being A Team Player

An organization is made up of different people with different characters. As an HR, it is important that you are a team player so as to maintain the balance among employees. Employees should be comfortable enough to come to you when they need help with certain tasks. 

Employee collaboration is needed for an organization to meet its business goals. HR can directly support better team-working among employees by getting involved in how teams are organized. 

How to become a team player

Use your strengths

Do you know what you are best at?

Maybe you are great at motivating others to get their work done. Or you are great at resolving disagreements or creating actionable workflows. Find out your unique strengths and make meaningful contributions to teams. 

As an HR, you can take on any of these roles within a team:

  • Team Workers – people who make sure the team is working together.
  • Coordinators – people who take on the traditional team leader role.
  • Shapers – people who challenge/motivate the team to improve.
  • Implementers – the people who get things done.
  • Completer-Finishers – the people who see that projects are completed thoroughly.

Understand the team’s objectives

The majority of the time, when a team doesn’t meet its goals, it’s because of a lack of understanding of the team’s objectives. To become a good team player, you need to understand the team’s objectives. 

Ask important questions like this:

  • Why are we here?
  • Who is in charge of this team and implementing its ideas?
  • When is the deadline?
  • What is our budget?
  • What are our roles and tasks in this team?
  • When will we meet?

By specifying these details, you would understand what your role is and how you can be a better team member. 

Soft Skill #5: Intercultural sensitivity

As an HR professional, you need to demonstrate a willingness to learn and appreciate what the diversity of culture brings to your organization. As workplaces are getting more diverse, it’s important that you become sensitive to other cultures. 

First, Cultural awareness means knowing that they are different cultures – based on religion, ethnicity, nationality, and other factors. Cultural sensitivity is embracing diversity in the workplace. 

Cultural sensitivity can also be called cultural competence. It is the ability to work alongside people from different cultures and do so effectively. 

How to improve your cultural sensitivity

These are some steps you can take to help you become more culturally sensitive:

Attend global training

You need to build your knowledge of different cultures. Attend global training that teaches you about different cultures and their practices. Attend classes that help you learn how to work in an increasingly diverse workplace.

Practice good manners

No matter where you are or who you are talking with, it is important that you practice good manners. Be polite and respectful when talking to others. In some countries saying “please” and “thank you” is a crucial part of business conversation. Practicing good manners ensures that you have a peaceful working environment that fosters productivity and growth.

Celebrate traditional festivals, foods, and holidays

When appropriate, you should celebrate the cultures of employees in the workplace. This would show them that you recognize and accept their cultures. 

Soft Skill #6: Proactivity

The HR is the connection between the employee and employer. Being proactive would help you spot potential problems and handle them before they escalate. It is better to be proactive in your duty as an HR manager than being reactive. 

Being proactive means anticipating situations that might occur, preparing in advance and acting ahead instead of just reacting when an issue arises. It would help you to plan your tasks in a way that would bring the most value to the organization.

How to be more proactive 

Address requests and complaints swiftly

You need to handle requests and complaints as they come in. Not only is it vital for employee satisfaction, but it also helps you identify the issue and map out proper solutions quickly.

To do this, you need to first understand what the request is (active listening), how to handle this request, and the resources you would need to comply with the request. 

When handling complaints, you need to handle everyone with respect. Do not be dismissive. Instead be polite, sincere, and offer clear instructions on what they need to do.

Anticipate problems

You need to think ahead and anticipate problems and their solutions before they occur. One way to anticipate problems is by conducting surveys of employees in your organization to find out problem areas that have been neglected in the past. You can also anticipate problems by reading books/blogs and listening to podcasts of similar businesses in your industry.

Acting on feedback

Collecting feedback is one thing, acting on the feedback is another. You need to reflect on the feedback you receive and also act on it. With the feedback you get, you should answer the following questions:

  • What am I doing right?
  • Which areas should I improve?
  • What new actions should I implement?
  • What actions should I stop doing?

Working on the feedback you receive would make you more efficient and proactive. 

Soft Skill #7: Adaptability

Unplanned changes can happen in the organization that would affect the schedule of the HR team. To be able to adjust to these unpredictable changes, HR team members need to develop this skill.

It is important that the HR team knows when it is time to modify company policies, create new ones and how to help employees understand these policies.

They also need to predict the need for certain changes in the organization. For example, as the business grows and expands, it is the role of HR to design programs and training for staff members to enable them to keep up with the business growth.

How to improve your adaptability

Monitor the business growth

You need to keep track of key metrics that affect your organization. You need to monitor the areas of the business that are working and the aspects that need improvement. For example, there might need to employ new web developers in your firm to increase the company’s growth. But if you aren’t monitoring, you would make this realization. 

Networking

Regularly network with industry leaders and other HR personnel in your industry. This way, you can keep tabs on the latest trends and also identify the common issues that affect your industry. 

Listen to employee’s point of view

You should be proactive and ask employees for their points of view and ideas on how to grow the business. By talking to employees, you might see some areas where changes should be made. For example, if employees are complaining about a particular company policy, it might be worth revising it. 

Soft skills make you a better HR personnel

Soft skills are what makes you a great HR personnel. While your hard skills might get you the job, it is your soft skills that keep you in the job. You need to consciously work towards developing the skills mentioned in this article. 

The good news is that even though soft skills are usually innate – things you are born with, you can also learn to develop these characteristics. 

The key is to practice each skill judiciously until they are part of you. The best part of learning soft skills is that not only do they make you a better HR personnel, it also makes you a better person. The effect of soft skills goes beyond the workplace and affects your personal life also. 

Which of these skills would you practice first? Do you think that some of them are much easier to learn than others? 

Marvelous Aham-adi is a freelance writer and content marketer. He has featured in top blogs like Social Media Examiner, VWO, and OnCrawl. He teaches individuals how to start a profitable blog, improve productivity, and grow a brand using actionable marketing strategies. 

You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

Guest Blogger