How to Be a Great HR Manager: 3 Key Areas

Career development is an essential part of the employee experience, and that’s true for HR professionals as well. Whether you’re the only one in charge of HR for your small business or an HR generalist on a large team, the next stage of your career progression involves learning what makes a good human resource manager and developing those skills and attributes. Discovering how to be a great HR manager will take more than excellent HR execution—you’ll also need to master HR strategy.

The experience your organization gives your employees has strong ties to your organization’s business outcomes, and businesses are recognizing this. In August, the Business Roundtable, an organization that currently includes 192 American CEOs from some of the biggest companies in the world, shifted its focus from shareholders to stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.

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To become a great HR manager, you’ll need to master the tasks that protect your organization and free up time to collaborate with managers and leadership on a broader people strategy. This article will provide an overview of the three foundational areas you need to master to provide an excellent employee experience and succeed as an HR manager: hiring, onboarding, and employee satisfaction.

How Great HR Managers Approach Hiring

It can be tempting for managers to treat hiring as a task instead of an evaluation. Faced with the crunch of operating their teams without all the people they need, they may want to get it done as quickly as possible. While a recruiter might see this as an opportunity to provide a quick time to hire, a great HR manager will focus on finding a new employee that aligns with the position in several important ways:

Compensation: Instead of letting each manager negotiate, an effective HR manager will work with leadership to develop firm salary offers for each position. Going into hiring with a compensation plan reduces long-term dissatisfaction with compensation.

Responsibilities: It takes more than a cookie-cutter job description to find the best candidate for your specific organization. Great HR managers encourage hiring managers and recruiters to fully examine the needs in their teams or departments as they craft a job description, instead of going with a generic description or trying to copy an existing employee’s position.

Values: Great HR managers understand the importance of finding candidates that are aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. This involves more than a new hire agreeing on a favorite movie with the hiring manager—it means finding hires who find your organization’s goals motivating and agree with your methods for achieving them.

How Great HR Managers Approach Onboarding

There are lots of moving parts to take care of when onboarding an employee: desk setup, network access, new hire paperwork—and that’s all before the orientation presentation. While an HR generalist excels in making sure onboarding proceeds smoothly, a great HR manager will ensure that the onboarding process focuses on integrating new employees through the following measures:

Preparation: When new hires sign on, it’s a show of confidence in your organization’s competence. Ensuring they have everything they need to function on their first day is part of confirming that impression. HR managers will coordinate with managers, HR, and IT well in advance of a new hire’s first day to ensure things run smoothly.

Every new hire changes your organization’s culture through both their contributions and their personality.

Pacing: No matter how qualified, every new hire will need to learn your organization’s procedures before they can integrate with their teams. This is on top of the myriad changes that come with switching benefits. HR managers can pace orientation meetings over the first few weeks so that new employees have time to process their new situation and formulate questions to ask. This is especially helpful with benefits—inviting professionals from your retirement funds or your wellness initiative for quarterly Q&A sessions helps give employees an unhurried chance to see how their benefits can benefit them.

Personality: Every new hire changes your organization’s culture through both their contributions and their personality. HR managers need to ensure that current employees have space to welcome their new team members beyond a first-day greeting and that new hires mesh with their team dynamic.

How Great HR Managers Approach Employee Satisfaction

HR professionals know how to respond to emergencies, whether it’s complying with new European data regulation or breaking it to Ava that her raw-tuna-only diet is befouling the break room. A great HR manager, on the other hand, will take a proactive approach to employee satisfaction through careful measurement and culture initiatives, such as:

Today’s employees are looking for a sense of purpose.

One-on-Ones: Communication between managers and employees is essential; a study from Gallup found that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement. In other words, two employees at the same organization with the same values can find themselves at either end of the engagement spectrum solely based on their manager. Great HR managers ensure that managers meet regularly with their employees and have open conversations about recent performance and progression.

Purpose: Today’s employees are looking for a sense of purpose, sometimes placing more importance on their company’s mission than earning a high salary or getting extra perks during their workday. Great HR managers communicate and support their organization’s mission, vision, and values through hands-on activities and value-centered benefits.

Reporting: Even with the most transparent communication between manager and employee, it can still be difficult for employees to open up about what they truly want from their employer. Great HR managers develop metrics for employee satisfaction, turnover, engagement, and more. They then deliver results to their organization’s leadership to help them make informed decisions to improve the employee experience.

Great HR Managers Are Strategic

These three principles form a solid foundation for aspiring HR managers, and there’s much more to explore. But summed up, the biggest difference between an HR manager and other HR professionals is their responsibility for developing a solid people strategy and making sure everyone’s on the same page when executing it.

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Great HR managers need a solid knowledge of the nuts and bolts of HR and the communication skills to present plans to leadership in their organization. They need to understand both the real-world benefits of strategic HR and how to balance employee needs with the needs of the organization. And excellent people skills smooth the path every step of the way.

Developing these qualities can make a large difference in your organization, whether or not your title includes HR manager at the moment. Using the right strategies to get ahead of HR execution unlocks amazing long-term potential for you and for your people.