Five HR skills that separate the great from the good

A leading industry commentator shares his thoughts on what makes an HR leader stand out from the crowd

An effective HR department, led by a strong HR leader, can be part of the driving force behind a company’s success – but what separates a great leader from an average one?

Anthony Hodge, global content & digital marketing communications manager at HR consulting firm Randstad, told HC that there are five key traits that differentiate a stand-out HR leader in today’s workplace.

In order to develop these skills and lead effectively, HR leaders need to learn to ‘fail fast and recover quickly’ – “Meaning, [be] unafraid to try everything and accept change. Each time something doesn't work, learn from it quickly and move on,” Hodge said.

Through this process, HR professionals can develop the five key skills that are really needed to become a great HR leader:
1. Powerful coaching skills

To be effective, an HR leader needs to be committed to developing and coaching employees across all departments and specialties – when an HR leader can act as a mentor and as a support system, the entire company benefits from increased morale and clearer expectations.

2. A focus on inclusive relationships

Businesses that break up into stringently defined "sections" with little or no communication in between are doomed. Because of this, HR leaders who focus on developing inclusive relationships help companies succeed. Effective ways to do this include hosting team-building exercises and focusing on developing relationships between departments.

3. Widespread knowledge

To be an advantage to a company, an HR leader needs to be well-versed in both general and industry-specific knowledge regarding labour laws and compensation standards. Having a broad knowledge base allows the HR leader to create a fairer workplace and ensure the rights of all the company's employees are respected.

4. Ability to lead by example

Great HR leaders show their employees what's expected of them by modelling it first-hand. In addition to inspiring respect, this approach to HR leadership also helps create a cohesive work environment in which company policy is clear and well understood.

5. Pro-activity

Great HR leaders don't wait for problems to resolve themselves. Instead, they go after them pro-actively, which saves the company time, effort and stress down the road. For example, a great HR manager would notice an individual employee that is causing tension in the workspace and seek to resolve the issue with the employee before complaints from other employees began to surface. This approach helps maintain morale in the workspace and head difficult personnel issues off before they have a chance to develop.
With these in mind, how can employers create a workplace that helps foster the development of these skills?

 “Allow managers and directors to have the opportunity to mentor upcoming personnel, allow managers to be authentic about their mistakes and achievements, and allow staff members to openly discuss what their needs are to facilitate growth,” Hodge told HC.

“Everyone is an individual, and while programs are great, listening to an employee's feedback is the best data to go on.”

Related stories:

Cultural diversity: How does Aussie leadership stand?
Transformational leadership traits: do you have these?
What is HR’s most neglected management function?

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