It’s not just about liking people; HR isn’t the job for you if you’re not a ‘people person’, but liking people won’t be enough on its own. More precisely, you have to be interested in getting the absolute best out of people.
The skills you need might not be what you expect
It’s not just the softer ‘people skills’ that are important. You’ll have a strong interest in business and the strategy that underpins its success. You’ll need a good level of numeracy and analytical skills. Being able to work closely with your colleagues and earn their trust and respect is another critical factor.
Some specialist roles such as reward management emphasise analytical strengths. Areas like training, organisation development and employee relations rely on strong communication skills and a high level of emotional intelligence. IT skills are increasingly in demand across the board as organisations move their systems online.
What kinds of qualities are important?
Are you actively interested in what’s going on around you? Are you always looking for better ways of doing things? A questioning attitude and willingness to learn can be very valuable in an HR role. You will continually be looking for ways for you and your colleagues to work better as individuals and collectively.
Being able to analyse and understand data and information quickly is important. As part of that you should be able to arrive at robust, defendable views. Whether you are looking at the financials of an organisation or project success indicators you should be able to apply any information, insights and knowledge in a structured way and propose practical options based on the best available evidence.
You’ll need to influence people at all levels both within and beyond the organisation. Many HR initiatives succeed through partnership. You’ll need to win commitment, consensus and support if you want your plans to bear fruit.
Driven to deliver
If you accept personal responsibility and have the drive to follow through on your promises you will earn the respect of your colleagues. That will make it easier to deliver on collaborative projects. You should plan, prioritise, monitor performance and be accountable for delivery.
You need to be able to work effectively and inclusively with colleagues, clients, stakeholders, customers, teams and individuals both within and beyond the organisation.
Courage to challenge
There are times when a distinctive point of view enriches the debate. Having the courage to challenge entrenched views can be a useful strength.
If you work in HR, you need to lead by example. You should act with integrity, impartiality and independence, and aim to apply sound personal judgement in every situation.
Human Resources isn’t like engineering: there’s rarely a definitive answer. The human side of things is always ambiguous, you never get to the bottom of things but that’s where its great appeal lies. If you are able to think things through rationally, apply sound judgement and use your emotional intelligence to defend your decisions, you should prosper in HR.