HR professionals are one of a kind. Working in a fast-paced field, these pros are responsible for seeking new and innovative solutions to develop employees’ skills, improve performance, and boost productivity. Amid all that, when performance issues occur, it’s the role of HR to handle the situation the right way, in a timely manner and without complication.
Succeeding in an HR role requires a unique mix of skills. Whether you’ve been in HR for six months, six years, or six decades, it is important to continuously cultivate and refine your skills so you can manage all the daily tasks, to-dos, and even crises that can and will arise.
Here are the essential skills every HR pro should have — and some advice on how to leverage technology to keep those skills sharp:
For many in HR, each day is a constant flow of paperwork, meetings, projects, and lots of surprises. It can be hard to juggle everything at once, which is why organization — on both the individual and the departmental level — is key to HR success.
In HR, you have to expect the unexpected. Employees quit suddenly, scheduling errors happen, and new regulations with new compliance demands and deadlines come out of nowhere. Maintaining a well-organized workload means that when those issues do transpire, you’ll be able to tackle them with aplomb without having to abandon your day-to-day duties. Organization can also help prevent burnout: Unreasonable workloads are one of the top three contributors to burnout, according to a study from Kronos.
It helps to have the right systems in place, especially when it comes to technology. The more you can automate simple but time-consuming administrative tasks, the easier it will be to keep track of what’s on your plate while being flexible enough to respond to emergencies. Automation also frees you up to do more big-picture strategic work, which can lead to major gains for employees across the organization and for the business itself.
Keep Records in Check
One of the biggest challenges for HR pros is data organization. In HR, there is a lot of paperwork, employee info, and legal matter to keep organized. For example, HR pros can process 10-60 onboarding documents per employee, to say nothing of the documents required for performance reviews, benefits enrollment, and other typical employment processes.
Every HR pro knows the importance of retaining secure, organized employee records, but it’s not always an easy task. If your company is in the middle of a high-volume hiring period, it can feel virtually impossible to keep everything straight.
This is another situation in which automation may be necessary. Automating your recordkeeping can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend digging through paperwork to find what you need. You can also standardize every record, from employee schedules to performance reviews, thereby greatly cutting down on the number of errors and omissions you’ll need to fix later.
As an HR professional, you serve as a liaison between employees and their managers. Clearly, relaying information accurately and efficiently is a key component of your job. Moreover, open communication between employees and teams builds trust and makes people feel valued within the organization, which in turn leads to better performance. Effective communication can build stronger team relationships, empower healthier collaboration, retain more top performers, and push teams toward their goals.
Ask Specific Questions
Creating the right conditions for great communication to flourish can be hard. Still, it’s up to HR to build that environment.
A key part of being a great communicator is knowing when and how to ask the right questions. This is especially true for HR pros, who must often resolve conflicts, defuse escalating problems, and identify solutions to help teams perform more effectively.
Automated feedback tools can help HR pros ask more of the right questions to employees at scale. By soliciting feedback from across the organization at regular intervals, HR can more easily pinpoint and solve the challenges that keep employees from performing at their best.
Of course, all feedback cannot be done through automated tools. Face-to-face meetings with employees still matter. During such meetings, HR pros need to put their questioning skills into practice by skipping vague queries and getting specific. For example, instead of asking a struggling employee, “How are things going?”, you could try asking, “I’ve noticed you’ve been struggling with X. What can I do to help you improve?” Asking specific, pointed questions shows that you understand each employee’s role and are truly invested in helping them get back on the right track. As a result, employees will be more likely to open up, be honest, and ask for the help they need.
Give and Get Insightful Feedback
Feedback is great for your business, especially when it comes to employee performance. Employees need constant feedback if they are to progress toward achieving their performance goals.
However, only 58 percent of managers believe they give enough feedback. This is an opportunity for HR to step in and use its communication skills for the good of the organization.
Through a performance management platform, you can promote an environment of continuous feedback and coaching. Utilizing the best communication practices, you can offer real-time feedback to each employee while forging stronger relationships with staff members.
Speaking of feedback, be sure to make the most of exit interviews. This is your chance to get feedback from one of the most powerful sources imaginable: a departing employee. Be sure to always conduct exit interviews whenever feasible. As always, ask specific questions, such as “Did you feel you had the tools and resources to perform your job successfully?” and “What can the organization improve on?” The takeaways from these frank conversation can empower your organization to increase company morale and retain more employees.
What separates a good HR department from a great one? Flexibility.
In HR, every day is different from the last. Unforeseen challenges will arise, and you and your coworkers won’t always see eye to eye on how to tackle them. It’s essential you handle these situations effectively — otherwise, minor problems can become full-blown catastrophes.
Adaptability is one of the greatest skills you can have in and out of the workplace. When you work with rather than against others, you may discover new solutions to daunting challenges, uncover new opportunities for employees and leaders, and influence transformational change in the workplace. Anybody can have great ideas, but only the flexible can implement them successfully.
See the Bigger Picture
The key to fostering a positive, healthy work environment is never to get too comfortable. You need to keep the big picture in mind so you know what is happening, what is coming down the line, and how you can respond to both.
Many HR and talent management teams are embracing technology to stay better connected with their employees and department teams. Such connections are key to keeping that bigger picture in view. By automating more tasks like payroll, employee benefits, and training, HR teams gain more time for real human interaction with employees. This, in turn, allows HR pros to be proactive in meeting the needs of both the employees and the business.
Employees expect you to be flexible, transparent, and engaged in their success. With the bigger picture in mind, you can make decisions to benefit individual employees while still considering what is best for the organization.
HR is an amazing field with an array of endless opportunities. However, if you don’t have the proper skills to succeed, you won’t get very far. Be sure to cultivate the skills of great HR pros, and don’t hesitate to leverage technology to lend a hand. In today’s fast-paced world, the right tech tools are virtually a prerequisite to HR career success.
A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.
Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.