Recently I ran across an old article on “essential” HR skills. It was an interesting read, and I wanted to break it down and show how it’s true (and, in some ways, maybe not so much). Today we’ll tackle the first half of them. Here’s the original list:

  1. Organization
  2. Multitasking
  3. Dealing with Gray
  4. Negotiation
  5. Communication
  6. Discrete and Ethical
  7. Dual Focus
  8. Conflict Management and Problem Solving
  9. Change Management

Source: HR.BLR

Now I’d like to break these down individually and give some perspective on which ones are critical for the role of the HR professional. I’m framing this through the lens of a generalist, because that’s what I (and most of us, if I had to guess) do on a daily basis.

Organization

This is one of my weakest areas, but it’s also truly important to being great in this role. You’re balancing 50 priorities in different focus areas, and that doesn’t come easily. How do you know what is more important between a pending lawsuit that needs a response, 401k nondiscrimination testing, and handling a discrimination investigation? Whew. Be organized or be gone.

Multitasking

This one is on every list you’ll ever see for a “critical skill.” However, I think it’s less about multitasking and more about being able to shift focus quickly. Multitasking sounds like you’re trying to do 5 things at once. And in the end, that will just leave you with 5 things done in a so-so manner. Shifting focus at a moment’s notice to be able to handle a fast-moving priority IS an important skill. Multitasking can drop your IQ further than smoking marijuana, in case you were curious.

Dealing with Gray

Everything is not black and white, even in the world of policy creation and enforcement. You won’t think of everything, and that requires some level of discernment and backbone to make your job possible. If you are only interested in creating policies, adding amendments, and closing loopholes instead of using your brain, then this probably isn’t the profession for you. We have to work in the muddy areas frequently in this field, and it’s just part of the job description.

Negotiation

From handling compensation discussions to recruiting great candidates to working out your budget for the year, negotiation is something you need to work on if you plan to be successful in the HR field. In fact, I’d say the better you are at negotiating, the higher up the ladder of the profession you will go. The best and brightest HR pros I’ve run into over the years were not only unafraid of negotiating with vendors and management, they actually enjoyed the challenge! So put your negotiator hat on, because you have some work ahead of you…

Part 2: communication, discrete and ethical, dual focus, conflict management and problem solving, and change management

That’s all for today. We’ll cover the last half later this week!

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  • 2 thoughts on “Essential HR Skills: Organization, Focus, and Negotiation

    1. Regarding multitasking – Who would have thought that we would live in the society we find ourselves in today? Who would have imagined that technology would gray (using another of your points here) the line between home and work? I am sure that someone probably did imagine something similar but the ability to handle multiple tasks, roles, etc. is critical in today’s society.

      Imagine what it might be like 5-10 years from now.

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