Essential HR Skills: Communication, Conflict, and Change

Last week I published part 1 of this series of essential HR skills focusing on Organization, Dealing with “Gray,” and Negotiation. Here’s the followup.

The remainder of the items in our list include the following traits:

  1. Communication
  2. Discrete and Ethical
  3. Dual Focus
  4. Conflict Management and Problem Solving
  5. Change Management


Every job requires some proficiency with communication, but the level of communications necessary to do this job well is pretty substantial. If nothing else, you need to have an “awareness” (for lack of a better term) of the communication going on throughout the organization, as well as a good understanding of how people will receive messages/announcements. I get questions from senior leaders often on “how people will respond” to specific comms. That takes attention, an understanding of how things work within your org (this usually grows with tenure), and knowledge of how people act and react. I can’t stress enough that this can make or break your success in this role. Split testing internal communications is a good way to get started learning how people process and respond to new information.

Discrete and Ethical

You hold the keys to the kingdom with salary information, medical data, investigation records, and other highly sensitive information. Being able to maintain a division between who needs to know xyz information and who doesn’t can be a difficult task, especially when you have friends at work who are not in positions with a “need to know.” This one is easier in my opinion–just keep your mouth shut when dealing with sensitive (or potentially sensitive) information, and you’re good to go.

Dual Focus

I struggle with this one sometimes. Basically you are an advocate for the employees while also being a representative of management. The way I usually get around the questionable topics is this: I’m also an employee, if I didn’t have this information passed to me from the leadership, how would I feel? More often than not, stopping and asking that question of myself and the other management team members is an excellent way to refocus on what is best to share with all staff. Sometimes the answer to that question is a definite “no,” but other times we lean toward “yes” to align with our corporate culture of open and honest communications.

Conflict Management and Problem Solving

I sometimes run into trouble with this one,  because I have a much higher tolerance for stupid behavior than others. People don’t always get along. We understand that. But if they are focusing on things that are irrelevant, I will work with their manager(s) to help reconcile those differences. There are times when those differences can’t be fixed, one party might be belligerent, etc. and in those cases the solution is a more final one, but I have seen plenty of times when someone is frustrated in the heat of the moment only to completely forget the issue a few days later. Knowing how to discern work stress bleeding over into relationships vs. actual, real relationship problems is the key here for me and my staff.

Change Management

Things change more often than they stay the same. There’s always new information to share, new initiatives to begin, and new people to bring on. All of those have the potential to bring stress into the workplace. Two solid pieces on how to avoid or control this: The Double Down Effect and Communication Stealth Tip.

I hope you enjoyed the series! Let me know in the comments if you have another “critical” skill for HR pros. What should make #10 on the list?

3 thoughts on “Essential HR Skills: Communication, Conflict, and Change

  1. Pingback: HR reMixCarnival of HR - Polar Vortex Edition - HR reMix

  2. Kyle Jones


    I like your notes on the topic of dual focus and I think your question can serve another purpose. You ask the question in line of giving out information to the staff. While that is true, it can also be used when testing the ethics, validity, appropriateness, etc. of a managerial edict. For example, Management says: We should do XYZ on Fridays.

    You ask: I'm also an employee, if I didn't participate in making this decision and this information is passed to me from the leadership, how would I feel? Would I think it is right?

    Of course, it won’t always be in the favor of the employees – but sometimes it just might.

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