Many managers depend upon their HR counterparts to provide expertise on HR best practice and employment law. But what separates the good from the great?
It goes without saying that an effective HR manager has years of experience, keeps up to date with new developments and has excellent interpersonal skills. What’s interesting, though, is that there’s often a debate within the HR community about the balance between the commercial strategy and staff welfare aspects of their roles. Is one more important than the other? Can one person be good at both?
A great HR manager has to combine them to be effective within the management team and to demonstrate fairness to the workforce. Here are the attributes that we think are crucial in a high performing HR manager:
- An understanding of how employee performance contributes to overall business objectives. Employee performance is influenced by many elements of HR strategy, including reward, working environment, engagement and communications. The implementation of simple but effective performance management and measurement systems is a crucial element of any organization’s success.
- Problem/conflict resolution skills. It’s important that an HR manager is not only seen as someone who can provide solutions, but as a manager who will treat everyone involved in the same way. Great HR managers demonstrate empathy (even if they don’t agree with what the employee is saying) and use a toolkit of problem solving techniques, including three-way meetings, mediation and solution circles.
- A confident communicator. HR managers can be involved in everything from union negotiations through board meetings to team workshops. So that they are easily understood, it’s essential for an HR manager to adapt his/her communication style and language to the situation and to be clear on the message that needs to be conveyed.
- A passion for staff development. Talent management and succession planning deliver results for the organization and help individuals to manage and grow their skills and career ambitions. Successful companies recognize and nurture their star performers and the best HR managers get a kick out of seeing employees build their careers without having to go elsewhere.
- Integrity. While it’s not actually the case, many staff see HR managers as being removed from the management structure and therefore associate them with objectivity. In order to be credible, HR managers must be regarded as ethical, honest and trustworthy. This is because upset or distressed staff will approach them with their problems and their activities have such a huge impact upon key aspects of the employee-employer relationship.
- Assertiveness. An HR manager sometimes has to prevent a colleague from doing something that will land the organization in trouble. This is another issue that depends upon credibility. If management respect the HR manager’s knowledge of HR practice, they will listen and comply when they are told that a particular action they’re about to take could result in a grievance, a tribunal claim or reputational damage.
- Organizational skills. HR has to deal with a colossal amount of paperwork: resumes, references, appraisals, pay increases, contracts of employment, contract amendments, pension forms and much more. A great HR manager is able to produce and maintain a system – whether it’s paper based or electronic – where managers can access what they want when they want, information is accurate and data protection is maintained.
Katherine Graham has 22 years’ experience in the field of workplace dispute resolution. She was made Managing Director of CMP Resolutions in 2009; prior to this she was CMP’s Director of Dispute Resolution. She has delivered more than 400 mediations, often working at the most senior level mediating complex disputes between directors, partners, and CEOs.