6 Useful HR Competencies (And How to Develop Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The human resources department is responsible for developing and implementing policies relevant to propelling an organization's missions. They help maintain high productivity levels by ensuring employees are working under optimum conditions, meeting expected targets, and experiencing overall job satisfaction. Learning about essential human resources competencies can help you develop the skills necessary to excel in the profession. In this article, we discuss HR competencies and their importance, outline six functional human resources competencies, and review steps for developing and using these competencies at work.

What are HR competencies?

Human resources or HR competencies are a combination of observable and measurable skills, knowledge, personal attributes, and abilities relevant to enhancing employee performance and promoting organization success. These skills typically help employees in human resources positions excel at their jobs, as they can effectively communicate with other employees. Several organizations prefer hiring competent human resources managers who can mediate conflicts, maintain ethical company culture, and support the company's growth.

6 functional human resources competencies

Here are six essential competencies that allow HR professionals to excel at their positions:

1. Effective communication

Human resources professionals constantly interact with people, either by e-mail, over the phone, or in person. Drafting e-mails or reminders can be more manageable with practical writing skills as it prevents miscommunication and facilitates proper convey of the company's policies. As organizations generally expect their HR professionals to have honest conversations with other employees, active listening is a communication skill helpful in understanding others' views and finding solutions.

A practical tip for improving communication skills is taking training courses and reading on soft skills such as conflict management, critical listening, negotiation, and empathy.

Related: Communication in Organizations (With Benefits and Types)

2. Organizational skills

As HR professionals work as links between the board of directors, department heads, and employees, they manage tasks under different departments and employees. With practical organization skills, this duty may be more manageable. Time management is an organizational skill these professionals require as it helps them create schedules for completing time-sensitive tasks. They perform tasks such as drafting employment contrast, managing insurance plans, and making payroll documents.

With proper time management skills, they can meet deadlines and comply with relevant regulations. Organization skills aid record management as HR professionals can store information and documents, such as employment contracts in digital and physical form. These professionals also possess effective calendar management skills that help them schedule important meetings and stay productive.

3. Flexibility

With flexibility skills, HR professionals can predict or adjust to changes without letting them affect the organization's operations. These professionals understand when it's necessary to modify old policies, develop new ones, or help employees transition into new roles. HR professionals typically have the ability to forecast changes and adjust company policies to fit these changes. They're constantly seeking improvement and fostering a healthy work environment. This motivates them to focus on modernizing processes and retaining employees.

A practical tip for improving flexibility is networking with other industry HR professionals to get ideas on current industry trends. This can help prepare for changes in critical areas, such as labour legislation.

Related: Adaptability and Flexibility: Definition, Tips, and Types

4. Confidentiality

HR professionals manage confidential information and discuss sensitive matters with employees. Confidentiality helps them observe discretion and care when handling such issues. They keep employees' records private and reduce a business' legal risks. This is a necessary competency for HR professionals as they can assess corporate information, such as offer letters and salaries, contract terms, and budgets.

Confidentiality generally prevents these professionals from casually discussing such information with outsiders and helps build trust with other employees. As these employees who have concerns with the company's policies discuss with HR managers, they're likely to disclose information when they feel secure enough that it doesn't affect their employment status.

5. Problem-solving skills

As HR professionals typically mediate conflicts between employees, problem-solving skills are essential. They work within the company's budget to develop creative solutions to employees' problems to ensure a healthy work culture. Problem-solving skills are necessary to promote growth and innovation in the organization. It also helps ensures employee retention.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

6. Technological skills

Automating processes and adopting new technologies can help HR professionals perform their duties more productively. With technological skills, tasks such as tracking payroll, handling training, onboarding recruits, and hiring talented employees may be more manageable. For example, social media tools can be helpful for posting job openings and contacting more potential candidates. Good digital skills can make HR jobs easier.

Related: How to Include Technology Skills on Your Resume

How to improve human resources competencies

Here are steps to developing and using human resources competencies:

1. Learn the company's competency models

Understanding the company's required competencies for the role helps develop your HR abilities. Several HR departments have a detailed document about relevant skills employees require to thrive in their roles. If your company doesn't have a detailed competency model guide, you can speak to your supervisors or managers at work. Learning about the company's competency models, mission, and core values can help you align your goals to that of the company. By doing this, you can develop the necessary competencies and become a valuable employee.

Related: How to Begin Your Career in Human Resources

2. Make evaluations

Self-evaluation can help you determine if you're performing your expected duties effectively. Evaluating yourself starts with understanding the human resources competencies on which you wish to focus. You can evaluate your proficiencies and progress to track your performance. Tips for assessing yourself include monitoring your professional development and assessing areas that need improvements. You can create strategies for improvement, such as writing reflections or speaking with your supervisor to get feedback on your job performance. This can help you highlight strategic areas to improve.

3. Get a mentor

Studying the HR department within the organization can help you identify which of your colleagues or supervisors displays practical human resources competencies. You can ask such employees for advice on developing and using your human resources skills. By doing this, you can gain a mentor from who you can get honest feedback and reviews. If shadowing a mentor works best for you, you may consider observing an outstanding HR professional to learn effective strategies for developing your skills.

You may also consider attending networking events where you can interact with other professionals outside your organization. This interaction can help you get diverse knowledge of effective strategies for building your skills.

4. Keep learning

You can improve your professional development by engaging in various activities, such as attending training programs, furthering your education, and taking on new responsibilities. Developing your human resources competencies involves constantly learning and seeking improvements. You may consider joining professional organizations that can promote your knowledge of human resources practices. Attending regular classes and workshops can facilitate a better work-life balance and help you become a valuable asset to the organization.

Human resources competencies in the workplace

HR professionals facilitate adequate employee training, motivation, and satisfaction. They foster productivity for an organization's success by giving structure to its operations. A human resources professional can complete several tasks at an organization with relevant competencies. Human resources professionals demonstrate their competencies at the workplace in the following ways:

  • Recruitment and selection: They use their skills to draft appropriate job postings to recruit suitable candidates. These professionals define the job description using crucial details.

  • Induction: Human resources professionals provide information about a job to recruits. This is essential to helping them adjust to the company's policies.

  • Performance appraisals and promotions: They understand employees' progress by evaluating their performance periodically based on critical areas. Their competencies help them understand employees' responsibilities to facilitate a transparent appraisal.

  • Employee retention: Human resources professionals work toward retaining top-performing employees in an organization. They also determine the cause of employees who resign from their jobs.

  • Maintaining a positive work environment: These professionals foster a positive work environment by resolving conflicts in the workplace and ensuring the health and safety of the employee. They promote wellness, create fair employee policies, and praise employees when they perform a good job.

Ways to highlight human resources

Here are ways to highlight your human resources competencies:

On your resume

You can highlight your human resources competencies by crafting your work experience section to reflect them. It's often advisable to create a bullet list for each entry in your work experience section. You can start each point with a bullet point and discuss instances where you used your human resources competencies to complete tasks.

On your cover letter

Your cover letter provides an opportunity to give in-depth details on your competencies. You may describe a significant accomplishment and how you managed difficult situations using your human resources competencies. These extra details can demonstrate to a hiring manager how previous experience prepared you for the role.

During your interview

The STAR interview technique is usually helpful for answering interview questions. You can showcase your competencies by answering questions using this technique's four steps:

  • Situation: Describe a problem you managed using your competencies and where it happened.

  • Task: You can explain the exact task you completed using these competencies and the set goals for the job.

  • Action: It's often advisable to give details on your activities to attain the set goals.

  • Result: You may conclude your answer by discussing the results you achieved using your human resources competencies.


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