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5 Essential Skills of an HR Manager

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You can be the most talented and effective worker around... and not be a leader.

Leadership can be learned, but it is important to note that experience and talent do not make you a leader.

Being a leader is as much about being able to do your job as it is about working with people. You need to be able to inspire others, strengthen their resolve and, perhaps most difficult of all, give constructive criticism when they fail.

This last part in particular is extremely important. Being a leader is not always about being a friend to your colleagues, which often seems to be the best way to inspire others. You need to be able to criticise, correct and rebuke with clarity and candour. This is a delicate balance to strike, as too much criticism makes you totally unsympathetic and can encourage insubordination or rebellion. Similarly, you need to be careful about the words you use so that you don't come across as condescending or mean. It is not easy and the hardest part is that there is no one way to be a successful leader.

The real challenge of being a leader is that you have to modify your leadership to suit each person. Everyone learns and handles criticism differently, and you can't know what will offend an employee.

Some employees will be offended by harsh criticism, but others will feel that you are condescending to them if you preface the criticism with compliments or flattery about their other accomplishments.

Some people sum up the ratio as 5:1; in other words, for every harsh remark or criticism, they make sure they give five compliments. Of course, it is not possible to do all this at the same time.

In any case, to be a successful human resources (HR) manager, you need to understand the company's objectives and know what assets drive the business and sales that lead to growth. In addition, HR cannot just look at the future of the business as if everything is going smoothly. A good HR manager will look at employees, customers and existing problems and see how to proactively improve them. This is a broader strategy than many people realise, but it is also the best way to drive growth.

For human resources, here are the five essential skills of a leader:

Communicate effectively

For a leader, nothing is more important than effective communication. Nothing.

There is an old saying: "Blame the teacher, not the student", which is why leaders, directors, supervisors and managers are the first to be blamed. This is not to make them scapegoats, it is because if their team fails, it is their fault; their own inability to communicate effectively.

If you need someone to do something, make sure they know how to do it. If they know how to do it, make sure they are able to explain their process clearly and give you a realistic deadline. If they don't know how to do it, don't give them all the information, don't do it for them and don't tell them to Google it. Make an appointment with them to solve the problem, even if it is an urgent matter. You want the job done right the first time, so make the effort to learn their learning style and work on it together.

Clear communication is what allows you to forge that balance between boss and friend. You become an ally, someone they can turn to for help rather than going it alone. Remember that the number one reason talented employees leave their jobs is not the company, but their supervisors. As a leader, it's up to you.

Learn something new every day

Even if you are very familiar with the company's objectives, order of operations and daily routines, be prepared to think outside the box. See what other companies are doing; see how your field is evolving. Even if it's something you'd never do in a million years, stay current.

Not only will it make you a better person and a better leader, but you will naturally become more receptive to new ideas. When someone asks you why you're not doing something (or why the company isn't doing something), you won't reject the idea, you'll explore it - rewarding your employees' ideas and potentially moving the company forward.

Learning something new every day also helps you become disciplined, authoritative and motivated (i.e. not complacent) in your work - it's contagious.

Always think long-term

The difference between human resources and an HR manager is strategy.

By definition, an HR rep looks at current employees and sees how to motivate or engage them further, but an HR leader develops a long-term plan.

Long-term strategy is planning; it is taking a snapshot of the current situation and visualising the future. The landscape is constantly changing, so it is up to you to watch the ebb and flow and determine not only what you need now, but also in three months and three years.

Lead by example

In today's world, there is much less erratic and inappropriate behaviour, but it is wrong to assume that we have moved beyond this. For example, many women see their workplace as passively annoying. This is not open harassment, but 'death by a thousand paper cuts'.

But people want the workplace to be fun. They want people to look forward to spending time in the office, surrounded by interesting people, and unfortunately that often means lots of crude jokes or subtle remarks that all result in something less than excellent.

Of course, an HR manager is someone who knows what is acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace. For an HR leader, it's not just about leaving a manual that people can skim (and forget), it's about setting an example. It's about following the HR code to the letter, not playing by the rules. In the worst case, people don't find you funny... but they respect your values and ethics.

Practice yoga, in other words, always be flexible

Some business leaders have a vision for the future of their company and others are unable to move away from it. This can only be to the detriment of the business and makes that vision even harder to achieve.

For example, you may have budgeted to hire another employee, but a current employee wants a raise that would effectively end that goal. If the worker is valuable, you need to keep them happy. In fact, you should start considering what kind of benefits or raises they will need in the long-term strategy if you plan to keep them.

Be flexible and open to change. In the long run, this will help your HR department and your business grow!

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