People possess the most complex array of emotions. We feel deep love and pain, and we can empathise and connect with strangers and build elaborate social bonds that dictate our actions and values. These days there seems to be a job for almost everything. Yet, humans have stayed roughly the same. Our needs, our views, how we conduct relationships, and interpersonal similarity has always been impervious to drastic change. So, when we assign a career that revolves around the intricate relations between branches of a business and employee satisfaction, we create a job that must be incredibly flexible and adaptable. Those who work in the field of human resources must adopt crucial empathy and social skills, be able to wear different masks as they juggle between business professionalism and genuine human connections and make tough decisions.
So, what is the role of a Human Resources Manager?
Well, in my opinion our job is to promote the goals of both the company and its employees to drive business success. Ideally, we are the ones who maintain and build company policies and processes to ensure that both the company and its worker’s benefit. We also work with stakeholders and leaders to ensure they are supported to achieve their own personal goals and objectives that in turn drive a profitable and sustainable business. It’s a complex mix of strategy, people and process.
The Elephant in the Room
When I was invited to write a blog about Human Resource Managers, I knew I would have first to address the elephant in the room. I understand that because our jobs are mainly all about managing the needs of people, it is quite easy for us to fall into an unpopular seat within a company.
This is because the Human Resource Manager role often gets an unfair reputation for not having adequate people or emotional skills despite our remit being all about people and emotional contact. In my opinion this challenge is because no two people I have met are similar. Sure, they might work in the same field or like the same things, but no one thinks, feels, sounds, or looks the same. If we did, the role of Human Resource Manager might be the most straightforward job on the planet. In fact, if we started employing robots then our role might actually become extinct!
Unfortunately for us most jobs cannot be done by robots, and everyone is a unique individual, and we must be able to constantly adapt our thinking and behaviour to be compatible with the diversity in the workplace. This is not an easy task as balancing the needs of the individual against those of the organisation is often complex. This is further complicated as often HR will be the bearer of bad news or seen as the policy police or enforcers within an organisation. Hence the bad reputation.
More often that not, a Human Resource Manager will need to make decisions very quickly in response to human emotions and personal issues. When this happens, grey is the first colour we use to approach a situation. A business may have a solid strategic plan to achieve its objectives but without the right people to execute their goals the company is weak and exposed to risk. This is where HR comes into the equation, great Human Resource Managers are the conduit between a company’s employees and its business objectives.
So here is my take on what the most important skills a Human Resources Manager need to have in order to be successful:
Honesty, loyalty, and integrity
The first set of qualities a HR Manager should possess are all around honesty and integrity. Thus, they must exhibit honest and loyal qualities that build layers of trust and support not just with employees but with leaders also. A trusted advisor is the best way to describe a great HR Manager. Think about it, employees are human and are bound to have disagreements with each other both internally and externally. So a Human Resource Manager’s role is to approach these complaints and issues within an open mind whilst establishing an atmosphere of safety and trust. We must hold ourselves to a high code of ethics and sometimes place aside our own opinions to build a fair environment where collaboration between the employees and us becomes a win-win process for the whole organisation.
Empathy and emotional intelligence
As a Human Resource Manager, we can often take on the role as a glorified therapist. While we can’t diagnose you or let you lie down on our couches, we must have enough emotional intelligence to process the social discord that is bound to occur in any workplace. We must always listen to employee or leader concerns with empathy and understanding to make that imperative connection between the business needs and the employee needs. To be an effective Human Resource Manager, we will have to be able to balance the legal frameworks, the practical implications with what is best for the business and what ethically is the right thing to do. Contrary to what people think HR is not black and white, it is often about navigating the grey and being able to balance the facts and data with our business acumen to come up with great solutions that get the right outcomes and align with the business strategy. This is no easy challenge.
Leadership and coaching
Creating a performance driven culture embedded with job satisfaction is one of the the most important drivers of business success. So often our job is to assist those struggling to meet their job requirements. This might not be easy, especially if we do not deeply understand the job; but we must be able to coach the leaders to get the best out of their people and sometimes step in when things get off track. Therefore, our ability to exercise practical leadership skills where people feel comfortable with our assistance and can experience meaningful personal growth is a crucial aspect of being an effective Human Resource Manager. Allowing employees and leaders to make mistakes is included in this process, as no one is perfect, and development cannot happen automatically. As such, patience is an excellent virtue that we need to thread into our internal skills to respect the diversity of race, age, sexuality and culture, the right approach may not always be the first. Listening does not go astray either!
Strategy and planning
The role of a Human Resource Manager has evolved over time from one of administrative support to being a demonstrative part of the strategic process. Understanding that business success is embedded in HR having a true seat at the table has changed the game for many HR professionals over the years.
The overall success of a HR Manager is dependant on their ability to create alignment between the business strategy and the people strategy. A great Human Resource Manager understands how to plug in the people strategy to effectively implement business goals. A strategic focus with an understanding of operational requirements will set up a great HR Manager for success.
Decision-making and communication
Here’s the kicker about being a great HR Manager, it relies heavily on quick decision making and then being able to communicate these decisions with valid reasoning. Sounds easy right! Well, it’s actually very complicated as often our advice and choices must be made on the spot and based on company success rather than personal desires.
Unfortunately, this can even include scaling back employee benefits to raise the company to new levels. I am always conscious of my decisions and their impacts on employees and their families. Still, I have learnt that this job does not leave room for accommodating the needs and values of every single person. Making these decisions for the company is a daunting realisation but making the right call under this pressure is a necessary skill for anyone working as a Human Resources Manager. Finally, we all know it is all in the way you communicate that dictates the outcome.
By separating your afflictions and values from what is best for the employees and company, Human Resources Managers can work to the best of their ability.
However, this cannot be easy to manage as we operate based on our own morality and views. Being able to place barriers between our personal experiences and our work experience is a skill that takes time and focus but is an indispensable quality we must possess to maintain professionalism. The need to distance yourself from the problems and drama is also something that is highly regarded in great HR Managers. Becoming personally involved or wedded to decisions or outcomes will likely lead to burnout or churn. Leaving work at work is also important as often we are dealing with conflict situations where emotions are high, and you need to be able to separate yourself from this otherwise it can be exhausting.
Overall, I think that being a Human Resources Manager is a role where there is a fantastic blend of emotional and business intellect that combines the exciting aspects of decision making, social networking and leadership. It is a crucial part of any company, allowing employees and company goals to work simultaneously.
Written by Vanessa Jones