Human Resource Skills: Key Duties, Skill and Roles

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If you’re in human resources, or you want to change careers or break into the field, it’s important to develop the skills necessary to be an effective human resources professional. To do this, you can sharpen your skill development in four key areas to refine the best skills for most HR roles.


Related: Human Resources Manager Job Description Sample


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What are human resources skills?

Human resources skills are the personal and professional skills that people in human resources must develop to be effective in their role. These skills include:



These are the skills that define how you interact with others. They include active listening, written communication, verbal communication, non-verbal communication, body language, empathy, public speaking, performance management, customer service, collaboration, multicultural knowledge, employee relations and sensitivity. 



When you are skilled in organization, you are a strong employee when it comes to things like time management, calendar management, scheduling, project management, records and filing and using digital resources to organize.



Adaptability is the ability to be flexible in the face of changes and to make good decisions when presented with new information. Adaptable employees focus on developing skills like self-assessment and making improvements change management procedures, human resources information software (HRIS), ingenuity and innovation.



When an HR professional practices confidentiality, they develop skills like trustworthiness, discretion, onboarding, regulatory compliance, worker’s compensation and professional ethics.



Leadership is an important quality to have in HR departments because it drives the effectiveness and innovation of this critical department. In human resources, strong leaders help employees streamline processes in ways that make them more effective. HR leaders often emphasize the use of technology to automate menial processes.


Technically inclined

Because the use of artificial intelligence and automation is important in human resources to do things like automate payroll tasks or provide internal customer service between the HR department and employees, it’s critical that HR professionals be good at using technology. These skills range from using Excel spreadsheets and office equipment to managing HRIS platforms that help make processes more efficient.



HR professionals are often responsible for creating schedules for part-time and full-time staff. These employees should be good at creating schedules and distributing them to employees as needed.


Project management

Project management is important in many aspects of HR including onboarding, creating employee programs, implementing programs and more. Having a background in project management that includes specialized training and skills is an asset in the industry.



HR employees are often regarded as collaborators who foster a sentiment of teamwork throughout their organizations. For this reason, it’s important that strong HR professionals have strategies to bring people together, identify issues and mediate so teams are successful.


Key roles, skills and duties

Here’s a list of common HR titles with their salaries, duties and important skills to develop:


Role: Human resource manager

Primary Duties: Human resource managers are people leaders who provide innovative solutions for human resource issues, as well as train new employees on HR practices and remain accountable for the goals and resources of the department.

Key Skills: 

  • Listening
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Appointment setting
  • Calendar management


Role: Human resource generalist

Primary Duties: Human resource generalists are valuable employees who have some skill in almost every area of human resources. A generalist may handle things like scheduling, invoicing, accounts payable, payroll, training and development and employee safety.

Key Skills: 

  • Maintaining physical and digital files
  • Understanding HR compliance
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Employee relations
  • Payroll


Role: Recruiter

Primary Duties: Recruiters are professionals responsible for achieving recruitment goals in a fast-past, transactional industry. Recruiters must identify and entice the highest quality candidates to meet their goals of filling positions for a company or client.

Key Skills: 

  • Using human resource technology
  • Verbal communication
  • Building rapport
  • Coming up with creative and innovative solutions


Role: Safety and compliance specialist

Primary Duties: Safety and compliance specialists are the go-to resources for compliance questions and other important duties like safety assessments. They serve the primary purpose of keeping employees healthy and safe and ensuring the company reduces its risk and potential liability.

Key Skills: 

  • Knowledge of HR compliance
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Discretion
  • Risk assessment

Related: How to Write an HR Generalist Job Description 


How to develop human resources skills

Developing HR skills means focusing on developing skills that fall into the categories of communication, organization, adaptability and confidentiality. Here’s how you can develop these skills:


  1. Read about skill development. Check out your favorite resources on skill development, whether it be a book, blog or website, the first step to developing skills is to seek the advice of authorities on the skill you wish to develop.
  2. Invest in technology. For instance, if you are trying to get better at organization it may be time to learn how to best use your digital calendar technology. Likewise, if you are developing skills in technology, you may need to watch training videos on how to best use your HRIS.
  3. Attend classes, lectures and seminars. For some human resources skills, you may be able to find a class, lecture, workshop or seminar that will deepen your knowledge and strengthen your ability to perform in the role.
  4. Study others. When it comes to developing soft skills, like learning how to control your non-verbal communication, you can study the behavior of people around you to determine what actions and reactions are appropriate.


Human resources skills FAQs

Here are frequently asked questions to help you get started developing human resources skills:


How can I improve human resources skill development?

While learning hard skills like how to use HRIS is important, one way to improve human resources skills is by focusing on soft skills. Consider how to develop skills that are less obvious like empathy and being a good listener.


What degrees are best for people who want to develop human resource skills?

HR professionals can seek a bachelor’s or associate degree in human resource management, human services or business management.


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